Austin, 17 November – Fernando Alonso is classified second in the Drivers’ World Championship: the Spanish Ferrari man cannot be overtaken now with one race remaining, having picked up ten points for his gritty drive to fifth place. In the other F138, Felipe Massa looked to heading for the points, but the need for a second tyre stop put that out of reach and he came home thirteenth, where he had started, later promoted to twelfth, when Vergne ahead of him got a post race time penalty. Having picked up 14 points today, the Mercedes team has edged further away from the Prancing Horse in the Constructor’s table now leading us by 15 points.
Perfect warm and sunny conditions greeted the 22 drivers as they lined up on the grid, Fernando in sixth place and Felipe in thirteenth. The entire field was on the Medium tyre, apart from Vergne in the Toro Rosso on Hards. As they headed up the hill to turn 1, the order was Vettel from pole, while Grosjean and Hamilton got ahead of Webber now fourth, followed by Hulkenberg Perez, Alonso, who lost a place to go seventh, Bottas, Di Resta, Ricciardo Rosberg, Kovalainen, Massa, still thirteenth. Behind him came Button and Vergne. Sutil crashed heavily in the Force India after a coming together with Maldonado’s Williams and that immediately brought the Safety Car out on the opening lap. Guttierez was the only driver to take to the pits at this point to switch to the Hard tyre.
The race resumed on lap 4, with the order remaining unchanged, although a battle for fifth was developing as Perez in the McLaren and Fernando were chasing down Hulkenberg in the Sauber, while ahead of this trio, Webber in the Red Bull had closed on Hamilton’s Mercedes, helped by the DRS being enabled on lap 6. Still thirteenth, in these early stages, Felipe trailed Kovalainen in the Lotus by 0.8 and led Button by the same margin. On lap 13, Webber managed to get ahead of Hamilton to take third place. One lap later and Felipe was coming under attack from Button in the McLaren. Kovalainen started the run of planned stops on lap 17, fitting the Hard tyre. On lap 20, Button pitted, while Fernando had now closed to around half a second off sixth placed Perez in the other McLaren. Felipe changed tyres on lap 21, fitting the Hards and found himself fifteenth. Lap 22 and Fernando was right on Perez’s tail as the Mexican pitted, as did Di Resta, Rosberg and Ricciardo.
Hamilton pitted the Mercedes from fourth on lap 25 and one lap later, Fernando pitted from fifth, taking on the Hard tyre and this later stop meant he got ahead of Perez.
Race leader Vettel brought the Red Bull in on lap 27, as did Hulkenberg in the Sauber from fourth. When Webber changed tyres on lap 28, it promoted Grosjean, the only man not to have pitted, into the lead, while out on track, Fernando dispensed with Gutierrez to be sixth and further back, Felipe was fourteenth. The lead Lotus came in on lap 29, with the majority clearly planning a one-stop race. The order on lap 31 with 25 to go was now Vettel, Grosjean, Webber, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, a comfortable 4.2 ahead of Fernando in sixth, while behind the Spaniard, we had the battle of the Mexicans between seventh placed Perez and Guttierez. Further back, Rosberg got his Mercedes past Kovalainen, the Finn having to pit for a new nose.
The race ordered seemed set for a while, but as we have seen so often this season, different rates of tyre wear would lead to more excitement in the closing stages. frozen now, any possible changes maybe coming towards the end as tyre wear would begin to be a factor. Rosberg was still moving up, now passing Di Resta in the sole Force India to go tenth. At this point the excitement was provided by a battle for eighth as Bottas took a couple of laps of wheel to wheel dicing to pass Gutierrez and when the Mexican pitted for a second time, taking on the Medium Pirellis, it promoted Felipe to twelfth, except that on lap 39, he too needed an additional set of tyres, which dropped him back to sixteenth. Fernando was chipping away at Hulkenberg’s lead and by lap 40 it had come down to 1.8 from over 4 a few laps earlier. Three laps later and it was under the one second mark, meaning the Ferrari man would get a shot at using the DRS to pass and on lap 45, Fernando got ahead into fifth spot. Could he work a miracle to close on the Mercedes of Hamilton ahead of him in fourth with ten laps to go? Answer no, because he too was running out of grip and, on the very last lap, the hard charging Hulkenberg briefly relegated Fernando to sixth at Turn 1, but the Ferrari man steered back inside and got the place back.
Joining Vettel on the podium, for his record eighth consecutive victory was Romain Grosjean for Lotus and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
United States GP – Not much drama
Stefano Domenicali: “This weekend ended with a result that can’t be seen as satisfactory. The race lacked any major dramatic moments and the outcome was decided on the first lap. Once again, the qualifying result conditioned our performance and on this occasion, the regret is even stronger. The gap to fifth place yesterday was minimal and if we’d started from the clean side of the track, maybe we would have witnessed a different race. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out like that and now we must grit our teeth all the way to the end in Brazil, trying our best to maximize the car’s potential, because I expect the team to react in Interlagos. Today’s result rewards Fernando’s extraordinary consistency, second on three occasions in the last four years, a small reward up against the Red Bull steamroller. Thanks to his fifth place, the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship is still open, even if we will have to keep an eye on Lotus, which although fourth, seems to be, to all intents and purposes, the second force in the Championship. Felipe couldn’t do any more today but I am sure that in Brazil he will be competitive again for what will be his last race in red and a very emotional weekend for the whole team”.
Fernando Alonso: “Finishing in the top five today is a very positive result when you consider how difficult this weekend has been and the fact I had to start from the dirty side of the track. We were well aware it would be very difficult to maintain position and in fact I lost it to Perez. In the first part of the race, we weren’t quick and we decided to save the tyres and then attack round the pit stop. We were more competitive on the Hards, we passed Perez and set off to get Hulkenberg, but even if our situation compared to Mercedes has improved, we were unable to beat them. I am very proud of this second place in the Drivers’ Championship, it’s a small reward for me, the same as being first of the “mortals” behind Red Bull. My back is okay, as I did a good warm-up before the race and it didn’t bother me. I feel more tired from all the tension of the race, but now I have three days to rest and arrive in Brazil feeling a hundred percent. We really must improve there, because our goal is still to finish second in the Constructor’s Championship”.
Felipe Massa “It’s been a really difficult weekend and I was struggling right from Friday, unable to get the tyres up to temperature or to run at a good pace. At the start, I didn’t make up any places and then for all the race I was stuck in traffic, on a track where overtaking is not that easy. We knew that making a second stop was not the best choice, but I already found myself in a difficult situation and so we decided to risk stopping for a set of Medium tyres: if anything had happened ahead of us, maybe a Safety Car, we might have profited from the situation. Unfortunately, nothing happened and the tyre wear of those ahead of me was very low, so I was behind them ending up in the same position from which I started. It’s a real shame because we could have done better. Now we must keep concentrated for the final round of the season in Brazil, my final race with Ferrari on my home track: it’s bound to be a very emotional weekend because of that. I hope I can be more competitive there and even if our rivals are very quick, we will do our best right to the very end.”
Pat Fry: “Once again we proved to be more competitive in the race, even if today’s result is not the best testimony to that. Those who started from the clean side of the track, like Hamilton, Perez and Bottas, managed to make up a few places. We on the other hand, aware of the difficulties of starting on the dirty side, opted in Fernando’s case on a strategy of staying out for a few extra laps: thanks to his talent, Fernando made up the place lost to the McLaren at the start and then took fifth place. With the hard tyre, he had a good pace and was able to attack Hulkenberg at the right moment and stay ahead, controlling the tyre wear. From thirteenth on the grid, Felipe managed to get away well, but he was then immediately stuck behind a Force India. From then on, his race was an uphill struggle and while trying a different strategy, in the hope that something might happen to those ahead of him, we didn’t manage to get him in the points. It’s a real shame having lost to Mercedes again, because today we could have been in the fight. We will definitely try again in Brazil.”
United States GP – Alonso a gritty fifth, Massa thirteenth
Austin, 17 November – Fernando Alonso finished fifth at the Circuit of the Americas, with Felipe Massa thirteenth. The Spaniard therefore cannot be beaten for second place in the Drivers’ championship on 227 points. In the Constructors,’ Scuderia Ferrari is still third on 333 points, fifteen behind Mercedes and eighteen ahead of Lotus.
Both Ferraris started on the Medium and the Spaniard dropped one place off the line, to go seventh, while Massa crossed the line thirteenth. The Safety Car was out from the opening lap to the fourth when Sutil had a crash and after that, there were no changes of position until the first run of pit stops.
Massa changed tyres at the end of lap 21, switching to the Hards, as did Alonso 6 laps later. By delaying his stop, the Spaniard managed to get ahead of Perez’s McLaren to go sixth. At the end of lap 38, Massa made a further stop, going back to the Mediums, rejoining sixteenth. With 12 laps remaining, Alonso mounted a successful attack on Hulkenberg’s Sauber to take fifth. Sebastian Vettel won the race for Red Bull.