Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel said he was confident he can catch Fernando Alonso in this year’s Formula One title race despite an ultra-consistent season by the Ferrari pace-setter.
The Red Bull driver, who is 29 points behind the Spaniard and chasing a third straight title, believes he can overhaul him without any need for retirements or other mishaps.
Vettel capitalised on a retirement by race leader Lewis Hamilton to win last month’s Singapore Grand Prix, but he said he could beat Alonso “on the track”.
“Obviously I don’t want misfortunes to hit others. We are confident and we believe that we can do it on the track,” he said at the Japanese Grand Prix.
“I was confident in the last race, for example, that we had a similar pace to Lewis, but it would have been difficult to overtake him on track.
”But, in motor racing, you never know. There he (Hamilton) retired and we took first position. It was a big help in this season’s championship. But for the next races we have to focus on ourselves and whatever happens, happens.
“Obviously we are currently behind, so if none of us scores, we stay behind, so we need to make sure to finish the races and score a lot of big points.”
Speaking at the Suzuka circuit, Vettel forecast another close scrap at the front of the field as he attempts to claim his third win in Japan.
He added: “Historically this is a circuit that we used to like and we have always been very competitive around here, so I think we should have a good weekend.
”But we’ve seen this year that in fast corners we are struggling a little bit more than in the past. Obviously there are a lot of fast and medium-speed corners around this track so we’ll see.
“It will be extremely tight because I think there’s a couple of cars that struggle a bit more in the lower-speed corners.
”The Sauber should be very strong this weekend. It’s no secret that they have a very good car with a lot of down-force. Sometimes it’s a bit of a surprise to see them so far back after having been very strong.“
Vettel’s Red Bull team chief Christian Horner also admitted that two-time world champion Alonso’s amazing consistency this year had been ”an annoyance“ to his team.
Alonso has scored points in all but one of his races -- when he was the innocent victim of a first lap multiple collision in Belgium -- and delivered eight podium finishes.