Stefano Domenicali: “The Suzuka weekend began with the sad news of the death of Maria de Villota and our first thoughts are with her. Considering the potential of our car, thanks to the work of the team at the track, we have obtained a result that allows us to stay second in both Championships, in line with our current objectives. With today’s fourth place, Fernando tops the list of the all-time highest number of points scored, proof of his extraordinary talent and something which makes us very proud. Up until the penalty, Felipe was fighting for a top five finish and it’s a shame that the drivethrough affected his race, so that he was not rewarded for all his efforts. Today’s leading trio had a better pace than us, but now it’s important that we do not let up at all: over the final four races, we have an obligation to demonstrate that Ferrari never gives up fighting for the top places”.
Fernando Alonso: “Fourth place was the most I could do today, as the three ahead of me were really out of reach and so, given our starting position and how practice went in general, I am happy. It was an action packed race and even if we suffered with traffic, degradation was more normal than in Korea and we were back to having a good pace. Certainly, we need to find something extra if we want to finish on the podium in the next four races. Today, Mercedes had a few problems and we made up some important points, but we must give it our all, if we want to stay second in the Constructors’ classification, because they are not far behind. I am very proud of having become the driver with the most points in the history of this sport, even if for a few years now, with the change to the points system, you get more. Now I want to celebrate this record and think about the next race in India. This one is already in the past”.
Felipe Massa: “That was a really difficult day, with the drive-through wiping out any chance of having a good race or bringing home more points. When I came down pit lane, I didn’t realise I was going too fast. It’s the first time it’s happened to me and it’s a real shame, because in the first stint of the race, I had a good pace. Having taken the penalty, I was stuck in traffic and the cars that had made a third stop towards the end of the race were able to pass me easily on new tyres. I am disappointed, because I’m sure that without that mistake I could have got a good result. In the remaining races, we must continue to fight and I hope we can be competitive starting right away in India”.
Pat Fry: “The first part of the race was very intense from a strategic point of view, as it was affected by traffic and the decision to bring forward the pit stops, which most of the teams did today. For us, it would have been a pointless risk to stop earlier than planned, because we had based our race on a two stop strategy and it would have therefore been difficult to make it to the end. Our level of degradation was better than last week’s and our race pace meant we could make up places. Today’s performance was definitely affected by traffic and even if the podium was not within our reach, the pace was enough for us to have finished right behind the top three by a smaller margin. Fernando drove a great race, getting a very good start and showing once again just how strong he is in the race. Certainly, we can’t be satisfied with fourth place, but we are pleased about the fact Fernando has taken the lead in the all-time points table. I am very disappointed for Felipe, because he did not deserve to finish down in tenth place at the end of a weekend that had started so well. I think it’s true to say that, without the penalty he would have been able to fight for fifth with Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. For the last four races, we will evaluate if it is worth bringing some improvements to motivate the drivers and teams over the closing stages of this championship”.
Japanese GP – Consolidating in the Constructors
Suzuka, 13 October – Earlier this weekend, Fernando Alonso said his main aim was to strengthen the Scuderia’s position in the Constructors’ championship and thanks to the Spaniards fourth place finish this afternoon, aided by an extra point from Felipe’s tenth place, that target was indeed reached: the Scuderia has extended its lead from 1 point to 10 over Mercedes. The Spaniard still has a theoretical chance of taking the Drivers’ crown but it requires levels of optimism not usually found even in the F1 paddock. After Sebastian Vettel won today, he now has a 90 point lead over the Ferrari man, with 100 still to play for in the remaining four rounds. The German’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber finished second, with Romain Grosjean completing the podium trio for Lotus. Having started on the Medium tyres from qualifying, the Ferrari duo ran a two stop strategy, taking on the Hard at each of the stops.
As the lights went out, at the back of the field, Van de Garde and Bianchi crashed out at the first turn, with Felipe still fifth, but Fernando moving up to sixth. Grosjean got the best start off the line from fourth place, running up along the barrier to lead in the Lotus. Behind him came Webber, Vettel and Rosberg ahead of Felipe, as Hamilton dropped down the order after the usual wheel to wheel action at Turn 1, which caused the Mercedes man to have to pit on lap 2.
In fifth place, Felipe was 7.8 behind the leader on lap 5, 1.3 behind fourth placed Rosberg in the Mercedes, with his Ferrari team-mate 0.6 behind him. Coming down the pit straight on lap 6, Fernando was already beginning to look for a way past the Brazilian. The early pit stops began around now, with Vergne bringing the Toro Rosso in on lap 7, followed next time by Button in the McLaren, Bottas in the Williams and Sutil in the Force India. Hamilton retired the Mercedes in the garage. On lap 9, Felipe had closed significantly on Rosberg and had Fernando stuck to his tail. Out in front, Grosjean had over two seconds in hand on Webber, who was 1.9 ahead of Red Bull team-mate Vettel. In fourth, Rosberg trailed the leading trio by 7.2. Hulkenberg in the Sauber and Di Resta in the Force India changed onto the Prime tyre on lap 10.
Webber made his pit stop on lap 11, coming in just before Felipe and Raikkonen. The race leader came in on lap 12, as did Rosberg and Perez, who nearly collided in pit lane, with the Mercedes driver getting a drive-through penalty. Fernando pitted for the Prime on lap 13, with Vettel first and Ricciardo, fifth the only front runners not to have changed tyres yet. The German was on Options but the Australian had started on the Prime. Vettel brought his Red Bull in on lap 14.
Next time round, the order was Grosjean, Webber, Vettel, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Felipe in seventh, followed by his team-mate, with Gutierrez and Raikkonen completing the top ten. At this point one of the best battles was for fourth, as Ricciardo, yet to change tyres tried to fend off Hulkenberg, which had allowed Felipe to close to within 0.8 of the Sauber, while Fernando had drifted to 1.8 behind his team-mate. By lap 19, with Ricciardo slower on old tyres, this quartet was in very close company and, as they came down the straight next time round, the Spaniard got ahead of the Brazilian and Gutierrez and Raikkonen also joined the train. Hulkenberg and Fernando both got past the Australian who came in for another set of Prime on lap 21. The Saubers had been on great form in recent races and Felipe was wheel to wheel with Gutierrez as the Mexican tried to pass and in the confusion, Raikkonen got his Lotus ahead of the Sauber.
Lap 22 and Fernando was right behind fourth placed Hulkenberg. Three laps later Webber came in for another set of Primes from second place, leaving Vettel second, 2.5 behind Grosjean. On lap 28, Felipe made his second pit stop, rejoining ninth and next time round Grosjean pitted, promoting Vettel to the lead and Hulkenberg also came in at this point, rejoining sixth. Fernando was yet to make his second stop and was up to fourth, but he came in on lap 30, as did Gutierrez and Perez. With Raikkonen changing tyres on lap 31, Vettel out in front was the only lead driver not to have made a second stop. Behind him were Webber, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Fernando in fifth, but in sixth place Felipe was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He came in to take the penalty on lap 35, rejoining eleventh behind Gutierrez. Vettel finally made his second stop on lap 37, taking on another set of Primes, rejoining third behind Webber and Grosjean. Hulkenberg was 32 seconds adrift of the lead trio in fourth spot and in fifth, Fernando had his mirrors full of Raikkonen’s Lotus.
At the start of lap 41, Vettel dived past Grosjean going into Turn 1, so we now had a Red Bull one-two, but the order was reversed on lap 42 when Webber had to make a third stop, which put him in third place behind Vettel and Grosjean. Having steadily closed on Hulkenberg, Fernando swept past the Sauber to go fourth on lap 46. In the closing stages, Webber’s pursuit of Grosjean provided all the excitement as they battled through backmarkers, the Australian finally making the move on the penultimate lap. As for Felipe, he was back in the points on lap 38, and up to eighth, but on lap 46 he had to start fighting off Rosberg, the Mercedes man passing him a couple of laps later. Then with just one lap remaining, Button on fresher rubber managed to muscle his way past Felipe so that the Brazilian had to settle for the final point on offer.
Japanese GP – Precious points for the Scuderia
Suzuka, 13 October – Fernando Alonso finished fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix, with Felipe Massa tenth. The result means the Spaniard consolidates his second place in the Drivers’ championship, just as Ferrari does in the Constructors’ where it now has 297 points, ten more than Mercedes.
Alonso got away well, moving from eighth to sixth behind Massa. The two F138s maintained these places up to the first pit stops, when Massa switched to the Hard tyres on lap 11, with Alonso doing the same three laps later.
On lap 20, Fernando passed Felipe on the pit straight. The Spaniard moved up the order further, passing Ricciardo next time round to go fifth. A second stop, again for Hards, came on lap 28 for Felipe and 30 for Fernando. At this points Massa went over the pit lane speed limit, for which he was given a drive-through penalty, which dropped him from sixth to eleventh.
On lap 46, Alonso got passed Hulkenberg to go fourth, where he stayed to the chequered flag. Massa came home in tenth place. The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.