By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at Suzuka
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has dubbed himself title favourite as Red Bull's leader Mark Webber refuses to take the tag ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Alonso has won the last two races to move to within 11 points of Webber with five drivers still in the hunt for top honours with four races to go.
Asked if he was favourite, Alonso said: "If you see the last two races, then yes. We need to keep the momentum."
Webber said: "I'm not the favourite. I'm not even thinking about the title."
Alonso, Webber, the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel are all within a race victory of the lead as the thrilling 19-race season reaches the famous figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit for Sunday's race.
None of the main protagonists have been able to build a clear lead but Alonso, a double world champion for Renault, has momentum on his side after winning in Italy and Singapore, each time from pole.
But despite cautiously taking on the title favourite tag, the Spaniard is also refusing to take anything for granted as he prepares to fend off his challengers in a five-way title fight.
"It's difficult as you need to control more drivers and more teams in terms of strategy," Alonso explained.
"Fighting with another driver is easier in terms of controlling him but five drivers with possibilities means it is still a very open fight."
Alonso conceded that Suzuka's fast and flowing circuit should favour Red Bull, who won here from pole last year with Vettel, but the Spaniard pointed out that predicted form does not necessarily lead to results on track.
"It is no surprise that Red Bull are favourite again," Alonso added. "The characteristics of Suzuka are favourable to Red Bull.
"But that doesn't mean that they will win the race very easily. We saw this year circuits which were good for Red Bull were not 100% victories for them because something happened.
"We need to keep pushing them because of the four races remaining Suzuka is good for them but the other three are a bit unknown.
"We expect some tough moments to come so we need to be prepared for those, not to panic and to score as many points as possible at each race."
Webber is also adopting a one-race-at-a-time strategy as he chases his first world title after nine years in the sport.
We hope to have some advantage, but hoping doesn't mean much; we need to do it on the track
The Australian reclaimed the championship lead from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton following the Italian Grand Prix but Webber is resolutely refusing to get caught up in the hype of leading the title race.
"If it was a 15-race championship then I'd be champion now but I'm not, there are more races to go and we need to leave the championship until the last race," Webber insisted.
"It could all change very quickly - in a good way for me or in a bad way. It's on a knife edge but I'm very relaxed.
"[Points and finishes] won't be enough. I need to keep racing hard and going for victories. I will leave no change on the table and the points will look after themselves."
Webber was also reluctant to accept that Red Bull will dominate this weekend's action in Suzuka, where a forecast of rain for the weekend could also shake up the order.
"We hope [to have some advantage]. But hoping doesn't mean much; we need to do it on the track. I expect Ferrari to be in the hunt here and all three teams to be quick.
"We are coming here trying to win but this is another car race and we'll go out and do our best."
First practice for the Japanese Grand Prix begins on Friday at 0200 BST.
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