Alonso sees lead evaporate at Japanese GP
(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
By JIM ARMSTRONG
AP Sports Writer
SUZUKA, Japan (AP) Things happened all too fast for Fernando Alonso at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver crashed out of the race at the first turn and saw his lead in the Formula One championship standings cut to four points when Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won his second consecutive race, following up his win in Singapore.
As the cars headed into the first turn, Alonso made contact with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and appeared to sustain a puncture, fishtailing off the track where the car stalled, leaving a disconsolate Alonso to trudge back on the short walk to the pits.
"Today, we were very unlucky," Alonso said."To finish a race like this, at the very first corner is really a shame. Contact from Raikkonen caused a puncture to the left rear tire and my race ended there.
"Unfortunately, when you start in the middle of the pack, these things can happen."
Vettel blocked Alonso during the final moments of qualifying on Saturday when the Ferrari driver was arriving at the chicane. Race officials reviewed the incident and reprimanded Vettel but allowed him to maintain pole position. That decision may have been a factor in Alonso's aggressive start.
Sunday's incident couldn't have come at a worse time for Alonso, who hasn't won since the German GP in July when it looked like he was about to run away in the championship race with his third win of the season.
Now with five races left, Alonso said the title chase has come down to a mini-championship between the contending drivers.
"Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five grands prix," Alonso said. "The aim will be to score at least one point more than all the others. What happened to us today could happen to the others next time: the wheel turns and that is what races are all about."
After finishing third in Singapore, Alonso told his Ferrari team it must step up the pace to win the Formula One title but Sunday's result was hardly what he had in mind.
Updated October 7, 2012