F1: Alonso follows Schumi's lead!

Fernando Alonso is planning to follow Michael Schumacher's lead to keep his hopes of retaining his world title alive in Japan.

Fernando Alonso is planning to follow Michael Schumacher's lead to keep his hopes of retaining his world title alive in Japan.

Schumacher stormed from sixth on the grid to win the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last week, and Alonso starts on the third row after finishing fifth in qualifying for this morning's Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

The Renault-driving Spaniard lines up alongside team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella after a session dominated by cars with Bridgestone tyres saw Ferrari and Toyota occupy the first four positions.

And, despite a commanding performance by the Ferraris in practice and qualifying, Alonso is not writing off his chances of a seventh race win of the season.

He said: "In a way, we are happy because I think we did the maximum for Michelin and for the car.

"To be fifth and sixth is good for us, to be honest. The race is still there. It's quite open and with good possibilities.

"In China everything looked so good for us, favourites and quite an easy race; we lost. Ferrari look the same here, so we will see.

"They are the favourites but there are 53 laps in front of us and you have to finish them with no mechanical problems, no pit stop problems, no start problems.

"Anything can happen and, starting fifth, the chances are still the same, they are still remaining very, very good."

Alonso and Fisichella were slower than the Ferraris all day, with the world champion more than three-quarters of a second behind Felipe Massa, who took pole ahead of Schumacher.

But the Spaniard is confident the gap in performance between the two teams will be considerably less under race conditions.

"It will be better, I hope and we believe," he said. "Today, in one lap performance, it was a big difference in the tyres and tomorrow will be closer, but still some advantage for them.

"It will be a very difficult race, as we knew this morning but, just between qualifying and the race, we will prefer the race because we will be closer.

"I think, looking at the Bridgestone tyres today, they do one lap or two laps and have quite a good amount of graining compared to ours, which look OK.

"Secondly, the whole season has been like this. For the last four months they have a very, very good first lap in the tyres and then it's a little bit more equal in the race."

Despite hoping he can overturn Schumacher for his first win since the Canadian Grand Prix in June, Alonso is refusing to be too optimistic.

"The races are very long," he said. "Being realistic, we are not at the right pace this weekend compared to the Bridgestones and, if we finish on the podium, overtaking the Toyotas, it will be a super result for us."

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