Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso cursed his luck yesterday 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?” Alonso said. “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 today.
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,” Alonso said. “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 grands prix, but there are some good plans for the next races.”