Fernando Alonso and Ferrari have moved closer to the Formula One title drivers’ title but neither the Spanish driver nor his Italian team are taking anything for granted.
Alonso could theoretically clinch his third title in Brazil on November 7, but the team — as well as their rivals — believe it will all come down to the last race in Abu Dhabi a week later.
After winning Sunday’s inaugural South Korean Grand Prix, Alonso has snatched an 11-point lead over Red Bull’s Mark Webber and is 21 points ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
But Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has told his team that they should not get carried away, saying the hard work was still to come.
“What I am most pleased about is we have shown with determination, hard work, level headedness and the will to win, we can get out of the most difficult situations,” Di Montezemolo said.
“We are a team that never give up and we showed that yet again, so I want to congratulate the entire team who worked in impeccable fashion.
“But now we must keep our feet on the ground. The championship is still very open and we know we are up against very strong opponents.
“We will have to tackle the final two races with even higher levels of concentration, paying attention to every little detail.”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali had similar words after Alonso took advantage of Red Bull’s failure to win any points to win a rain-soaked race ahead of Hamilton and teammate Felipe Massa.
“First of all, let’s just keep calm about this,” he said.
“This has been a fantastic day, in which we have turned around the situation in the drivers’ championship and also, albeit partially, put us back in a stronger position in the constructors’ classification. However, we are well aware the hardest part begins now.”
Alonso is fully aware how an advantage can quickly evaporate, having seen Webber crash out and his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel retire with engine trouble 10 laps from what looked a certain victory.
The 2005 and 2006 champion (with Renault) has also turned his season around after his title chances appeared slim when he crashed out in Belgium in late August.
“We know that with the new points system anything can happen in one race,” said Alonso who insists Red Bull are still favourites.
“If you don’t score, then you lose 25 points to one of your main opponents, so nothing has changed. Here it was bad luck for Mark and Sebastian, so anything can happen in the next two races.”
Red Bull now have to decide whether to put all their cards on Webber, with Vettel now 25 points behind Alonso with only 50 still available.
However team principal Christian Horner insisted after the race that would not be the case.
“Clearly the objective for both of them is to be ahead of Fernando and Lewis (Hamilton), as we achieved (in qualifying) on Saturday, and as was the case in the race when we looked set for a good result,” he said.
“Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and it was a race win that was beyond our control.
“In the end we gifted Fernando 25 points, which is obviously frustrating, but this is a championship I believe will go down to the last lap in Abu Dhabi.”
Hamilton has meanwhile kept his hopes alive, although he will need his rivals to slip up if he is to repeat his 2008 title. “We’ve got two races ahead of us — we have more coming for the car, and the guys back at the factory are doing a great job,” he said.
“Everyone is really enthusiastic and is pushing as hard as they can. The championship definitely isn’t out of reach — we can still do this.”