Thursday, September 20, 2012
Alonso hopes to keep Hamilton in his mirrors
By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso will focus his attention on nearest rival Lewis Hamilton at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix as the Spaniard knows it is impossible to watch everyone.
Ferrari's Alonso leads Hamilton by 37 points with seven rounds remaining but the Briton has hauled himself into contention by winning two of the last three races to loom large in the Spaniard's wing mirrors.
McLaren's Hamilton sits a point ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and two ahead of defending champion Sebastian Vettel whose Red Bull team mate Mark Webber is a further eight points adrift in fifth place.
Jenson Button is sixth in the other McLaren and, while he may be too far behind to mount a title challenge, his victory in Belgium two races ago means the team have won the last three races and are clearly the cars to beat.
"McLaren are favourites to win this week so we need to stop their domination. Hopefully, we have brought some new parts to the car since Monza and it means we can do well here and at the races after that," Alonso told reporters on Thursday.
"Everybody is strong at the moment and everybody is a contender. There are still five or six drivers that can fight for the title.
"Sure, Lewis is a strong driver and someone I respect as we know how good he can drive with a good car or a bad car and he is second in the standings.
"But it is hard to focus on five drivers at once, with the strategies and the stops, so it is best to be aware of the closest one and at the moment that is Lewis."
The 23-turn, demanding Marina Bay Street Circuit is a happy hunting ground for Alonso, who seems to relish the challenge of a night race that has brought him two victories in the four runnings of the event.
"I have been lucky with the cars here, (they) have always been competitive apart from in 2009 when I didn't make the podium," said the double world champion.
"It is a challenging track and there is no room for error and, like Monaco, you need to know your limits. On a normal track, if you touch the grass you lose the lap. Here, if you touch the wall then you lose the session.
"So it's quite challenging...not only physically, nearly two hours of racing and the humidity makes it a mental test too. The stress of not making a single mistake over the whole weekend means it is a difficult race.
"We were competitive in Monaco and Canada - which is a sort of street circuit - so we hope to do similarly well here. So Saturday (qualifying) is a very important day for us."
Alonso finished third in Monza to register the 80th podium finish of his career, levelling Ayrton Senna's mark and putting him behind only Michael Schumacher (155) and Alain Prost (106).
"I am proud as numbers become extremely important when you retire. When you are racing, people don't pay as much attention but when you start equalling some of Ayrton Senna's numbers it's a big thing for me because he was my idol growing up," he said.
"I had models of his cars and his poster on my wall so when you start reaching the same position as him it feels a little bit unbelievable.
"Everything is going well in my career, I feel very proud and very happy. Hopefully, I can surpass him and be a driver people look up to after I retire."
(Editing by Tom Pilcher)