F1 contenders say Singapore could be turning point
SINGAPORE - Agence France-Presse
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso looks on course to win his third Formula One World Championship this year. The Spaniard holds a comfortable 37-point advantage and may clinch the title earlier than expected if he continues his stunning form. AP Photo
Formula One leader Fernando Alonso and title contender Mark Webber of Red Bull say the Singapore Grand Prix on Sept. 23 could be the turning point of the season, ending McLaren’s recent dominance.
McLaren has won the past three races, but both Ferrari and Red Bull are hoping the nature of the circuit in Singapore and upcoming races should negate McLaren’s advantages.
“It is true McLaren are in very good form and are favorites after the last two or three results, but it is up to us to improve a little bit the pace and let’s see what we can do,” Alonso said.
Ferrari has earmarked Singapore and the following two races in Japan and South Korea as the decisive period of the season.
“In this three-race trip, our aim is to win grands prix and to increase the lead. Seventy-five points on the table, so we need to maximize those.”
Alonso holds a handy 37-point buffer atop the standings despite not winning since the German GP, and is enjoying the relative luxury of that lead.
“I’m not under pressure at all,” Alonso said. “We have five or six contenders for the championship and seven races to go. It will be tight until the last race but I’m probably the only one who can afford one mistake or one retire, the others cannot.”
Webber left behind in F1 title race
One of those others is Webber, whose title challenge has faltered since winning the British GP, having taken only 16 points from the past four Grands Prix.
A win this weekend would re-invigorate his title challenge, and the Australian believes a departure from the low-downforce circuits of Europe to the twistier Asian layouts can provide a shift in power among the frontrunners.
“We are going back to a configuration that we are going to do the remainder of the season on,” Webber said. “We will have a reset in terms of the pecking order, which we certainly will like, but how much that changes around remains to be seen.
“We are sitting here like we are at a funeral, but we are still leading the constructors’ championship.
“It’s very, very tight. I will be very, very surprised if the next three or four races we will see someone dominating.”
Asked about whether McLaren can extend its winning streak, Webber said: “Let’s see how they go on the high downforce stuff.”
However McLaren did win on the stop-start Hungaroring, and McLaren’s Jenson Button said the tight confines of Singapore’s Marina Bay track should not hamper the team’s victory chances.
“The car worked well in Hungary and at Hockenheim which are high downforce circuits,” Button said. “There is no reason why we won’t be competitive here.”
Alonso sets sights on Senna milestone
Meanwhile, Alonso has another target in matching Ayrton Senna’s career haul of three world titles after equaling his boyhood idol’s number of podium finishes.
The Spaniard finished third two weeks ago in Italy to claim his 80th podium spot, putting him level with the late Brazilian legend.
“I feel extremely proud,” Alonso said. “When you equal some numbers of Ayrton Senna it’s always quite a big thing, especially for me.
“I always followed his races, I had his cars, I had his poster in my room so when you have the same (number of) podiums as him it’s something you can’t believe.”
But Alonso also said he had a bigger target in mind: clinching his third drivers’ title, which would put him level with Senna’s wins in 1988, 1990 and 1991.
“Everything is going well in my career, I feel very well, very happy and I hope to reach more important numbers of Senna,” he said with a smile.