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Alonso: 'We can still close on Vettel'

18 November 2012

After another qualifying session that even Ferrari themselves labelled as "disappointing", many pundits appeared convinced that this weekend's inaugural 2012 F1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas would mark the end of the world championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Vettel will clinch his third FIA world championship this weekend if he can outscore Alonso by 15 points. That means if Vettel wins from pole position, Alonso can't finish lower than fourth place if he's to keep his title bid alive going into next weekend's season finale at Interlagos in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

But Alonso most certainly wasn't among those saying that the title race was all but over this weekend, after the Spaniard slumped to ninth place in the qualifying times on Saturday while his rival clinched pole position for the sixth time this season.

"We said yesterday that Red Bull will be one and two and we will be seventh and eighth and people will be thinking it's all over," said Alonso. "We were seventh and ninth in Abu Dhabi and the car is more or less the same, and we are seventh and ninth in Austin - it's not surprising for us, to be honest."

In Abu Dhabi he ended up trimming back Vettel's lead in the championship by three points - but only because a penalty forced Vettel to start the race from the pit lane. Even so, the reigning world champion fought his way back and finished just behind Alonso in third place at the end. So does Alonso really think that he has a chance of finishing ahead of Vettel at the Circuit of Americas without that kind of advantage over the Red Bull?

"On Sunday we will show that we can score more points than Vettel," Alonso insisted. "I don't know how exactly, but I have this feeling inside."

Although Ferrari had called Saturday's qualifying performance "disappointing" for both Alonso and his team mate Felipe Massa, Alonso was well aware of how the time had been lost during Q3.

"In turn 19 I went off and the tyres got a little bit dirty and it was not good for the next three or four corners," he explained - although the lap in question hadn't been set to improve his position, which sees him start the race two places behind Massa.

"Felipe was quicker than me in FP3, Q1, Q2 and Q3, so he was doing a better job," conceded Alonso. "I will try to do better and make up some places [in the race]," he added.

"The first lap and start will be the majority of the places we can gain, so we need to plan this well," he continued. "I think overtaking here will be tricky because the detection point is after the high-speed corners in the first sector.

"We need to do a very good start; the places we made in the start and the first lap in the last three or four races were very important for our final result," he said, adding that he needed to repeat that same sort of start that had seen him competing with both McLarens from the very first lap in India.

"In India we were very close with the McLarens on the exit of turn 4; I think it will be the same tomorrow," he said. "Sunday is normally our best part of the weekend. We have always very good pace and we recover places all the time, and tomorrow I don't see any difference on that and I'm sure we will move up the positions."

Alonso predicted an "interesting" race in terms of strategy, given what he described as "the strange behaviour of the tyres, with very slow warm-up and very low degradation."

Whatever else, Alonso won't be playing it safe on Sunday afternoon - not only can't he afford to, he wouldn't want to change his approach this late in the day anyway.

"I take maximum risk and maximum attack for seven months now," he said. "Nothing [has] changed."


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