Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen staged a great duel, which saw them swap positions with only a few laps to go.
Interlagos – Fernando Alonso finished the penultimate race of the season in sixth place, with his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen right behind him in seventh spot. They thrilled the crowd, putting on a duel that lasted a few laps, with the Spaniard closing on the Finn and using his fresher tyres to get past in the closing stages. In fact, Kimi had a very competitive race, running a brave two stop strategy, compared to the three tyre changes made by the majority, including Fernando.
On the Medium tyre, the Finn ran the longest stint of anyone in the entire race, doing 36 laps after his second stop. Unfortunately, it was a slow one, because of a problem with the front jack that delayed the change of his front right wheel, costing him precious seconds, before he set off for on that massively long run to the flag.
Now there’s just one race to go this season and in terms of the Constructors’ Championship, we hope to manage to keep McLaren behind us in the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Apart from the excitement provided by the Prancing Horse duo, there were several aspects of this race that made it a crowd pleaser, without the help of the much promised rain, which actually kept away for the whole weekend.
At the front of the field, Nico Rosberg completed an immaculate weekend: fastest in every single session, he won the race, only dropping out of the lead during the run of pit stops. It means the final round should see a great fight for the World Championship crown, as he is just 17 points behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who survived a spin today to come home second.
However, the biggest cheer from the crowd came when Felipe Massa stepped onto the podium, having finished third for Williams. The very popular Paulista survived a penalty for pit lane speeding and a comedy moment, when he stopped at the McLaren pits instead of his own, to be “best of the rest” today.
In the closing stages, doing a great job of managing the Medium Pirellis, fourth placed Kimi had no answer to a very daring move round the outside by Jenson Button at the Descida do Lago corner with 10 of the 71 laps remaining. The Finn lost a bit of momentum in their battle, which also allowed Sebastian Vettel to get ahead in the Red Bull. This meant that Kimi now had Alonso closing on, hence the exciting all-red duel for sixth place.
We now head for Abu Dhabi and the double points on offer for the final race of the season. The priority for the Scuderia will be to maintain fourth place in the Constructors’ championship ahead of McLaren, whom it currently leads by 49 points. Theoretically, the Prancing Horse can still catch third place Williams, whom it trails by 44 points, but the hierarchy among the teams at the moment suggests that would take an unusual set of circumstances.
Marco Mattiacci: “I believe this weekend ended on a positive note for the team, with both our drivers finishing higher than their grid positions to bring home important points. With Kimi we decided to risk putting him to a two stop strategy and he was able to show that, if he feels comfortable with his car, he can get the most out of himself in terms of managing the tyres. We are disappointed to have lost a few seconds at his pit stop and we take away the lesson that we must improve in every area that can affect performance.
As for Fernando, he produced an equally perfect race and in the late duel with his team-mate he was clear headed and precise in his driving. Clearly, fighting for the places we secured today is not our aim, but the team continues to improve day by day as we work on getting back to fighting at the front of the field.”
Fernando Alonso: “After a far from easy weekend, I am reasonably pleased with the outcome of the race, because even if we weren’t very competitive, we managed to score a good number of points. Today, degradation was particularly high, especially in the first stint on the Softs, which lasted less time than expected because of graining.
When I passed Kimi, my tyres were newer than his, as he was on a two stop, but I was having to save fuel and after that overtaking move, there was nothing more I could do.
Now there’s just one race to go this season and in terms of the Constructors’ Championship, we hope to manage to keep McLaren behind us in the final race in Abu Dhabi. As for myself, I reckon I’m in the position I deserve, because others have done better.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Overall, this has been a positive weekend and even today in the race, I felt very good in the car. During the second stint, we realised that if we went for a two stop strategy, we could make up ground, but then, at my second pit stop, I lost valuable time and that cost me some places.
In the final part of the race, I had to fight off Button for a few laps and when Fernando caught me, tyre degradation meant I couldn’t fend him off. We leave Interlagos with a good feeling and even if we still have a lot of work ahead of us, this continued progress makes me confident for the future.”
Pat Fry: “Like the majority of the grid, today we were planning to run a three stop strategy, as we knew that the increase in temperatures, the nature of the circuit and the abrasive track surface would impact heavily on tyre behaviour. Managing the two compounds was extremely complicated, with an early first stop to get rid of the Softs, because of graining, to take on the Mediums which degraded rapidly but in a more linear fashion.
The decision to switch Kimi to a two stop paid off as, surprisingly, he was able to run consistently for no less than 36 laps. Fernando found himself fighting with Vettel in the Red Bull, who probably had a bit more pace today, but taking sixth place along with Kimi’s seventh, gives us a reasonable margin in the Constructors’ classification over McLaren. Overall, it was a positive weekend and, in future we must ensure we get on top of any reliability problems, like the ones we’ve had over the past few days.”