Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Brazilian GP – We almost did it in Interlagos

Two drivers on the podium and 33 points – the biggest haul of the season – was not enough for Scuderia Ferrari to help Fernando Alonso win the Drivers’ title. The Spaniard finished the Brazilian Grand Prix in second place, to record his thirteenth podium finish of his extraordinary season. Alongside him in third place for the second time this season and for a fourth time in his home race was Felipe Massa. At the end of the twenty races making up this the longest season in the history of Formula 1, only three points separated Fernando from the winner, while Felipe, who produced a brilliant drive today, finished seventh. The Scuderia is second in the Constructors’ classification on 400 points.

Luca di Montezemolo: “I am proud of my team. We fought all the way to the bitter end, getting both our drivers onto the podium for the final race of the season. When you miss out on the title by the smallest of margins, naturally there is some regret. I want to congratulate Fernando on what he has done this year: his season has been simply fantastic. Felipe drove very well in the second half of the season and demonstrated once again that he is a real team player. I also want to thank Stefano Domenicali and all his colleagues for the work they have done, day after day, to produce a car that, in terms of reliability, was perfect and for what they achieved on track in terms of strategy and the work in the garage. Now we must immediately concentrate on next season, because, right from the start, we must have a car that is competitive at the highest level.”

Stefano Domenicali: “That’s sport and that’s how it goes. To have lost the Drivers’ title twice in the last three years by the tiniest of margins hurts, it hurts a lot, I can assure you of that. I am particularly disappointed for Fernando, who like never before, really deserved to win this time. He has been extraordinary, not just in the way he has driven, nor because he simply never gave up in the first very difficult part of the season, but mainly for the human qualities he demonstrated within the team. Where did we lose those three points? Hard to say, but I just want to point out that Fernando ended where he did, having effectively only taken part in 18 of the 20 races: the few hundred metres he covered in Spa and then Suzuka lays heavy like a rock on today’s outcome. Sure, we cannot ignore the fact we were unable to give him and Felipe a quicker car, especially at the start of the season: this also cost us dear and our main aim for 2013 should be precisely that of giving our drivers the equipment with which they can win immediately. We owe our drivers and we want to wipe out that debt as soon as possible. I also want to thank Felipe for not letting go after a very difficult opening part to the year: he worked very hard and if today we have finished second in the Constructors’ championship, we also owe it to him. We always stuck by him, even when the outside world was calling for us to sack him and we have given him confidence for 2013. I think his results in this final part of the season have been the right response to those who doubted him. At this moment, I also want to thank everyone who has worked day and night, at the track and at Maranello to try and help us realise our dream and I am proud of all of them. Finally, I want to congratulate Sebastian, who is a great adversary. I think I can say we are leaving Brazil our heads held not just high, but very high!”

Fernando Alonso: “I score this season a 10! If we had to repeat these twenty races I would change nothing done by the team or yours truly: no mistakes, no mechanical problems, zero problems at the pit stops, zero strategic mistakes. We definitely did not lose the title today, as that happened in Spa or Suzuka. We might not have finished the season with the most points, but we won many other things, like everyone’s respect and fans and colleagues agree on who was the best this year. I am proud of the job I did and that was also the case last year when I finished fourth and again this time when I fought right to the very end. Today is very different to Abu Dhabi: then, there was the frustration of an opportunity missed, whereas here we did our utmost race after race. I feel happy inside: I worked day after day with the team, which pays me at the end of every month and today, they can be proud of what they’ve done. Once again today we did an impeccable job, finishing on the podium after starting from the fourth row, producing yet another little Sunday miracle. The team kept me constantly updated about Vettel and, towards the end, I was hoping something might happen to him or Button which would allow us to reach our goal. It didn’t happen and we must accept the result delivered on the race track. What to ask from the team for 2013? That’s easy, a quicker car, but most of all I’d like to see the same effort and professionalism the team displayed when it reacted to our initial difficulties. Even if maybe we didn’t manage to reach the performance level of the best, everyone demonstrated total dedication. I repeat, I am happy and proud and now’s the time to drink a caipirinha!”

Felipe Massa: “It was very emotional for me to jump up on the podium at my home race. I cried like a baby, thinking back to how difficult this season has been for me, disastrous at first and then very competitive in the last part. Fernando should be proud of what he has done this year: he was able to win when the car was not perfect and fought right to the end, even if his car was not a match for those of his rivals. His championship has been truly spectacular! We too must also be proud of what we have done. Today’s race was very close fought and difficult and so many things happened. It was not easy to work out what was the right tyre as the conditions changed so quickly. At the start, when it began to rain, we had opted to stay out on track, but we did so for too long. Then, I found myself down in eleventh, but I began to go very quickly and overtake a lot of drivers. Who knows, maybe I could even have been in the hunt for the win today…The team kept me informed all the time about what the situation was on track and on what could be useful to do in the fight for the championship: I think I did the right thing, for my team and also for my fans.”

Pat Fry: “I said it in Austin a week ago: we would fight to achieve our objectives right down to the last lap and so we did. We came within a whisker of achieving our goal with Fernando, who along with Felipe managed to get to the podium after an eventful race affected by changing weather conditions. When track conditions change so much it’s very difficult to pinpoint the right choice at the right moment: we think we reacted in the best possible way, trying to make the most of what we had to work with. When it began to rain, we decided to split the choices, bringing in Fernando while leaving Felipe out on track, but then his lap times were getting too slow and we switched him to the Intermediates. At that time, the leaders were able to lap very quickly even on the dry tyres, which just wasn’t possible for us. After that, I think we picked the right moment to switch back to the dry tyres and then the wets. Right to the last we hoped something might happen to allow Fernando to take the Drivers’ title which he definitely deserved. We didn’t manage it and obviously we regret not having been able to give him the fastest car of the field. We will try again next year, trying to learn from the mistakes we made this year and to strengthen our good points even more, those being reliability, pit stops and strategy.”

Driver Pos. Time Gap Laps FL L
Alonso 1:45.25.410 + 2.754 71 1.18.623 36
Massa 1:45.26.271 + 3.615 71 1.18.879 37

Weather: air 20/19°C, track 26/24 °C. Overcast, rain at times.
Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294.

Brazilian GP – Alonso and Massa on the podium in Brazil

Interlagos, 25 November – A chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix finished behind the Safety Car with victory going to Jenson Button in the McLaren. Alongside the Englishman on the podium was Fernando Alonso, author of yet another monumental performance, finishing second in his Ferrari. However, the Spaniard’s excellent result was not enough to secure the Drivers’ Championship title, which goes to Vettel, who was sixth today, so our congratulations to him and Red Bull. In the other Ferrari, the home-grown hero, Felipe Massa also made it to the podium in third spot with a fantastic performance in front of his army of fans here today at the Interlagos circuit. The result was enough to secure second place in the Constructors’ Championship for Scuderia Ferrari, which thus reaches at least one of the targets it had set itself for this final race of 2012.

Brazilian GP – So very close

Interlagos, 25 November – Scuderia Ferrari has finished the Constructors’ Championship in second place, Fernando Alonso is second in the Drivers’ classification and Felipe Massa is seventh. That is how the 2012 season will be archived but it does not even scratch the surface of explaining the drama of this final race weekend of the year. Fernando Alonso said a chaotic race would be his best chance of getting his hands on the title crown and he got just that with intermittent rain falling throughout the afternoon. The Ferrari man also admitted that unless Sebastian Vettel retired, being champion was very unlikely. He was proved right, because, while the Spaniard delivered yet another superb performance to finish the race second behind the winner, McLaren’s Jenson Button, however with the German bringing home his Red Bull in sixth place, it was enough to give him his third consecutive Drivers’ title. There was plenty of red on the Interlagos podium because Felipe Massa also delivered a beautiful performance to come home third, in a race where just staying on track was an achievement.

As the cars formed up, the skies were grey but just a few tiny drops fell on the grid. However, about three minutes before the warm up lap, it could be described as very light rain, although all 24 cars were resolutely on slicks. As the lights went out, Felipe immediately got the better of Button to lie second behind pole man Hamilton and at the end of the first lap, the McLaren retook second place as Alonso got by his team mate and Webber at the Senna “S” to chase the two McLarens, with Felipe now sixth as Hulkenberg and Webber got past him. Vettel, was caught up as others braked early and he spun colliding with Senna, which dropped him to 20th.

On lap 5 Fernando ran very wide which allowed Hulkenberg to get ahead of him and Webber to close right up to the Ferrari. Felipe got ahead of the Australian which thus protected Fernando as the Spaniard re-established his pace. Webber then spun on lap 7 one lap after Button swept past his team-mate to take the lead. Vettel? He was back up to eleventh by lap 7, as the two McLarens continued to fight, swapping places at the front of the field, with Hamilton back in front on lap 8. Behind them, Hulkenberg was third in the Force India 2.2 behind, with Fernando 5.5 further back in fourth, and Felipe fifth, 3.4 behind his team-mate. Vettel was up to sixth trailing the Brazilian by 3.0.

Lap 10 saw Hamilton and Alonso both pit for intermediate rain tyres, followed by Vettel and Di Resta. Two laps later, the rain began to ease as Button led Hulkenberg with Hamilton third ahead of Felipe, who had Vergne in the Toro Rosso behind him. Kovalainen in the Caterham had gone from twentieth to sixth behind Fernando. The Spaniard passed his team mate to take fourth on lap 14. He was 17 seconds behind Hamilton, with Button and Hulkenberg at the front yet to pit. Felipe and Vergne came in for intermediates on lap 15 the Brazilian dropping to 14th when he rejoined.

By lap 17, Hulkenberg was right up on leader Button’s tail, as they were the only men to have managed to stay out on slick tyres since the start. Lap 18 and there was a rush to return to slicks, with Alonso, Kobayashi, Rosberg and Di Resta all doing it, as Hulkenberg got ahead of Button to lead the Grand Prix on lap 19. Vettel pitted next time round, Red Bull doing a double stop as Webber followed, as did Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Felipe, Glock, Petrov and Kovalainen.

Lap 21 and Hulkenberg set a fastest lap while Fernando was fourth ahead of Vettel, with Felipe eleventh as the Safety Car came out on lap 22 so that debris could be cleared from the track, after Rosberg punctured. Hulkenberg and Button finally came in for a tyre change, which meant they maintained their places at the head of the field. On lap 26 as the lapped cars were allowed to pass the SC it seemed there was rain again at Turn 4. Lap 29 and the SC finally pulled in so the race was on again with the top eleven cars all nose to tail on slicks on a damp track! Vettel was caught out and dropped to sixth, while in front on lap 30, as Hulkenberg pulled away, Hamilton again got past his team-mate. Fernando was fourth, but behind the Ferrari, Kobayashi had got ahead of Vettel. Then the Sauber man also managed to get in front of the Spaniard, who regained the position at the start of lap 33. Felipe meanwhile had moved up to seventh and then passed Vettel for sixth on lap 34. Felipe, having stayed out a long time on slicks which cost him time, was charging now and on lap 37 he took fifth place off Kobayashi and the Brazilian was three seconds behind his team-mate. More light rain came around lap 43, mainly in Sector 1. The two Ferraris were having a lonely race at this point, with Fernando 5.6 behind third placed Button and Felipe a further 4.9 behind. Meanwhile Hamilton had relegated Hulkenberg to second when the Force India half spun on lap 49.

Vettel pitted from seventh on lap 52, which dropped him to tenth. Lap 55 and Hulkenberg tried to attack Hamilton which resulted in them colliding at turn 1. As conditions worsened, Kobayashi, Schumacher and Vettel returned to the pits to fit intermediates. Felipe did the same on lap 55, as did Webber. Vettel’s crew had not been ready and he had a long stop. Fernando, now third came in for Inters on 56, rejoining fourth. Button had been leading and he made the change to Inters on lap 57 followed by Hulkenberg, who unlike Hamilton was able to continue after their collision. At this point, Felipe was third ahead of Fernando thanks to a well timed switch to intermediates for the Brazilian, with Vettel going seventh as Di Resta ahead of him pitted. Hulkenberg lost his position when he had to take a drive through penalty on lap 58, for his collision with the McLaren. The Ferrari were now second and third, the Brazilian ahead of the Spaniard, as the rain intensified.

On lap 62 of 71, Fernando passed his team-mate to lie 21 seconds behind leader Button. The Englishman had an unassailable lead by now and Fernando’s title hopes could only depend on a misfortune for Vettel. Nothing happened, except that a late crash for Di Resta in the Force India meant the last race of the year actually ended behind the Safety Car.

The final figures tell the story: Vettel 281, Alonso 278: just three little points at the end of 20 Grands Prix. In the Constructors, another second place: Red Bull Racing 460, Scuderia Ferrari 400.