''It's clearly not over for Fernando''
McLaren chief Ron Dennis refuses to accept that the drivers' World Championship is Lewis Hamilton's even after the British rookie won a rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix and moved clearly ahead in the standings.
teammate Fernando Alonso
remains second in the championship standings but is now 12 points behind after crashing out in Fuji. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen
was third in the race but is a further five points adrift overall.
Hamilton is on the brink of winning the title with only two races left this season: if he finishes ahead of Alonso and Raikkonen in China next weekend, the championship will be his.
But Dennis refuses to admit that Alonso's first retirement of the season marks the end of his mission to win a third consecutive title.
Dennis said: "The team are calm and focused. Lewis is in a strong position, but it's clearly not over for Fernando. We will give both drivers equal opportunities to win the World Championship."
The Fuji circuit was so wet that several drivers have since said they do not think the race should have started.
Hamilton somehow negotiated the puddles and Dennis paid tribute to the 22-year-old sensation.
"He was very disciplined, a tremendous race," Dennis declared. "We had to be careful with information overload - visibility was so bad he couldn't rely on his pit signals. So we were feeding him with data and it was difficult to know how much to give him.
But overall it was a tremendously well-disciplined race."
"The challenge for a driver - especially one leading the race - is not to drive too quickly," Dennis elaborated. "The challenge for the team is not to go too much on slowing him down. The message is not to take too many risks."
Hamilton accepted that the win had given him a major lift but he also maintained that there is still work to be done.
"Obviously it's a big boost in terms of confidence in my drive to be World Champion," he said. "But we still have two races left, and anything can happen. The key is just to try to keep it on the track."
"At the back of your mind, in the subconscious, you do think about it a little bit but I think the key for me is just focus on the next race and just make sure my preparations are right and take it as it comes," Hamilton added.
"I hope we have the pace to again have the opportunity to win. We'll see after the next race."