Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Brazilian GP – Qualifying within the norm

One car on the third row and one on the fourth: that was the outcome of the final qualifying of 2012 for Scuderia Ferrari at the Interlagos circuit. In front of his home crowd, Felipe Massa posted the fifth fastest time in Q3, while Fernando Alonso was eighth. The tyre management for the two men was identical: one set of Prime in Q1, when the track was still damp from a light shower before the start, then one of Prime and one Option in Q2, followed by two sets of Option in Q3.

Stefano Domenicali: “It’s definitely not the result we were hoping for this afternoon, but we have seen on so many occasions this season how the outcome of Saturday does not prove conclusive. That has been the case throughout the season and if you add to that the uncertainty regarding the weather, with rain due to play a part, then we should be contenders. This result more or less reflects our season average so alas, we can’t be surprised at the way things went. Now, all we can do is prepare as well as possible for tomorrow, the decisive day of this championship. We know exactly what we have to do: be perfect and ready to make the most of every opportunity. We can promise one thing to our fans, many of who are here packing the grandstands; all of us from first to last will give 120% to reach our objectives: maintaining second place in the Constructors’ classification and above all, getting Fernando to take this Drivers’ title that he deserves more than any other driver out on track.”

Fernando Alonso: “I’m not surprised at this position, because it’s not as though we can expect a revolution in performance terms in the space of a week. I think I did a good qualifying and, given how the last few races have gone, my chances of making it to the podium are still intact. That will be my objective because I know that, at least under normal circumstances, we are not in with a chance of fighting for the win. I also know that, if I am to have any hopes for the title, it’s more plausible to count on a retirement for Vettel rather than for him to finish in a position where I can get ahead of him in the classification. Obviously, I am therefore hoping for a chaotic race and so the rain could be an important factor even if, in the wet, it is riskier for everyone. The car is not particularly set up for the wet, as it’s not like it used to be. Felipe in front of me? He did a great qualifying, above the norm, so it’s to be expected. It’s almost a miracle to have arrived at the last race still in the fight for the title: under normal circumstances I think we would have said goodbye to our chances back in Monza or Singapore. However, here we are, still in the game and we are definitely not going to surrender today.”

Felipe Massa: “It was a good qualifying: in Q3 I did a perfect lap, the most I could do with what I had. McLaren and Red Bull are quicker than us, but I am very pleased with the balance of my car. Now we must stay focused on the race, which will be anything but easy. Rain is expected and so anything can happen. In these conditions, just making it to the finish will be an achievement. Surprised at my position? Maybe some people might think I’ve just learned to drive at the age of thirty one, but joking apart, this is a result of the fact that from the mid-season onwards I have found myself ever more comfortable with the car and I have confidence in it to push hard. My approach to this race will be very simple: I will try to do my utmost for my home crowd and for Ferrari. I have a great car, even if it’s not the quickest in qualifying, but it is competitive in the race.”

Pat Fry: “We can’t suddenly expect to find ourselves ahead of Red Bull and McLaren, who have been consistently quicker than us this year in qualifying. We knew we would have to fight for the third row and we managed to get at least one car there thanks to a nice Q3 from Felipe. We did not give Fernando an equally good car in terms of balance and we will have to study the data to see how to improve the situation, within the bounds of possibility, for tomorrow’s race. All the forecasts are predicting rain in the coming hours and there’s a high chance of having a wet race. We will therefore have to be ready to manage a race that looks like being incident packed, as is the tradition in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Yesterday, over a long run we proved to be competitive, from what one can tell on a Friday, but the conditions will be very different, so it’s impossible to make predictions. The task facing us is an arduous one, but we will give it our all!”

Qualifying session
Q1 ALO 10th 1.16.097 9 MAS 12th 1.16.263 9
Q2 ALO 9th 1.13.856 10 MAS 10th 1.14.048 10
Q3 MAS 5th 1.12.987 6 ALO 8th 1.13.253 6

Weather: air 24/26°C, track 30/35°C. Cloudy, damp track at the beginning. Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294

Brazilian GP – A normal qualifying for a special race

Interlagos, 24 November – Fernando Alonso will start the Brazilian Grand Prix and head off to cover the last 305.909 kilometres of this season from seventh place on the grid. His Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa will start from fifth. Unusual? Surprising? No, not really, as these positions are roughly what one would expect given the hierarchy down the order at the moment. Felipe is clearly on great form, having already out-qualified his team-mate last Saturday in Texas and obviously, he is something of a specialist at his home track where he has won twice before. On top of that, the Spaniard’s car did not seem to be as well sorted as the Brazilian’s for this afternoon’s session. And given that Fernando has qualified eighth or lower no less than eight times this season, you could call this a normal qualifying. Yes, eighth, because in fact, the Spaniard set the eighth fastest time in Q3 this afternoon, but once Pastor Maldonaldo was given a 10 place penalty for not stopping his Williams at the weighing scales, this promoted Fernando to seventh – an extra place and a switch to the clean side of the track, which has a sense of déjà vu after Austin exactly one week ago. Possibly more surprising is that the man leading the Drivers’ classification, Sebastian Vettel, has failed to make it to the front row for the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix, not counting the penalty that saw him start from the pit lane in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton took his seventh pole position of the season to put him joint first in the 2012 Qualifying ratings with Sebastian Vettel. Joining the Englishman on the front row is his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. With Fernando’s only title rival Sebastian Vettel fourth in the Red Bull, on the outside of Row 2, alongside his third placed team-mate Mark Webber, it makes for a very uncertain outcome or at the very least, an unpredictable start to this season’s twentieth and final Grand Prix.

You don’t need to be a race strategy genius to work out that, with Felipe starting one row behind the German but with the advantage of being on the clean side of the track, the Brazilian will be doing all he can to help his team by getting ahead of Vettel on the run down to the first corner, not to mention the fact that the Paulista is keen to give his own fans something to cheer about. One can never predict what happens when the lights go out, but Fernando’s first task will be to dispense with sixth placed Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.

The rain that gave us a little prelude just before qualifying today is due to reach more substantial levels tomorrow and then, all bets are off. History at Interlagos would suggest that the 2012 World Championship will end with high drama: there have been times when that Brazilian drama has played out in favour of the Prancing Horse and others when it has gone against us. It’s in the lap of the gods.

Brazilian GP – Massa 5th and Alonso 8th

Interlagos, 24 November – Lewis Hamilton was fastest in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix with a time of 1.12.458 and so the Englishman will start from pole and alongside him will be his fellow countryman and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button with a lap in 1.12.513. Rounding off the top three is Mark Webber (1.12.581) for Red Bull, while his team-mate Sebastian Vettel is fourth in 1.12.760.

The last qualifying of the season once again reflected the current pecking order with Felipe Massa fifth in 1.12.987 and Fernando Alonso eighth in 1.13.253. Splitting the two F2012s are Maldonaldo’s Williams and Hulkenberg in the Force India.

Light rain fell just thirty minutes before the 2pm start which made for a tense time as the final sector was still slightly damp. It was not enough to prevent the use of slick tyres and the two Ferrari men ran the same programme, doing one run on the Pirelli Hard compound in Q1, one on Hard and another on Medium in Q2 and two on Medium in Q3.

The weather is supposed to deteriorate tomorrow, with a high chance of rain during the race which starts at 14h00.