Fernando Alonso has launched a veiled attack on the McLaren team after qualifying only fourth for the potentially title-deciding Chinese Grand Prix, unable to understand why he was so far behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton and clearly unhappy with the way his year at Woking has turned out.

Although the dissatisfaction between the two-time world champion and his employer has been evident for much of the season, the lid finally came off a simmering pot as Alonso conducted his regular press briefings with the Spanish media in Shanghai.

Fearing that his dreams of a third world title could already be over, the Spaniard felt moved to react to Ron Dennis' criticism of his silence on the issue of equality raised in Thursday's press conference, and again hinted that he could be on his way at the end of the season.

It was the relative qualifying performances of the two Mclaren that sparked the outburst, however, with Alonso unable to comprehend how, after what he felt had been a good lap in a supposedly equal car, he was six-tenths slower than title rival Hamilton, who will bid for the crown from pole.

"If I had been fourth, but only three- or four-thousandths slower, it would not mean anything - it could be down to a small difference in fuel levels," he explained, "I don't remember being six- or seven-tenths behind anybody at any race, do this is a little rare. Okay, if it had been that way all weekend, I could accept that maybe I have not got the best from the car, or I got a corner wrong, but I have been fast all weekend. I was third in qualifying one and two and then, in qualifying three, I am so far away... I was very surprised."

Refusing to comment on suggestions that his car may have been 'altered' between sessions, Alonso insisted that he would continue to focus on the race while his title hopes remained alive, although he admitted that he feared the worst.

"That is what is important," he claimed, "We start equal and it could rain, I could take victory and the others might not finish. However, I am not very optimistic. I am starting fourth and have to recover a lot of points. I have to hope that it will rain, that the others will have problems and that I will have the luck to finish. That is what I have to believe, even if you think it may be impossible."

Clearly despondent, it did not take much to tempt Alonso into analysing the way the situation at McLaren has deteriorated this year, and the Spaniard appeared particularly unhappy with team boss Ron Dennis, with whom he has apparently not spoken since their contretemps in Hungary.

"I expected a lot more," he admitted of joining McLaren, "From the outside, the team has another image, serious but very professional. I arrived for my first year here after winning two world championships, and I have improved the car as far as I have been able. Last year, the team were fighting to get into qualifying three and, this year, they are going to win the title, but the truth is that the deal has not been all good. It is not the deal for a two-time champion.

"You hear the team talk a lot about equality, but it is impossible to have equality in an F1 team - there is always a better engine, always a better lap to make your pit-stop, always something better. Sometimes it affects one driver, sometimes another and, perhaps in the first part of the season, it was my turn, but, in the second part, despite the team telling everyone that things are equal, they are not."

Dennis admitted on Friday that he had been aggrieved that Alonso had not spoken out in support of the team's equality policy - the Spaniard declined to answer questions on the subject but insists he had his reasons.

"Perhaps it is better to be silent than to lie," he said, "Perhaps if [the team] had done that, this year would have been better. I believe that many of the things and scandals that have happened this year have been caused by this. Each one has his own philosophy, [Dennis] has his, [but] I have spoken a lot with [David] Coulthard, with [Juan Pablo] Montoya, with Kimi [Raikkonen], and they have all left the team and found a lot of happiness...."

Despite his unhappiness, Alonso admitted that the year had not been a complete nightmare.

"I am still in a team that has a car capable of winning, I have won four races, and we must not forget that," he insisted, "Up to now, no Spanish pilot has won a race, and I have won four this year, so I can't complain about that. I have had the luck to have a competitive car, and to have fought for the world title to the last moment, even though things have not always gone as well as I would have wanted.

Remarkably, given the latest outburst, the Spaniard says that he has not yet decided whether to leave the team.

"Sometimes, by their statements, their acts or comments, it seems to me that the team has decided that they already have enough with one of the two drivers here," he said, hinting that McLaren would be happy to continue with Hamilton and allow him to leave, "I do not have a problem - I have other ten teams that might be interested in me. But I have a contract here and, therefore, the possibility to remain here, but I must see if is the best thing or not."