The remaining five races of the season will be like mini World Championship according to Fernando Alonso, who saw his points lead all but wiped out in Suzuka.
The Ferrari driver spun out of the Japanese Grand Prix at the first corner after making contact with Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus, while his chief rival in the standings Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory.
Alonso is now just four points ahead of Vettel, who became the first driver to deliver back-to-back victories in 2012 and has momentum behind him. But the Spaniard maintains that nothing has changed for him in his approach to the championship, and that his world title ambitions remain firmly intact.
"I think one time I will retire, maybe next time Vettel will retire, you never know, that's motorsport," said Alonso. "It's five races to go, it will be like a mini championship, because we start with the same points and we need to score one more point [than him] in five races. So we will try to do it."
Alonso was critical of Raikkonen, whose front wing appeared to cut the Spaniard's left-rear tire as the Lotus edged up the outside of the Ferrari into the braking zone.
"I had no space on the right, I had Button I think on my left, I had Kimi... and I don't understand why Kimi didn't lift off or anything because there was not any room," Alonso said of the first-corner fracas. "I don't know what Kimi's idea was for the first corner, but that is the way it is and this time it was bad luck for us."
The two-time champion has seen his lead shrink in the last few races after having been in the lead of the championship since the European Grand Prix. Alonso, who said his team had not introduced any updates in the last six races, saw teammate Felipe Massa finish in second position in the race, but the Spaniard admitted it was just thanks to the circumstances that his team can achieve a result like that given its current pace.
"Well, it's a bit because of the coincidences in the race that Felipe is second," he said. "Yesterday we qualified sixth and 11th. We have had the same car for six races, without adding any new bits, and it's a bit thanks to the circumstances...
"Felipe did a perfect race, driving well, but there are cars which are a lot faster making a mistake after another and that has helped Felipe."