Fernando Alonso heads to the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos with renewed hope of landing a third world championship, despite insisting that he is still the underdog in the Formula One title battle.

Events in Shanghai at the weekend moved the Spaniard back to within four points of McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, setting up a three-way scrap for the crown, with Chinese Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen also still in the running after closing to within seven points of the non-scoring Hamilton.

Before the race, Alonso had spoken of needing a miracle if he was to be able to take the fight to the final round - and the circuit where he has clinched both his previous titles - but, for the first half of the 56-lap event, it did not appear that Lady Luck was on his side. Then, after opting to delay his tyre stop for a few crucial laps, Hamilton made the first costly mistake of his rookie campaign, sliding into the gravel bordering the pit-lane entry - something Alonso noticed on the giant trackside screens.

"The team did not mention it on the radio," he told the Spanish media, "Just then, we were speaking about whether to fit dry or wet tyres, because some drops [of rain] were falling but the circuit was dry. We had to decide whether to fit slicks and hope that it would not rain, or to expect the rain to return and put wets on."

Alonso admitted that his first thought on seeing his rival climbing out of his stricken car was to ensure that he made the finish.

"Almost any result was worth it," he explained, "If I was seventh, I had saved a match point and could go to Brazil with some chance so, after his retirement, I just tried to stay on the track. The conditions were delicate, and I just wanted to finish the race."

Second to Raikkonen was enough to slice Hamilton's advantage from twelve points to four, but Alonso admits that the Briton still holds the upper hand.

"I have more hope, but I know that we go the final round still in a very difficult situation," he reckoned, "I need to win with Hamilton third and, if not that, another rare combination. Looking at the races we have already had, six or seven in dry, we have always been very close with Ferrari in qualifying and the races, so to win the race and put a Ferrari between us is a task that is almost impossible. But it is what we are going to try, to make possible the impossible thing."

Despite his outburst after qualifying in China, where he was alleged to have kicked a door off its hinges after posting a time six-tenths slower than Hamilton, Alonso insists that he expects McLaren to treat each candidate equally in Brazil.

"It has been difficult all through the second part of the year, and continues being difficult, but I believe that the cars are going to be equal, that the team are going to give the same opportunities to the two of us," he said, "I have to clarify that, even if I feel that the team will not be cheering for me.

"Qualifying here is already jut a story, because the race went well. I am still disappointed at not being able to fight for pole, not by thousandths, but by seven-tenths, and I continue to be surprised at what happened, but it does not have any importance. The points are decided on Sunday afternoon and the step that we took today was quite good. That is what is important."

Nevertheless, the Spaniard will be hoping that there is no repeat of the gap between himself and his team-mate at Interlagos, where he claims starting position will be vital.

"If something happened here, then I hope it was merely coincidence and that we can go to Brazil and both do good times," he said, "I need to be able to fight for pole, as that would give me one of the few options of fighting for the victory. If you are not on the pole or on the first row, it is almost finished.

"It is going to be a very important qualifying, as both of us are going to be trying to win and the one that starts first has all the options to win the battle between us. The battle with Ferrari is another story, but qualifying is going to be important. We have seen how unpredictable F1 can be - on lap 68, you can be very far from victory and, on lap 69, you might be champion of the world. Therefore, it is necessary to be there, fighting to the end."

The permutations for a third Alonso title are limited given the points gap between himself and Hamilton, but victory gives the Spaniard the best chance. Even if he does take his fifth win of the year, however, Alonso would need a rival team to claim second place, as only third or worse for Hamilton would be enough for the current #1 to retain his crown on a tie-break.

If he is unable to take the victory, Alonso needs the Briton to finish sixth or worse and, should Ferrari, for example, claim a 1-2, the Spaniard would require his rival to finish eighth or worse. However, in that scenario, he would need Felipe Massa to keep Kimi Raikkonen off top spot - unlikely given the Brazilian's confirmation that he will 'help' his team-mate - for a sixth win of the year would be enough for Ferrari to claim its second crown.

 

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