In his regular Thursday meeting with the media in the Suzuka paddock, at times it seemed Fernando Alonso was delivering a lecture on sports motivation, as he was asked at length about what would drive him on now the championship titles were out of reach. “I think even if it is only this weekend that for the first time we no longer have a mathematical chance of winning the championship, it has already been at least three or four race that we no longer had high hopes of taking the titles,” began the Ferrari man.
“So, it is not a dramatic change in terms of our approach for this weekend. I always feel motivated because when you are a Formula 1 driver it means you are a competitive person: I don’t like cars overtaking me, I like to overtake cars. I don’t like to be on the third or fourth row of the grid, I want to be on pole position and this is why there is always a motivation to keep pushing.
Now, it’s just the same, in that I want to win and I want to be on pole position. I know it might not be possible at the moment, given our current performance level, but you always have the hope you can do it. For the remaining five races we will try to do our best, trying to finish in the highest position possible.”
As for the remaining targets, the Spaniard prioritised the team prize. “For the championship I think the most important thing is to get second place off McLaren in the Constructors’,” he said. “It will be very difficult, but we will be pushing for that. In the Drivers,’ second is also a possibility, but I don’t think second or third or fifth changes much, because after a couple of months you forget completely about that. I would prefer to win one of the five remaining races than to finish second in the championship, to be honest.
Hopefully in one or two of these last races, let’s hope we have a car that is competitive enough to allow us to challenge for the top place. We will also be trying to learn something for next year, by introducing new parts on the car in these remaining races. But like I said, we are competitive people and I don’t see anyone in the Ferrari garage looking happy at being third or fourth with others ahead of us. Everyone in the team is as focussed as if this was the last race and we were fighting for the title. We want to do well and that is all the motivation we need.”
Asked if there was any way the Drivers’ crown would not go to Vettel this weekend, Alonso was very clear in his view: “Sebastian has the title in his pocket, even if he decides to watch Sunday’s race here on TV! I think he will enjoy this title more than the first as he is more relaxed and he has had time to see it coming. He will be able to prepare better for the party!”
Maybe it’s because the Drivers’ championship is already a foregone conclusion, but the press, restless for a good story, are still pursuing the matter of Hamilton colliding with Felipe Massa in Singapore, which wrecked the Ferrari man’s race. “It’s true I’ve not had much luck this season, with punctures, or someone hitting me, or other things happening and I hope that the situation changes for the last five races,” said the Brazilian.
“That’s why I found it so frustrating when I was hit in the Singapore Grand Prix. I was disappointed after the race, but come Monday and I was already thinking about the next race. What’s past is past and we need to think about the future. I have not spoken to Hamilton and he did not want to speak to me at the time in Singapore. That’s why I was even more disappointed because, if I was him, I would have wanted to say sorry. I had tried to speak to him away from the media, but as he did not want to, I did what I did in front of the media. I have no reason to speak to him now about this as the matter is closed as far as I am concerned. If he wants to come and talk to me, then that’s fine too.”
Adding to the media’s suggestions of something controversial having happened in the night race a fortnight ago were Felipe’s race engineer, Rob Smedley’s comments prior to the Singapore collision. “If you listen to everybody’s radios you will hear strange things all the time,” the Ferrari man explained. “For sure, we are in competition and things like this happen in every sport. Rob was just trying to push me, he was not suggesting I should destroy another driver’s race and that is clear, because I would not do it anyway, even if he had asked me to. Rob always talks to me a lot and that is fine for me because it is the way we work together.”
As for the team’s aim to finish second in both championships, Felipe believes in looking at it race by race. “We will try and finish as high up the order as possible in these remaining races, we will try and win and try to be competitive up against the other teams, which has not been the case in recent races.”
Sebastian Vettel needs just one point on Sunday to retain his world championship crown and when asked for an opinion, Felipe delivered this generous appraisal of the German. “All drivers would like to have a year like his: winning the title with five races to go is definitely an incredible victory. His worst result so far has been a fourth place and he has had a perfect year. Sure, with the car he had, he has also been impeccable in qualifying so he has started every race at the front, which has been a great help during the race.”
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