Ferrari believes better pace in qualifying is now the key to beating Red Bull Racing to the World Championship this year.
With Fernando Alonso emerging as Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel's nearest challenger in the last few races, the Italian team reckons it remains in a good position to grab the title. However, team principal Stefano Domenicali thinks that with the race pace of his cars and the Red Bull RB6 so evenly matched, the push from his squad needs to come in getting Alonso at the front of the grid.
Speaking after the Japanese Grand Prix, Domenicali said: "In race pace we were not too bad, but the problem is that if you start behind it is very difficult with this kind of performance to get ahead. Here [at Suzuka] with the hard tires, above all, we were really very good. I know that maybe they [Red Bull] were controlling a little bit the pace, but in the end everyone was pushing.
"I think that they are doing a great job in preparation and qualifying but, as we have seen, if we do a better job than them in qualifying then we are able to beat them. Otherwise it is tough, but we will see in the next races – everything is possible."
Alonso reckoned that Suzuka was going to be the toughest of the final few races for Ferrari, and Domenicali maintained all weekend that a podium was the best his outfit could realistically aim for.
"That is what we said from the beginning, so at least we are current with what we said," he explained. "We knew that here was really one of the most difficult tracks for us and, considering what we have seen on Friday and on Sunday in qualifying, it was very good to see that the race pace was totally different. At least we were very competitive.
"For sure Red Bull was stronger, but McLaren were not bad, and unfortunately for them they had a reliability issue with Lewis [Hamilton]. But this podium was the result that we wanted, at least with one driver."
He added: "The classification is very, very open. We have three races to go where everything is possible and we need to be there right until the end."