Interlagos – Fernando Alonso and Ferrari finished the 2013 season on the podium, as the Spaniard came third at the Carlos Pace circuit, behind the all-conquering Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. In the early stages, it looked as though Felipe Mass would finish right behind his team-mate, but a drive-through penalty cost him dear and the Brazilian ended his final race in a Prancing Horse car in seventh position. The goal of finishing second in the Constructors’ classification eluded the Scuderia by just a handful of points.
Fernando first tried to go between pole man Vettel and the wall then dived the other way and got blocked so he dropped a place to fourth behind Hamilton. Felipe did better, making up three places to be sixth first time across the line. At the front there was a lap long battle between Rosberg who got his Mercedes ahead of pole man Vettel when the lights went out, but the superiority of the Red Bull paid off and Vettel led the opening lap. Fernando was back in third by now, as he pushed past Hamilton, with Webber fourth.
On lap 3, Grosjean parked the Lotus at the side of the track, covered in white smoke from a blown engine. On lap 4, a great move saw Fernando go second, passing Rosberg, although two laps later, he was trailing Vettel by almost 5 seconds. The two Mercedes seemed to be struggling at this point, which meant, still in sixth, Felipe was only 0.7 behind Hamilton. By lap 10, Fernando had his friend Webber right on his tail, in the clearly quicker Red Bull. As they crossed the line to start lap 13, the Australian demoted Fernando to third.
Further back, Button was charging up from 15th, passing Bottas in the Williams to go eleventh behind his McLaren team-mate Perez in tenth. By this stage, the two Toro Rossos of Vergne and Ricciardo were the only drivers to have come in to switch to the Hard compound. Felipe was in fighting mood and charged past Rosberg at the end of the back straight, so the Brazilian was now fifth. Bottas in the Williams and Sutil in the Force India pitted on lap 18 from the mid-field.
Felipe took on another set of Mediums on lap 19. Next time round, Button, Hulkenberg and Di Resta all pitted, Button still out of sync with the majority, now on the Medium. Fernando and Hamilton came in on 21, the Spaniard dropping to fourth, while taking on Hards, with Rosberg coming in from third next time round. This promoted Fernando and Felipe to third and fourth respectively behind the two Red Bulls. Webber had a slow stop for another set of Mediums, which allowed Fernando to slip by into second behind the race leader who in turn stopped without losing the lead on lap 24, at about the time a few drops of rain began to fall.
Fernando was powerless to prevent Webber retaking second at the start of lap 26 In fourth, Felipe now found Hamilton in very close attendance on his gearbox. Both men locked their wheels almost side by side going into Turn 1 on lap 32, but unfortunately the Stewards indicated that Felipe had to take a drive-through penalty for having all four wheels across the white line at the pit lane entrance. He came in at the end of lap 34 and rejoined eighth behind Perez in the McLaren.
The order at roughly the halfway mark was Vettel, Webber, Fernando third 4.2 behind the Australian, then Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Perez, Felipe eighth, with Hulkenberg in the Sauber and Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso completing the top ten.
The few drops were changing into drizzle by around lap 39, but still not enough for anything but slicks. Felipe and Button both pitted on lap 44, the Ferrari man taking on his first set of Hards, rejoining tenth. Next time round it was Rosberg and Perez making the trip down pit lane. With the clouds gathering, clearly the lead quartet – Vettel, Webber, Fernando and Hamilton – were hoping their next stop might coincide with the need for rain rubber.
Felipe was back to ninth after passing Di Resta on lap 46 and eighth when Hulkenberg pitted. As Bottas brought out the yellows, having been hit by Hamilton, the leading trio also pitted, with the Red Bulls pulling a double pit stop, followed by Hamilton’s Mercedes a few moments later. The pit stops had reduced the gaps, mainly because of confusion delaying the leader’s tyre change: Vettel led Webber by 6.3, with Fernando only 0.6 behind the Australian, the Spaniard putting in a fastest race lap on lap 49. Felipe was now seventh, still behind Perez, after Hamilton had pitted.
The Englishman would have to come in again for a penalty, having caused the incident that put Bottas’ Williams out of the race. Light rain had returned, only in the vicinity of Turn 4. Three seconds ahead of Felipe battle raged as Perez tried to get his McLaren past Rosberg’s Mercedes.
With ten laps of the 71 remaining, Fernando was 2.4 behind Webber, with a comfortable 21.5 in hand over Button, who had steadily moved his way up to fourth in the McLaren. From then, the gaps expanded but the order remained unchanged, so that Fernando was able to salute the crowd from the season’s last podium, with the Ferrari crew cheering him, already wearing special Massa commemorative T-shirts.
Stefano Domenicali: “We have ended a difficult season with our heads held high, once again front runners in a Grand Prix that had a bittersweet outcome. Today, we witnessed a very aggressive Ferrari, in a wonderful race for Fernando, while for Felipe it was over when he was handed a penalty, which honestly, I find a bit extreme and forced. Because I don’t think Felipe’s move gave him any advantage. With the points he could have scored the outcome of the Constructors’ championship could have been different.
However, I was very happy to see the team react and work well here in all conditions. This has to be the impetus to prepare for next season as well as possible and our engineers are aware of the results we want to obtain. The assessment of this season just ended cannot be positive, because after a competitive start, we had a second half that did not live up to our standards, as I have said many times before.
Now words count for nothing, but only the work we must do back home: on this topic, I think all the decisions we have taken and the changes we made are taking us in the right direction to tackle next season in the best way possible.”
Fernando Alonso: “A podium is the best way to end this long season and finishing behind two Red Bulls almost tastes like a victory, as well as being the maximum we could have done today. It’s a real shame that the much awaited rain didn’t arrive in the end, because in the wet, we would definitely have been more competitive.
I did not get away well at the start and I found myself blocked on the outside and then the inside. However, after catching Hamilton and Rosberg, I began to push and my race was all on the attack. Even if we cannot be fully satisfied with this result, because our aim is always to win, I would view the season in a positive light: we did win and get podiums, as well as finishing second in the Drivers’ Championship and these are figures we can be proud of, both myself and Felipe.
He’s been a fantastic team-mate and even if we continue to see one another in the paddock, I will miss the relationship we have had. I wish him all the best for the future.”
Felipe Massa: “My race began perfectly, with a great start and then a strong pace that allowed me to immediately pull of some nice passing moves and I was having a really great race up until the moment I was given a penalty for crossing the white line. I don’t think I deserved a drive-through and I believe it was very unfair. I am very disappointed because today I could have finished fourth or third. I am sure that if I had found myself behind Fernando, he’d have let me pass. However, I don’t want this incident to ruin such a special weekend for me and all my team. In their eyes, I am a world champion and I will never forget them, nor anything about my time with Ferrari. I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity and maximum support all the time, including President Montezemolo, Stefano Domenicali and all the mechanics and engineers who work at the track and back home, as well as all the Ferrari fans who, over the years, have rejoiced with me and also suffered with me during the most difficult moments. Thank you!”
Pat Fry: “Today’s was a very uncertain race, for which it was difficult to make predictions because of unknowns relating to the weather and tyre behaviour. In the end, it didn’t rain and the tyres displayed linear degradation, thanks also to the skillful management of both drivers. The car was well suited to the characteristics of this circuit also in the dry and, but for Felipe’s penalty, we could have finished third and fourth. It would have been absolutely deserved because without a doubt today we were the second best team in the field. The team worked impeccably all weekend and I want to congratulate everyone for having tackled such a difficult season with maximum dedication. I am pleased the pit stop guys set the fastest times of the year and that our engineers were able to yet again deliver amazing reliability on the engine front, the systems and all car components, which is a key element when it comes to preparing for next year, for a new season when we want to return to being front runners again.”