As down as he was about seeing Sebastian Vettel take yet another pole position at the Korean Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso found consolation in one statistic from Saturday’s qualifying session.
Alonso sat atop the list of highest speeds recorded at the end of the main straight, and it’s that advantage the Spaniard is pinning his hopes on as he looks for his first race win since April.
If he can hold or improve on his fifth-place grid position through the first corner, Alonso stands a strong chance of making up more places on the long straights that lead to turns three and four.
“It will be a big opportunity for us,” Alonso said. “We will try to attack in T3 and T4.”
Alonso trails Vettel by 60 points in the championship with six races to go — including Sunday’s at the Yeongam circuit — so he needs to capitalize on every opportunity and realistically needs at least a couple of victories if he is to catch the German.
Alonso has finished as runner-up to Vettel in the past three races and a repeat on Sunday would all but end his title hopes. It would, though, create some F1 history as never before has one driver finished as runner-up to the same winner in four successive races.
For several seasons now the Ferrari has lagged behind the Red Bulls in qualifying, so the 0.8 second deficit to Vettel was no surprise. But the Italian team has also showed a capacity to significantly narrow that disadvantage in races.
“We know we had the weak point in the team and we know we have some other strong points,” Alonso said. “With this kind of problem for years, we still fought for the world championship. It’s something good we do, but it’s true that we are too slow.”
The possibility of wet weather on Sunday from a typhoon in the region is also a potential wild card for Alonso, as there has been very little wet running this season and it could significantly alter the established order.
“If it rains, it’s very, very challenging for all of us,” Alonso said. “It’s a very short time of adaptation we have in case of rain tomorrow.”