Fernando Alonso calls on Ferrari to raise game as Sebastian Vettel finishes top of timesheet

Spaniard was down in a miserable 10th, 1.235secs adrift

 Sebastian Vettel  during practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit.

Sebastian Vettel during practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit.

Sat, Oct 12, 2013, 01:00

Fernando Alonso has told Ferrari to raise their game if he is to have any chance of denying Sebastian Vettel his fourth consecutive Formula One world title in Japan this weekend.

For Vettel to be crowned for a second time at Suzuka, as was the case two years ago, he enjoyed the ideal scenario come the conclusion to practice.

Vettel heads into the weekend knowing if he wins a fifth successive race – after recent successes in Belgium, Italy, Singapore and Korea – and Alonso finishes ninth or lower, he will again be champion.

Unsurprisingly, the 26-year-old finished top of the timesheet at the end of the two 90-minute sessions under clear blue skies and with temperatures pushing 30 degrees.

As for Alonso, the Spaniard was down in a miserable 10th, 1.235secs adrift, but more worringly behind Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo who was seventh and Jenson Button in his McLaren, with the Briton ninth.

A disappointed Alonso, 77 points adrift of Vettel and standing in the last-chance saloon when it comes to his championship chances, said: “In terms of competitiveness, we are not in the position we wanted. We definitely need to improve. because we were not at a good level.

“Mercedes, Red Bull, Lotus, they are in front of us, and they should be in front of us. But we have Ricciardo, we have the McLaren, people that are normally behind us are now in front.

‘Clean lap’
“We hope to get a clean lap in qualifying (on Saturday) to be ahead of those cars that we cannot have in front of us.”

Alonso did not help his own cause, though, as he was one of many who suffered an incident on a track widely regarded as arguably the best in F1, but also the most unforgiving.

Whereas many current circuits have considerable run-off areas to aid a driver when he makes a mistake, Suzuka has many gravel traps.

Alonso was fortunate to avoid one as he spun on the approach to the second Degner curve that caught out Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde in his Caterham and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado.

Alonso added: “We didn’t extract the maximum, but I also made a mistake with a spin. Things were not good enough.

“Luckily, when I spun I didn’t ruin the tyres. We also managed to use them on the long run with a full fuel load.”

Overall, Vettel finished 0.168secs ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, with Nico Rosberg a quarter of a second down in his Mercedes.