With three races left to run in 2010, McLaren’s title-winning rhetoric has turned a corner.
After Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are now 28 and 31 points respectively behind the leader Mark Webber, moving Hamilton to admit that even a winning streak through to November’s Abu Dhabi finale might not be enough now.
“Podiums won’t do it,” he said after a nightmare weekend in Japan, having nursed a second gearbox problem of the event to the chequered flag with an ear infection.
“Wins will get it if the others have problems. But if Red Bull finish all the races then it’s a walkover,” added Briton Hamilton.
Button is also downbeat about defending his world championship after Japan.
“If we don’t turn up in Korea with some good improvements to get us near the Red Bulls, it is almost impossible,” he said.
“I would like to think we don’t have to hope Red Bull crash or have reliability issues and we have a car to challenge them. But when they have the pace they had here, they can cruise it,” added Button.
Closer to Webber’s lead – and level-pegging with Sebastian Vettel’s 14 point deficit – is Fernando Alonso, who remains confident of winning his first title at the wheel of a Ferrari.
“We are convinced that this was the worst track of the remaining races for us,” said the Spaniard after finishing third in Japan.
“To be world champion I need one more win and two podiums,” Alonso is quoted by La Stampa.
Also smiling after Suzuka is pole sitter and winner Vettel, despite admitting that his Australian teammate is now tantalisingly close to the title.
“His 14 point lead is of course an advantage,” he said, referring to Webber.
“If he wins again, it will be difficult for all of us,” German Vettel is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.
“But anything can still happen.”
The 23-year-old’s confidence was boosted by the apparent ease with which he won in Japan.
“Without sounding arrogant,” he said, “I would say I always had Mark under control.
“I could see him all the time,” Vettel told Bild newspaper. “He was one, two or three seconds behind. Every time he came a bit closer, I went on the gas a bit more.
“It’s looking okay. If I win the next three races, everything will be fine, so that must be my goal,” he said.
© RIF | GMM