Fernando Alonso thinks it is "a miracle" he is still even mathematically in the hunt for the 2013 title.
Red Bull's dominant Sebastian Vettel will win the title this weekend in Japan, if Alonso - 77 points behind in his Ferrari with five races to go - finishes lower than eighth at Suzuka.
Christian Horner thinks championship celebrations in Japan are unlikely.
"When was the last time Fernando Alonso finished ninth?" the Red Bull team boss is quoted by Spain's EFE news agency.
Whether Vettel closes Alonso's mathematical possibility in Japan, or India two weeks later, is regarded by most F1 insiders as a moot point.
Mercedes' Niki Lauda: "Don't worry, Seb will get the fourth title soon enough," he is quoted by Speed Week.
The rhetoric from Ferrari, whilst not conceding the title definitively, is also increasingly pessimistic.
"If someone started watching formula one today or yesterday and you said the guy with the blue helmet in the red car is fighting for the championship, they would says it's not true," Alonso is quoted by Brazil's Agencia Estado.
"A miracle," he added.
Alonso's comment could be interpreted as the latest slight against Ferrari's development progress this year.
"We did a miracle for 14 races and we will try to keep this miracle alive for the remaining five," the Spaniard added.
But even Alonso's boss Stefano Domenicali is admitting the fight against Sebastian Vettel is "almost impossible" to win now.
"So congratulations to him (Vettel) and to what they (Red Bull) are doing, because at the end of the day if they have that (the title) they deserve it," he is quoted by the Independent.
Indeed, after all the recent booing, the time is now right to focus on the German driver's looming achievement -- a four-time world champion by the unprecedentedly young age of 26.
Horner thinks he's one of the all-time greats, and Lewis Hamilton has obviously become aware this week that his recent comments about Vettel indicated a lack of respect.
When asked to weigh up Vettel's greatness, the Mirror quotes him as saying: "I couldn't care less."
Hamilton subsequently wrote on Twitter: "Regardless of what you and I may think about his car, at the end of the day he's doing the perfect job."
His Mercedes boss Lauda, however, doesn't even like the implication that Red Bull's superior spending explains Vettel's dominance.
"It's not a question of money but a question of brains," he is quoted by Speed Week.
"Red Bull has a better programme to constantly develop the car -- they do a better job than the other teams," added Lauda.
Villeneuve urges Sauber to consider Barrichello
Jacques Villeneuve has urged Sauber to think again after the Swiss team ruled out signing Rubens Barrichello for 2014.
Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn in Korea quashed rumours Brazilian veteran Barrichello count mount his return to F1 next year with Sauber, with the help of an eight-figure sponsorship purse.
1997 world champion Villeneuve, however, said Sauber should not dismiss the former Ferrari and Williams driver so hastily.
"Rubens would be worth considering," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.
"Why would a team boss ignore the experience factor so easily? 2014 will be a complex year," said the French Canadian.
"Barrichello would always be better than (Esteban) Gutierrez," Villeneuve insisted. "What has he given to Sauber until now? Nothing. Look at him compared to Hulkenberg."
Outspoken Villeneuve, now a F1 television pundit, also recently chided the talents of Caterham's Charles Pic.
On French television, it was put to Villeneuve - a staunch critic of 'pay-drivers' - that Frenchman Pic had denied he is in fact a pay-driver.
Villeneuve hit back: "Then he should explain why he and not Kovalainen is in that car."
Finn Heikki Kovalainen, in the running to return to the race seat in 2014, will in fact be driving Pic's car in Friday morning practice at Suzuka.
Maldonado makes approach to Lotus - report
He may have a longer contract, but Williams' Pastor Maldonado is on the move.
That is the claim on Wednesday of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, reporting that the Venezuelan has made an approach to Lotus about replacing the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen.
The patience of the 28-year-old, who brings millions to Williams in the form of his state-connected PDVSA sponsorship, has reportedly run out.
Maldonado is apparently desperate for a better car, but German correspondent Michael Schmidt said Williams can actually "rest easy".
"The contract with Maldonado's South American sponsors is watertight," he revealed, claiming Williams got the deal re-checked recently by a top lawyer in London.
Schmidt added that the PDVSA contract, worth about EUR 35 million to Williams every year, runs until 2015.
Nonetheless, Maldonado is quoted as saying: "This year I'm here. Next year I don't know where I'll be."
Brawn not ruling out sabbatical
Ross Brawn on Wednesday added his own denial to reports he has decided to leave Mercedes at the end of the season.
Chairman Niki Lauda has already played down the reports, saying he is in negotiations with 58-year-old team boss Brawn, who he would like to keep at Brackley.
But the big rumour is that Brawn has decided to leave because his obvious successor at Mercedes is Paddy Lowe.
Brawn is being linked with a move to 2015 McLaren engine supplier Honda, but the Japanese carmaker's motor racing boss Yasuhisa Arai on Wednesday denied that.
"I've never heard of that and it is a surprise," he told British broadcaster Sky.
"I don't think it will happen," said Arai.
Brawn added his own denial on Wednesday. "The situation is the same as it has been for the last few weeks," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"I am still talking to Niki about my role in the team."
He was even more strident when asked about McLaren and Honda.
"I have not spoken a word with Honda or McLaren," said Brawn. "My decision can wait until the winter.
"I'm not someone who makes a decision overnight. Should I look elsewhere, I would think about it very hard and consider the options carefully.
"It takes time," he insisted.
Auto Motor und Sport said Brawn, a keen salmon and trout fisherman, has not even ruled out taking a sabbatical.
"It would not be the first time," he smiled.
Reports - Red Bull using KERS for traction?
Another theory about Sebastian Vettel's late-season dominance has emerged.
Rumours in Korea last weekend spoke of a clever but legal engine mapping system aboard his Red Bull that mimics the benefits of banned traction control.
Now, Spain's El Confidencial has reported burgeoning rumours that the Adrian Newey-penned RB9, which in Vettel's hands has won the last four grands prix on the trot, is in fact somehow deploying its KERS system to enhance cornering traction.
The rumours, which date back to Singapore last month, say Red Bull could have linked KERS to suspension sensors, with the engine being subsequently 'dragged' through the process of energy harvesting.
The report made a potential link between the system and the fact that Red Bull tends to have frequent reliability problems with its KERS units.
Mark Webber said immediately after retiring in Korea that "there was a KERS fire", but Red Bull later said it was caused by oil leaking onto the exhaust after the crash with Adrian Sutil.
Newey, meanwhile, played down the link between Red Bull's KERS system and its superior traction.
"I doubt the gain is from KERS," he is quoted by Racecar Engineering.
"We, like everyone, do work on how to best deploy it, but I think everyone is similar in how they use it," added Newey.
Heavy Hulkenberg still on the scales at McLaren
McLaren might still be interested in signing Nico Hulkenberg for 2014.
After Korea, where the German driver impressed at the wheel of his formerly-uncompetitive Sauber, it was rumoured he had now moved into pole position to replace the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus next year.
Earlier, Hulkenberg was considered for the Ferrari seat, but the Italian team signed Kimi Raikkonen instead.
It is believed Hulkenberg was also in the running at McLaren, where Sergio Perez's place beyond 2013 remains in doubt.
It is believed the Mexican has been given until this weekend's Japanese grand prix to prove he should be retained.
But quotes attributed to team boss Martin Whitmarsh in Korea suggested that the tall Hulkenberg, who stands at over six foot, would be too heavy for the 2014 McLaren.
Lotus boss Eric Boullier, however, was quoted on Tuesday as insisting Hulkenberg's weight, which is reportedly 74kg, does not rule him out of a seat for next year.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport has now quoted Whitmarsh as insisting that he never ruled Hulkenberg out either.
"I only said that, next year, drivers would be hard pressed to be over 80 kilos.
"It's others who interpreted this to mean I was talking about Hulkenberg," said the McLaren boss.
Auto Motor und Sport said Hulkenberg is in fact "not much bigger and heavier than Jenson Button".
Hulkenberg, meanwhile, has hinted that his size might also have contributed to Ferrari's decision not to sign him for 2014.
"Of course I was disappointed," he is quoted by Speed Week, referring to the Italian team's decision to sign Raikkonen instead.
"But I have just as little influence over my body size, which is god-given and therefore not worthy of even discussing," said Hulkenberg.
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