Alonso hoping for brighter Suzuka Sunday
SUZUKA, Japan |
SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Ferrari's Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso cursed his luck on Saturday after qualifying only sixth for the Japanese Grand Prix while closest title rival Sebastian Vettel put his Red Bull on pole.
The Spaniard's final quick lap was wrecked after Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus spun off in the final seconds of qualifying to bring out the yellow warning flags.
That forced everyone to slow and left Vettel the unchallenged polesitter.
"What can I say, other than get angry about being unlucky?" said Alonso.
"The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment ... up until then my lap was great and there was every chance of setting the fourth fastest time of the day, which would have then seen me start from third on the grid."
McLaren's Jenson Button, the third fastest in qualifying, had a five-place grid penalty.
Alonso leads Vettel by 29 points, with six races remaining, which means he will still lead the championship whatever happens on Sunday.
Despite that, the Ferrari man can remember only too painfully how a third championship slipped through his fingers in 2010 when Vettel came from behind to snatch the overall lead and title in the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Double champion Vettel and Red Bull are picking up pace ominously, winning the previous race in Singapore and dominating practice and qualifying at Suzuka with both their cars on the front row.
"We need to improve. In 2010 they were maybe more than one second faster than us and we were leading the championship until Abu Dhabi," warned Alonso.
"Now they are eight tenths, one second faster than us. We are leading the championship. Let's say we are used to this situation, being one second slower than our competitors and fighting for the championship."
Alonso has been more consistent than Vettel and has won three races to the German's two but he was confident Ferrari would be able to fight back rather than just relying on reliability.
"I think in the next races we will improve the car considerably," he said. "We did not improve too much in the last two or three grand prix but there are some good plans for the next races."
Alonso, who went back to his Friday settings after being unconvinced by changes tried out in Saturday's final practice, also drew confidence from the fact that he has been more competitive on Sundays than in qualifying.
"Normally we improve our pace, the strategies normally are very good, the pitstops and starts. The points are given on Sunday and on Sunday we don't feel less strong than other teams," he said.
"Maybe we lack a bit of performance on the single lap but on Sunday our team has no fear of anyone."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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