Alonso 'used to this situation'
Championship leader expects a stronger race
By Mike Wise at Suzuka. Last Updated: 07/10/12 12:54pm
Altough Red Bull dominated qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, title leader Fernando Alonso reckons that Ferrari can once again pick up the pace during the race itself.
Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth straight pole position at Suzuka with a lap more than a second quicker than Alonso, who set the seventh fastest time.
The Spaniard gains a place as a result of Jenson Button's gearbox penalty but with Vettel now his nearest pursuer in the Drivers' Championship, Alonso's 29-point lead could well shrink on Sunday.
Speaking after qualifying, Alonso seemed resigned to Red Bull's advantage and drew parallels with the climax of the 2010 season, when he also led the World Championship prior to Vettel's late surge.
"What can we do? I think they are quick, they deserve to be on the first row and they are very competitive. So it's up to us to improve," he said.
"Obviously we'll have to be a little more fast but we are not, so we need to work, we need to improve.
"In 2010 they were maybe more than one second faster than us and we led the Championship until Abu Dhabi. Now they are eight tenths, one second faster than us and we are leading the Championship.
"Let's say we are used to this situation, being one second slower than our competitors in the fight for the Championship, so we will try to keep ahead."
Despite pointing out his habit of securing strong race results, Alonso still insisted that Ferrari had the potential to close the gap to Red Bull and McLaren on pure pace.
"I think in the next races we will improve the car for sure. I think we did not improve too much in the last two or three grands prix but we have some good plans for the next races. So I'm sure we will have a more competitive approach," he said.
"On the other hand, we are not very competitive on Sunday in terms of performance because they are quicker than us. But normally we improve our pace, the strategies are normally very good.
"The points are given on Sunday - and on Sunday we don't feel less strong than other teams."
Three pit-stops was the winning strategy last year, with Alonso expecting tyres to be placed under strain once again through the track's high-speed corners.
Pirelli have brought soft and hard tyres to Japan and Alonso said that even the latter - which are similar to last year's mediums used in the race - will be tested.
"I think it's a concern for everybody. Not just softs, also hards. It's a demanding circuit for tyres, we saw so last year with three stops in the race," he added.
"The tyres are more or less similar to last year, so it's a race to manage well. But at the same time we need to push - this is not a circuit where you can back off or think about reducing the pace. They will overtake you because there are so many good possibilities.
"We'll see on Sunday. It'll depend on temperatures - it'll depend on many things."