All eyes are further down the grid as the 2012 world championship reaches its zenith on race-day Sunday at the Interlagos showdown. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has qualified just fourth, behind team...
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has qualified just fourth, behind teammate Mark Webber.
"It was not a perfect lap," Dr Helmut Marko told German RTL television, "but we don't absolutely have to win this race, we need to look out for Alonso."
Triple world champion Niki Lauda said he senses a "slight nervousness" about Vettel in Brazil.
But Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who needs to finish several places higher than his rival to have any chance of winning the title, qualified just eighth, three places behind his teammate Felipe Massa.
The Spaniard has however moved up to seventh due to Pastor Maldonado's penalty, and it is now rumoured Ferrari could pull out its Austin-style gearbox 'trick' to penalise Massa again and promote Alonso to sixth.
"That is not one of our decisions, so there is no need to lose a thought on it," said Vettel.
Massa said it is unlikely.
"We are not only fighting for the drivers' title, we also need to think about McLaren and the constructors' standings," said the Brazilian.
It is however rumoured Alonso has gambled on a more rain-oriented car setup, given the weather forecast for Sunday and his hopes for ensuing "chaos" at Interlagos.
"If I am to have any hopes for the title, it's more plausible to count on a retirement for Vettel rather than for him to finish in a position where I can get ahead of him in the classification," Alonso said.
He, and also Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, denied Massa could take team-play to extreme levels by 'taking out' Vettel.
"I've always been an honest person and an honest driver," said Massa. "My limit is the limit of the regulations."
And Vettel said he is not worried about being so close on the grid to Massa.
"Well, there are always other cars around you at the start," said the German. "It would be boring if it was just me on the grid."
Vettel did admit that he is not expecting any help from his teammate Webber.
"We both drive our own races," said the German.
To the dying moments, Alonso is still deploying 'psychological' tactics; the latest is the suggestion that Lewis Hamilton would be a tougher title challenger than Vettel.
"Winning against Hamilton in the same situation would be virtually impossible," the Spaniard told Brazil's Sportv television.
"Not only this year but throughout his career, he has showed that he can win both with a good car and a not-so-good car. But when Vettel is first, Mark Webber is second," he added.
But at the end of the day, Vettel is the overwhelming favourite for Sunday.
"We don't need good luck to win the title," Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Salzburger Nachrichten, "we just need to not have bad luck."