Fernando Alonso is convinced he can fight for the Formula One title after emerging through the chaos of the opening five races. Good fortune shone on Alonso on Sunday to the delight of his fans in his home grand prix in Barcelona. A brake problem for Sebastian Vettel and suspected tyre rim failure for Lewis Hamilton unexpectedly elevated the Ferrari driver from fourth to second in the closing laps.
It was Alonso's best result since his season-opening victory in Bahrain, after which he encountered numerous problems. Remarkably, going into this Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso is firmly back in the title hunt, trailing Jenson Button, the championship leader, by just three points. "The championship is long," said Alonso. "There will be some circuits where we will be closer to Red Bull and some circuits, like in Barcelona, where we know it's going to be more difficult.
"Overall, for the remaining races, I think we have a package, a car that can fight for the world championship, which is the main goal." Alonso knows, though, that consistency is critical and he cannot afford to endure a roller-coaster ride for the remainder of the year. "You need good results all the way through," said the 28-year-old. "So far we have had two engine problems, one gearbox problem, one jumped start, some chaotic races, but we are only three points behind the leader, so we are happy.
"It's still very early in the championship, but better to be in the first three or four positions than eighth or ninth. "But from now we need four or five podiums in a row. We cannot have one podium and then another three races with mistakes if we are to win the championship. "But we understand that. We know the mistakes we have made at the beginning of the championship, which is why we arrived in Barcelona with a very good approach.
"We were a super Ferrari team over the weekend with no mistakes at all." With Ferrari planning a solid period of upgrades over the next few weeks, Alonso is confident that will keep him in the hunt. "There is a very aggressive plan of developing the car with some good gains and good improvements to come in the next races, so we are very optimistic on that," Alonso added. Meanwhile Mark Webber, the race winner in Spain, is confident that he can challenge for victory in Monaco.
The race around the streets of Monte Carlo are full of tight slow corners which in the past have not suited the Red Bull-Renault package. While Webber is expecting a good showing this weekend, he acknowledged the importance of a strong qualifying performance on a track where overtaking is all but impossible. "We will go there and give it our best shot," the Australian said. "We should have a car good enough for there, but we all know that a place on the front row [of the starting grid] will be vital."
* Compiled by Graham Caygill, with agencies