MONZA, Italy – Sebastian Vettel is relishing his position as the runaway Formula One leader.
It's a sharp contrast from last year, when Vettel didn't take the lead until the final race in Abu Dhabi.
If Vettel wins this weekend, he could seal the title at the next race in Singapore this month.
"We've made very few mistakes and I think we deserve to be in that position," the German said Thursday. "As a team we've learned a lot. Our pit stops are very good but a lot of the things that you don't see on TV have made us more consistent. The team is a lot calmer and doesn't panic as much."
Still, Vettel could be out of his comfort zone at Monza, with his fourth-place finish last year marking Red Bull's best result in six attempts at the historic track.
"We're not clear favorites for this race. Last year McLaren and Ferrari performed really well here," Vettel said. "We know it's not one of the circuits we really prefer from the layout point of view. There are a lot of straights and no real high-speed corners. But I think we should be all right after Spa."
Vettel and teammate Mark Webber finished 1-2 in the Belgian GP at Spa two weeks ago. Vettel also can count on his personal experience in Monza, having become the youngest winner in F1 history when he won here in 2008 at 21 when he was with Toro Rosso.
"It would be nice to get back on the podium," Vettel said.
Webber is still seeking his first victory of the season — after 10 podium finishes.
"It's disappointing that I haven't won a race yet, but I'm sure it will happen before the year is out," the Australian said. "If it's this weekend then there's no better place to start than Monza."
Having won just one race this year — Alonso's British GP victory in Silverstone — Ferrari would love to repeat last year's podium, but the Italian team isn't promising anything to the local fans.
"We want to win races but we also have to be realistic," Alonso said. "We haven't performed that well the last two-three Grands Prix and the updates for the car here are minimal."
Still, racing at home provides extra motivation.
"It's a special atmosphere here. All the mechanics have their families in the paddock and we all want everything to be perfect from tomorrow's practice to Sunday's race," Alonso said.
Having struggled to adapt to the new Pirelli tires being used by all Formula One teams this season, and especially in colder temperatures, Ferrari is encouraged by the warm conditions forecast for the weekend — even though there is a possibility of rain.
"There was a run of four-to-five races where we had a tough time. It's good to know it will be a little warmer here," Alonso said. "We're going to have to be perfect. If not, we can be in seventh or eighth place very quickly."