I’m the new favourite, says in-form Alonso as Spaniard eyes third title

FERRARI’S Fernando Alonso has declared himself the new favourite to win a fiercely contested world championship ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Back-to-back wins in Italy and Singapore have lifted Alonso into second in the drivers’ standings, just 11 points behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber with four races left.

McLaren pair Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, and Webber’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel are also still in contention for the title, but two-time former champion Alonso believes he has the edge.

“If you see the last two races, then yes [I am the favourite]. We need to keep the momentum,” said the Spaniard.

Webber might appear to be on the cusp of his first world championship at the age of 34, but the Australian insists the title battle is wide open.

“I’m not the favourite,” he said. “I think we’re all pretty even at the moment. It can all change pretty quickly, in a good way and bad way for me.

“It’s on a knife-edge but I’m very, very relaxed. I will do my best and the other stuff will
take care of itself. There’s four races to go and you need to lead the championship at the end, not now.”

England’s Hamilton remains confident of winning his second title, despite failing to finish the last two races.

“This season I’ve seen how close it is still after many people have had mistakes, it clearly shows that it isn’t impossible for me,” he said. “I still feel very optimistic.”

Hamilton’s last two retirements have come as a result of collisions attributable in part to his aggressive racing style.

“We’re always on the ragged edge. We’re always trying to gain a position while staying safe,” he added. “It’s not easy. Racing is racing and there are racing incidents, that’s to be expected.

“I could just go and drive around and not overtake anyone and just stay in position, that’s easy enough, but that’s not me so that definitely won’t be happening.”

STANDINGS | CHAMPIONSHIP

1. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 202
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 191
3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 182
4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 181
5. Jenson Button (McLaren) 177