SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is sure to win this year’s Formula One title and Ferrari’s focus is now on finishing ahead of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Fernando Alonso said on Saturday.
Vettel enjoys a 77 point lead over the Spaniard and can secure his fourth successive championship if he wins the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday and Alonso fails to finish in the top eight.
While Vettel qualified on the front row on Saturday, Alonso will start in eighth place.
“If Sebastian doesn’t win the championship here, he will win in India or in Abu Dhabi,” said the Ferrari driver, referring to the next two races of the four remaining after Japan.
“It’s not our more important point of the weekend to be honest. We will not race, try to finish in the first eight to try to keep alive the championship,” he continued.
“We will race, try to score as many points as possible and try to finish in front of the Mercedes. That is a very important goal for us. If we can keep the championship open until India it will be OK, but it will not change too much for us.”
Ferrari are second overall and one point ahead of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings with five races remaining. Red Bull are 118 points clear in the constructors’.
Both the Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, qualified ahead of the Ferraris at Suzuka with the Briton third on the grid and the German sixth.
Vettel starts alongside Australian team mate Mark Webber, on pole for the first time in a year, and can be expected to run away with the race if his misbehaving KERS energy recovery system does not let him down.
“The race is about trying to beat the Ferraris and also the Lotuses,” Hamilton agreed. “We want to beat both those teams. The Red Bulls, we’re not really in their league at the moment.”
“When you start the race, your mind’s set on winning but if those two Red Bulls get into the first corner first and second, they’ll be gone... they’ve got so much time in their pockets.”
Alonso said his qualifying had been much as expected, with Ferrari clearly off the pace, although there was hope for the race.
“We are not in a position to fight with anyone,” he said. “We have some problems in terms of pace and performance that is not going to change now in the remaining races because we will put zero new parts in.
“It is not frustrating any more to be honest,” he added. “It is four years that we are one second behind Red Bull (on Saturday).
“We were seventh in Korea, we didn’t have the pace. We arrived here five days later and we didn’t expect any miracle. We expected to be eight tenths or one second behind Red Bull and we are eight tenths.”
Editing by John O'Brien