Fernando Alonso said he has likely lost his chance to win a third consecutive world championship by finishing fourth - and behind both Ferrari drivers - in qualifying for Sunday's decisive Brazilian Grand Prix.
Alonso, four points behind McLaren teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton, said he would have to depend on some misfortune for his opponents in order to win his third title in a row.
Asked about his title chances, Alonso told reporters on Saturday: "Less than yesterday, for sure."
"Unfortunately, one of the possibilities to win the championship was to win the race and put a Ferrari between us. Now, it's unlikely to happen.
"It seems impossible but you never know in Formula One."
Alonso's title hopes were revived in China two weeks ago when 22-year-old British rookie Hamilton skidded into a gravel trap, blowing his chance to wrap up the championship with one race to spare.
That Grand Prix was won by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who is a further three points behind Alonso in the first three-way title decider since 1986.
"It's like China, I need a special race to become champion. If everything goes normally, then it's nearly over for me," said Alonso.
"It is not that I'm pessimistic, I am realistic and I know I need a race like China or something like that, a mechanical problem or something very unlucky for my opponents.
"We're only two hours after qualifying, and finishing fourth and throwing away a little bit my only possibility to win the race, which was to start in pole."
He said of his car: "The balance was not too bad, the car was quite good and we were not quick enough."
Alonso, who has not been on speaking terms with team boss Ron Dennis since the Hungarian Grand Prix in early August, also touched on his season and his frosty relationship with the team.
"In every championship or race, you learn things," he said. "For sure, I've learned things this year. It's not a secret that I didn't have the best relationship with the team.
"Even in the last race, we heard from the team principal that they were racing against me in a way, that is not very nice."
Dennis said after the race in Shanghai, when asked why they had not brought Hamilton in earlier for a tyre change, that "we were not racing Kimi, we were basically racing Fernando".