Fernando Alonso is not counting his chickens ahead of the F1 showdown in Abu Dhabi, admitting that any of his rivals has as much of a chance of championship success as he does.

Even though he goes into the 19th and final race of a long and hard-fought season with an eight-point advantage over closest rival Mark Webber, the Spaniard insists that there are too many permutations, and an equal number of contenders for race victory, to make predicting a third title a formality. With Ferrari appearing to lack the performance of Red Bull and McLaren at this event, Alonso did well to qualify third fastest after a balls-out final lap, and will start ahead of Webber, who struggled when it mattered most, but has Sebastian Vettel ahead of him on pole, and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton - a title outsider - and Jenson Button sandwiching him on the grid.

"I think we are more or less in the same situation as we were two days ago," the 2005-06 champion noted, "We know the situation, we know [there are still] four contenders, and I think everything is down to tomorrow's race.

"Anything can happen in the race, and we saw some changes in the last two or three events. In Korea, the Red Bulls were very strong and then they lost the race with some mechanical issues. In Brazil, we saw some problems with some pit-stops for Mercedes, and for [Ferrari team-mate] Felipe [Massa] as well, so, in a race situation, anything can happen. We just need to complete the 55 laps without any problem. I think it will be a tough, long race for everyone, but we are in a position at the moment that is very strong.

Alonso needs only to finish second in the race at Yas Marina, irrespective of who takes the chequered flag first, but, should he be further down the order, the positions of those ahead of him could be crucial. Starting ahead of Webber, especially with McLaren in the mix as well, is therefore important for the Spaniard, even if he doesn't believe there is a better side of the grid to be starting from.

"I don't think there's a huge difference but, if there's no difference, then you are eight metres in front of the fourth guy, so better third than fourth," he insisted, "I think we will see in the race tomorrow. Obviously it's better to be third and having Mark fifth than third and having Mark first but, as I said yesterday in the press meeting, I think the race is tomorrow.

"Saturday is important, we know, but, at the end of the day, as we saw in the last couple of events, [there were] interesting races, some mechanical failures, some problems, some mistakes, so we need to avoid all those tomorrow. The position in qualifying is okay, but the real race and the points are tomorrow. I'm happy for the position today, but we did nothing [with regards to the championship].

"As we've said [before] this weekend, our main target is to do the best job we can - to give a hundred per cent of the potential of the car, the team working all together in the same direction. We know that, sometimes, we can be on pole or winning the race, sometimes third or fourth or whatever, so we didn't have a clear target for the race, we just tried to do our best. If it was enough or not we will see tomorrow. Obviously, all the speculation about Red Bull or whatever was not our job."

Polewinner Vettel, who needs to win the race with Alonso fifth or worse, insists that there is more pressure on both the Spaniard and Webber, but Alonso has already shown how prepared he is to deal with tension by banging in his fastest qualifying lap having crossed the line with just ten seconds to spare in the final session.

"There was a tight margin to cross the line before the time finish, so we were informed by the engineers that we had something like a ten-second margin, which is not great, but it was enough," he confirmed, "It was obviously a tough qualifying for everyone, with changing positions constantly in Q2 and then Q3 as well. You never know how competitive you are until the Q3 finish.

"I think the first attempt was not great. I had some traffic in the first sector, so I knew that, on the second set of tyres, there was some potential to come, so I pushed to the limit and third place is great. I was convinced that the last sector was our best possibility to improve the lap we did before, so [in the] first and second sector we saved the tyres a little bit. Obviously, we were running with the supersoft tyres, but they get very hot towards the end of the lap, so [it was a case of] taking the lap very calm. Even though it was Q3 and the last attempt, you need to remain very calm because the last sector is 40 seconds of the lap, so a lot of time to gain."

Alonso also preached the need for calm at the start of the race where, even though the lap does not start with a corner the like of La Source or Ste Devote, he knows there is always the chance of an incident.

"First of all, we need to see how the start goes," he insisted, "Normally, after the first ten or twenty metres, you understand if you had a good or bad start. If you are that good, you can think of attacking. If you feel that something is going wrong, you try to defend your position, so it will be a reaction or action that we need to take tomorrow. We will not win the championship in corner one - the only thing we can do is to lose it, so we will see."

Asked how the 2010 title fight compared with others that he had been in - not just in his championship-winning years, but also the three-way fight conceded to Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 - and whether he felt confident of his chances, Alonso insisted that, while he remained optimistic that he would add a third crown to his collection, the battle was different because he did not have a pace-setting car.

"Every year is different, I think," he mused, "For sure, it depends on the competitiveness of your car, how quick you have been in the last three or four grands prix, how strong you feel in the car and how confident you feel in the car.

"I think this year is different in a way, because I feel that, maybe, we are not the fastest, especially on Saturday, when we struggle a little bit more on one lap pace. But we have a very good tyre degradation and a very good race pace normally so, for tomorrow, I feel confident. This year, I also feel the team supporting me a lot - there is a very good atmosphere in the Scuderia all year, and I feel very happy in the car, despite what happens tomorrow. As I've said, 2010 is a great, great year for me.

"I'm confident - and I've been confident for the last five months of the championship. Now there's one day to go. We knew this weekend would be difficult, arriving with Red Bull very dominant in the last three or four grands prix. I think, yesterday, we did a good job on the set-up, race pace and qualifying pace, and I think, today, it was a good qualifying for us. We just need only one more day and perfection."



Loading Comments...