One race to play and thirteen points to replace. There are those who already speak of an impossible feat, those who still believe in it. What is certain is that Ferrari and Fernando Alonso will not give up an inch on Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull and will try until the last lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix to conquer the World Championship which a few months ago seemed to be in the hands of the Maranello and is now among those of the English team. On Tuesday November 20, 2012, Fernando Alonso says:
"We know it will be difficult for us, but we have faith. We have to do as much as possible, focusing on ourselves and without making mistakes, and then we'll see what Vettel has done. It was a championship with ups and downs for everyone, but now we we just have to be perfect. However, I believe that we will be able to sleep better than our opponents: we have a lot to gain and little to lose and for them it is the opposite. In 2010 we were in the opposite situation, so let's hope that the outcome also rewards who on the eve is behind in the standings. I don't think the track can be decisive: we have seen that Red Bull is strong on any type of track, therefore also at Interlagos. But Formula 1 is strange and anything can always happen: the important thing is not to get find unprepared".
The Spaniard says he is honored by the invitation to the Big Apple Stock Exchange. The Ferrari driver pressed the button that activates the traditional sound of the bell on the occasion of the delivery ceremony by Banco Santander to the American Red Cross of an important donation (250,000 dollars) in favor of the victims of hurricane Sandy.
"It's a privilege for me to be here on an occasion like this: it was strange to be the protagonist of something I've always seen on television. It's a good day for Santander and for the Red Cross, because something really useful can be done for who suffered from this storm. I'm glad I spent this week in the States, first in Austin and now in New York: Formula 1 needs this country but it's not yet that popular, so it's important that teams and drivers do everything to promote our sport. Racing in an American series like Nascar? I've never tried or thought about it, but who knows, in the future. When I finish my career in Formula 1, sooner or later, maybe this could be a possibility".
The Brazilian Grand Prix, the last of the season, the one that will award the 2012 world championship, has already begun for Fernando Alonso.
"If you don't have arms, push with your shoulders".
He says his private samurai (the one who tweets every day, at sunset) and if you don't have a car - he would add - try psychology. So after spending the last three months telling the newspapers that he considers Sebastian Vettel less strong and dangerous than Lewis Hamilton, hoping to provoke some disordered reactions on the track, after declaring that he is fighting not so much against the young German driver but against his designer (the ineffable Adrian Newey), Fernando Alonso insists on his strategy of pressure.
"Right now it's all on them. Yes, these days we will sleep better than our opponents. We arrive at Interlagos in an ideal condition where we have so much to gain and little to lose. For them it's the opposite".
He says he speaks from direct experience. And it is to be believed.
"In 2010, in Abu Dhabi, we were in the opposite situation…".
And we all know how it ended, the chasing Red Bull Racing won, Ferrari which needed only a fourth place, lost the World Championship:
"So let's hope that once again the outcome will reward those who are behind in the standings on the eve. They are strong on every track. But Formula 1 is strange and anything can always happen: the important thing is not to be caught unprepared".
Don't be found unprepared. This is therefore, according to Alonso, the key to the World Championships lived until the last breath. From 1991 to today, i.e. since when the drivers' classification is calculated on the basis of all placings, the World Championship has been decided ten times in the last race: in six cases the leader got the better of it, the other four the pursuer (Ferrari was always involved in one role or another). The most recent race is precisely the one mentioned by Alonso: Abu Dhabi 2010, when his short wall was unable to understand what was happening on the track and put Alonso, first in the world standings, marking over Webber, condemning the Spaniard to a fateful seventh place (Vettel won). Three years earlier it was Lewis Hamilton's turn, who after spending the whole season arguing with Alonso, completely missed the race at Interlagos (he went off the track in the first laps) and ended up being tricked by Raikkonen's Ferrari (by one point). In 1999 it was the turn of Irvine to remain in the ball behind a Hakkinen whose McLaren (designed by Newey) clearly dominated the Japanese Grand Prix. In 1997 it was Schumacher's turn. He arrived in Jerez de la Frontera with one point more but with a conspicuously inferior car to Villeneuve's. Who won the World Championship despite the (too) determined defense of the German, who was disqualified for trying to throw him out. All different cases. In common the decisive role of the psychological factor. This is how Fernando Alonso almost seems to see him as he thanks Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who, despite being a great friend of Sebastian Vettel, who gives his non-secondary - and who knows how involuntary - contribution to the Spaniard's cause.
"Sebastian? He is the favourite. He is a good driver but fails to show his emotions about him. And then he lacks a bit of charisma".
Alonso F1 is strange and anything can happen. We have a lot to gain and little to lose, for Red Bull Ecclestone is the opposite. Vettel lacks a bit the charisma of Hunt, Rindt, Lauda and Senna. Current drivers are spoiled by team managers.
"A weekend to live with bated breath, hoping for a happy ending".
Here's what the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, also expects from the last round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
"A weekend of passion awaits us, but we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We go there we are behind by 13 points. In 2007 we won right in the last race on that track, in 2008 right there we lost in the last meter of the last lap, so we'll fight for it all the way. It will be a race in which anything can happen and we will do our part with conviction to the end. That said, I want to win".
Summing up the 2012 World Championship that is about to go into the archives, the top manager of the Reds alternates satisfaction with a vein of bitterness.
"It has been a season in which we have been great protagonists, however things turn out, and I want to underline that the team has been perfect. The great regret of two races lost certainly not due to poor reliability remains. The two rear-end collisions suffered by Alonso at the start were decisive in the score, because if he had finished even third in those two races, we would now have 30 points which would have made the difference. This is the real regret, we didn't stop for our failures".
On Wednesday 21 November 2012, on the eve of the first free practice of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso continues to say that he is serene:
"For me it's a normal weekend and as always I will try to score as many points as possible".
Alonso, 13 points behind the leader Sebastian Vettel, knows that by now it doesn't depend only on him.
"It would be good to finish on the podium and score at least 15 points, then once we cross the finish line we'll see what Vettel did and do the calculations. The podium and scoring more than 13 points is our priority. What Red Bull does is not in our hands. But we don't have much to lose, we can only win. So we'll try to do our best".
Alonso returns to talk about the Austin weekend, and defends his team that replaced the gearbox on Felipe Massa's car, a decision that allowed the Spaniard to gain a position on the grid and start from the clean side of the track:
"We have seen many teams, this year and in the past, doing something to gain a strategic advantage even pushing the limits of the regulations. It was a strategic decision to put both cars on the clean side of the track, as one of our objectives is to have also the constructors' championship. It worked quite well and if someone isn't happy, I'm still proud of my team because they always tell the truth about what they're doing".
At Interlagos the situation is the opposite compared to 2010: two years ago Alonso arrived at the last race in Abu Dhabi ahead of Vettel and was then overtaken in the standings by the German, who thus won his first title.
"This time it's different because now there are the Drs and the Kers which make overtaking easier and even starting from the back of the grid you can recover positions. We saw this this year in Abu Dhabi, where Seb started from last and finished on the podium. This is formula 1 and anything can happen right up to the checkered flag. We will do our utmost to finish on the podium. If we win the title we will be happy, but we know it takes a strange combination of results. If we don't win, we will congratulate him (Vettel, ed) and we'll try again next year. If the race takes place under normal circumstances it will be difficult to recover 13 points. If something happens, maybe we can win the world championship. But since it's not in our hands, the pressure is less".
There is also room for reflection on the future and the work that awaits the Maranello team over the winter.
"We weren't happy with the car ever since it went out on track in Jerez, but we managed to improve it enough to fight for the title. There will be many changes for next year. Compared to the other teams, we will have to work harder during the winter to fill the gap".
Alonso then dedicates a special mention to Michael Schumacher, who will race his last race on Sunday.
"It was a privilege to race against Michael, his records will remain in the history of F1 for a long time. We have lived through great battles, Michael has always earned great respect and has changed the sport a lot".
Thursday 22 November 2012 is hot, the sky is clear, bluer than usual, in one of the most polluted cities in the world and with a new escalation of violence, which will force pilots and teams to go around the city for four days in armored vehicles, with police backup. Late spring, short sleeves, yet Fernando Alonso can't help but turn his gaze to the sky. Because it will also be true, as he says with his usual disenchanted expression, that Ferrari has nothing to lose, that only Red Bull can hurt itself, with a problem that happened to Vettel, but if on Sunday, as the weather forecast , should it rain, it would certainly be a great help for him. Perhaps it is for this reason, for that abundant water (90% probability according to Brazilian experts), that Fernando Alonso appears calm.
"I'm calmer than other times when I fought for the World Championship in the last race. In Abu Dhabi, and it ended badly, I was more nervous, I was ahead in the standings, I felt the pressure on me, not now, I'm just thinking about scoring as many points as possible, without too many calculations. And who knows, maybe this different attitude will bring me luck".
The wet race would mean turning the contest into a lottery. Alonso is a master in the rain, while Vettel could be crushed by the weight of a prediction that sees him as a vast favourite. Interlagos with water turns into a swimming pool, Schumacher knows something about it, who will race the last race of his second career on Sunday and who years ago with Ferrari almost ran over a crane at the curve (when the name is said) of the sun . The wet race is the irregular game that Alonso hopes for, even if I admit that even in the rain, Red Bull could do one-two. But something is needed that can change the forces in the field, because otherwise those 13 points that separate the two rivals risk being an unbridgeable ditch. Alonso is realistic:
"If everything goes smoothly, there's no story. I can only win or at least finish on the podium and then ask Vettel for the result. But if nothing went wrong, he's likely to ask for mine".
Normality risks not rewarding Alonso and Vettel knows it well, he's only worried if you talk to him about reliability at Red Bull, with that alternator that has already failed him twice in 2012 and that forced Webber to retire in Austin. For the rest there is the usual unattractive smile and the simplicity of those who say that I start to win and I have no intention of calculating. And he even takes the liberty of making fun of some of Ecclestone's jokes:
"Do I have less charisma than past champions? The pilots of the past after qualifying went for a beer or smoked a cigarette: imagine what people would say if my colleagues or I did the same today. Are you sure the audience would like it?"
With a Red Bull that is making him fly (if he doesn't lose speed, he will only have marketing problems with Coca Cola entering F1 by sponsoring Lotus) he says he doesn't feel anxious.
"I have already won two World Championships. We will prepare well and throw all our strength on the track".
For those who support Ferrari, a miracle would be needed. Luca Montezemolo wishes it, still regretting Alonso's withdrawals at Spa and Suzuka, but ready to launch his message:
"In Interlagos we have only to gain. Let's do our best and we'll see if for once it's Red Bull that ends up off the road".
Alonso promises battle and specifies:
"I don't feel like I'm in a last ditch effort. With Ferrari, I can fight for the World Championship every year".
A year that will see Massa, the idol of the house, still in the red overalls. He would like to win for the third time in São Paulo and will race with a helmet inspired by the one used by his father Luiz Antonio when he raced in the Touring category. The same colors - blue and orange - and a large M to recall the design conceived at the time by Sid Mosca, also father of the helmets of Senna, Hakkinen and Schumacher. However, on Friday 23 November 2012, Lewis Hamilton dominated the day dedicated to free practice at Interlagos. Vettel is second, Alonso fifth for now. The English McLaren driver confirmed to be fastest of all in the second session ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the last of the season: 1'14"131 in the morning, 1'14"026 in the afternoon, demonstrating that his McLaren-Mercedes he's in great shape and that he's also in the fight for pole position. As usual, he will have to contend with Sebastian Vettel who, after being only 0.009 seconds slower in the morning, remained on the time of 1'14"300 in the second 90 minutes, but still able to go in search of pole in the qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Red Bull Racing always fast even with Mark Webber who, however, has a gap of 0.497 seconds from Lewis Hamilton and 0.223 seconds from his teammate. However, there is moderate optimism also in the Ferrari garage Fernando Alonso, who with a time of 1'14"392 in the morning was also fifth behind the other McLaren of Jenson Button, after lunch slightly raises his time (1'14"592), trailing by 0.566 seconds from Lewis Hamilton, but also 0.039 seconds slower than his team mate, Felipe Massa, the only one together with Lewis Hamilton among the top team drivers to do better than in his first outing (1'14"716). Worth noting is the good competitiveness of the Mercedes, with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg about 0.6 seconds off Lewis Hamilton's time, and separated by just 0.015 seconds. Who worsens significantly compared to the first session is Jenson Button, slower by more than 0.6 seconds and a good 0.837 seconds compared to the best performance of his teammate. The top ten was completed by Romain Grosjean's Lotus and Paul Di Resta's Force India, about a second behind. There is a statistic that goes around the pits and keeps hope alive.
On Friday Lewis Hamilton dominated the two free practice sessions, his McLaren seems impregnable. But Sebastian Vettel was also very strong, second both in the morning and in the afternoon. Safe and happy, much faster than his enemy Fernando Alonso, and with the possibility of having other drivers in the middle, including his teammate, Mark Webber, third in both races, the other McLaren, that of Jenson Button, fourth during FP1, and even the transformed Felipe Massa, who is an idol here and exalts himself in front of his own people. Creepy results, if they are to represent the beginning of the long sprint towards the showdown for the World Championship. Vettel, stopwatch in hand, can put his hands behind his neck and dream happily of this title, the third consecutive can't be taken away from anyone, least of all Alonso. But the track is dry, the heat awful, and there's one statistic that threatens to upend everything. The wet is something else, especially in Interlagos, a particular asphalt, a track that quickly transforms into a swimming pool, with killer aquaplaning and no possibility of error, given the scarce escape routes. The rain can upset everything and the forecasts continue to give it as probable, perhaps as early as Saturday, perhaps in fits and starts during qualifying, and certainly for Sunday, when the race will take place. And if you race in the rain, Alonso's dream, here are the numbers that make Red Bull tremble and refer to the three wet Grands Prix of 2012, Malaysia, Great Britain and Germany, with the Spaniard from Ferrari who scored 68 points and with Vettel who scored only 25, worse than Webber (41) and Raikkonen (35), a decidedly worse performance than the 248 points in the dry, 56 more than Alonso. The figures say that with the downpour the gap reverses and at that point Ferrari, which on Sunday will have a full racetrack ready to cheer on Massa, can really perform the miracle by narrowing that 13-point gap. Alonso, who takes on the support of almost every other driver on Friday (only Raikkonen, apart from the expected Webber, is hoping for a triumph from Vettel), is ready to fight in any weather.
He didn't get discouraged by the non-exciting times and through the twitter profile he launched the usual battle cry of the samurai:
"We can't go back, better to fight than to lose honor for giving up".
And immediately the fans incited him to sacrifice himself to the extreme. The irreproachable Vettel, the pilot who doesn't smoke or drink, is concerned about the weather instead. On the track, he proved it, he doesn't have any problems, but the climate is a puzzle.
"We can go from the terrifying heat to the flood, we must not be caught unprepared".
If it happens, goodbye dreams. As Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bel Racing, also says:
"Sebastian deserves the title, because he had the best season in F1, even better than the two world championships he won. He didn't get discouraged when we were in a crisis, and he never made a mistake again when the car returned to super".
But Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, also has a similar opinion of his driver:
"Alonso was extraordinary, the best ever. He deserves to win and it would be great if he could".
On Saturday 24 November 2012, during FP3, Jenson Button set the best time, ahead of Sebastian Vettel by 0.057 seconds. Lewis Hamilton follows in third place, while the Ferraris, competitive on the Hard tyres, have less speed on the Medium tyres, so much so that Fernando Alonso finished eighth. The Finn Kimi Räikkönen did not participate in the session due to the failure of the Renault engine of his Lotus. A few hours later, in the first phase of qualifying, the track had several patches of damp caused by a storm that broke out over the circuit before the start of qualifying, but as the minutes went by, the track dried out, so all the drivers achieve their best times with slick tyres; among the eliminated drivers, together with the two Caterhams, the two Marussias and the two HRTs, there is also Romain Grosjean who, during the last timed lap, suffers a contact from Pedro de la Rosa, preventing the French driver from entering the stage next one. The track marshals do not recognize any incorrect behaviour in the accident and do not impose any penalties at the end of the practice. In Q2 the track is completely dry and the riders lower the times of the previous session by about two seconds; in this phase the best time is set by Sebastian Vettel, while the other contender for the title Fernando Alonso sets the ninth time; in this phase two Sauber and Toro Rosso drivers, Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna are eliminated. The result of Q3 says that Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position in the Brazilian Grand Prix, the last race of the season. The front row at Interlagos will be all McLaren: the Englishman precedes his compatriot and teammate, Jenson Button. In the second row are Red Bull Racing, with Mark Webber ahead of World Champion Sebastian Vettel. Fifth time for Felipe Massa with one of the two Ferraris, then Pastor Maldonado in the Williams and Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, also ahead of Fernando Alonso, only eighth. Behind the Spanish driver the Lotus of the Finnish Kimi Raikkonen and the German Nico Rosberg on Mercedes. Alonso however, like last Sunday in Austin, gains a position and will therefore start seventh, from the clean side of the track: Maldonado was in fact penalized with the loss of ten positions, not having stopped at the weigh-in when called by the FIA commissioner, and was punished because he relapsed for two more yellow cards. Nico Hulkenberg also gains a position ahead of Fernando Alonso, who will start sixth alongside Felipe Massa, while Pastor Maldonado slips to P16. At the end of the tests, the Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali, said:
"It's a difficult position for tomorrow's race whatever the conditions. But we've already experienced this situation this year and so we'll need to run an impeccable race and that's it".
And Fernando Alonso adds:
"I don't think there is anything new. We've been struggling in qualifying for twenty races. Slower not only than Red Bull and McLaren, but also Force India and Williams. This is why I continue to say that our ranking is a miracle and that we must be proud to have come to play for the World Championship here".
At this point, however, what can you hold on to?
"Simple: something happens to Vettel. Maybe his car breaks down and goodbye World Championship".
Is this his only chance?
"No, there's another one: the rain. Not a few splashes like in qualifying, but the downpour. Focus on a chaotic race, where anything can happen. It's a risk for me too, it could be me who has an accident, but if the game is fair it's impossible to think that Vettel will finish behind me or that McLaren won't overtake us in the constructors' championship, where we want to finish second, our other great goal".
Why should rain be an ally?
"It's not said that it is, it's dangerous for me too. But when you drive over a pool, if you get it wrong, you're screwed. And I, in all or nothing, I can not think of anything else".
Also because Massa was faster in the dry too.
"But I gave my all, I couldn't do more. It was Felipe who was exceptional, who went beyond normality. Like Webber with Vettel".
The Spaniard could have an advantage in the event of a wet race but he denies having used a set-up more suited to a rain-conditioned Grand Prix.
"There are no more dry or wet set-ups, the aerodynamic load varies but I don't think anyone has chosen strange strategies. In Abu Dhabi and in the United States we started from seventh and eighth position, I finished second and third. It's a It's a miracle to be still in the running for the World Championship given the performance we have in Saturday's practice. We know that, on dry asphalt, it will be almost impossible to get on the podium. The more chaos there is, the better".
And Sebastian Vettel concludes by saying:
"I hope to be able to attack immediately, but the race will be long and we don't know what the weather will be like. I'll try to win: if it's not possible, I'll try to finish second. It's useless to think too much about strategies".
Sebastian Vettel does not seem willing to adopt particular tactics at Interlagos. The World Championship?
"I dont think about it. I could have done better today, we'll look at the data to figure out what went wrong. The third heat wasn't perfect: in the first lap I made a mistake in turn 4, in the second I did better but I wasn't fast enough. It is rare for three to beat me on Saturdays".
Isn't it that he preferred to remain more cautious?
"I do not believe. So much so that in the race I intend to go on the attack immediately, without calculations and without particular strategies".
Does this result make winning the title more difficult?
"Are you kidding? I was in a great position before and I am now too. The two McLarens were quicker. Webber got ahead of me. But Alonso stays behind".
So the German driver remains absolutely calm.
"I feel favored. The race will be long, the rain could change the scenario, but wrapping your head now would be useless. I go to win. If it's not possible, I'll try to finish second. At worst, I'll settle for the podium".
"Nothing. And I'm not saying that because I'm ahead of Alonso in qualifying, this year I almost always have been, but in the race Ferrari is doing well and deserves respect. We at Red Bull are also in excellent shape, the important thing is to stay awake, to be able to react to any circumstance".
Fernando Alonso is hoping for rain or a mechanical breakdown from Red Bull Racing.
"I would think so too. And it is clear that I have other dreams".
Some dispute the fact that the control unit in Felipe Massa's car was specifically changed to give Fernando Alonso an advantage. But the Brazilian's answer is seraphic:
"I can do a lot for my partner, but not everything. Help is one thing, dirty play is another".
Blessed words from Fernando Alonso:
"Anyone who brings him up on something like this should be avoided. Because he is not sane".
Lewis Hamilton smiles for the pole position conquered:
"So far it's been a great weekend and I hope it ends well. I'm grateful to the team for this result: being in front of everyone and then with Jenson (Button, ed) by my side is an excellent result for the whole team and let's hope it goes like this too Tomorrow".
Sebastian Vettel is really one step away from the third consecutive world title. It is enough for the German driver to finish the race in fourth place, regardless of the result of his rival. Instead, an anonymous epilogue is looming for Michael Schumacher. The German, in the last race of his career, lines up on the grid with the P14 obtained with the Mercedes. Sunday 25 November 2012 the Brazilian Grand Prix starts under a light rain. At the first corner, Felipe Massa got off to a great start and moved into second position between the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso follow, while Sebastian Vettel is overtaken by his teammate, Mark Webber, by the Spaniard himself and by Felipe Massa, thus climbing to seventh position. Immediately afterwards, at the Subida do lago, the German driver's car was hit on the right side by Bruno Senna while the latter was trying to overtake the Red Bull Racing driver, who spun and after being passed by the whole group restarted in last position; Sergio Pérez is also involved in the collision and is forced to retire. At the end of the first lap, Fernando Alonso passes Mark Webber and Felipe Massa in one fell swoop; Nico Hulkenberg also took advantage of this to get in front of the Brazilian, who thus lost five positions in just one lap. Subsequently, the wild German Force India driver also passed Mark Webber. On the fourth lap, Fernando Alonso was also the protagonist of an error at the S do Senna which caused him to lose third position to Nico Hülkenberg, who began a comeback on the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. The rain increased in intensity while in the rear Sebasrian Vettel was the author of a good comeback, which already took him to the seventh lap close to the group led by the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
Jenson Button passed Lewis Hamilton and climbed into first position during the eighth lap. Around the tenth lap practically all the drivers opted for a pit stop to mount the intermediate tyres, but not Jenson Button and Nico Hülkenberg, the latter leading the race after overtaking the British McLaren, who continue with the slicks increasing their advantage over Lewis Hamilton was about 40 seconds when the latter was forced to make another pit stop to switch back to Medium tyres. Felipe Massa also continued to race with slick tyres, but ended up losing positions with the Ferrari paying for the lack of grip. During lap 19 Nico Hulkenberg passed Jenson Button again and returned to first position. During lap 23, due to the many contacts they had on the track due to the slippery asphalt, the race marshals decided to bring in the Safety car, to allow the track to be cleaned of debris left by the cars. Thus the advantage of the first two is canceled and the group finds itself compact, with Fernando Alonso in fourth position and Sebastian Vettel in fifth place, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi and Mark Webber. It restarted at the end of lap 30. Nico Hülkenberg maintained first position ahead of the two McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Kamui Kobayashi passed Sebastian Vettel while Mark Webber went wide into the first corner losing several places. On lap 31 Lewis Hamilton passed Jenson Button, and then Kamui Kobayashi passed Fernando Alonso, but the Spaniard retook the position at the end of lap 32. In the meantime Felipe Massa climbs up, passes Sebastian Vettel and, on lap 37, climbs to fifth place after also passing Kamui Kobayashi. In the fight for the title, Sebastian Vettel still seems to be in control as seventh place would guarantee him victory in the World Championship.
During lap 48, Lewis Hamilton returned to the first potion, following a half-spin by Nico Hulkenberg in the central part of the track. During lap 52 Sebastian Vettel was called into the pits to replace the slick tires with a new set of Medium compound tyres. But once back on track, it started to rain again, and the German driver was forced to pit to change tires only three laps later, dropping to twelfth place. During lap 55 Nico Hülkenberg tries to pass Lewis Hamilton at the end of the finish straight, but loses control of his car which collides with that of his opponent, who is forced to retire due to failure of the front left suspension. Lewis Hamilton ends his relationship with McLaren in the worst possible way, while Jenson Button returns to first position. The choice of tires fitted to Sebastiano Vettel's car was correct this time, as the rain intensified and all the drivers returned to the pits to mount intermediate tyres. Nico Hulkenberg is still second, but is punished with a drive-through due to the collision with Lewis Hamilton. After serving the penalty, the German drops to fifth place. On lap 60 Jenson Button led the race around 20 seconds ahead of Felipe Massa who pitted a lap earlier than Fernando Alonso, overtaking him. Followed by Mark Webber, Nico Hulkenberg, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, who just passed Kamui Kobayashi. The exchange of positions between the two Ferrari drivers on lap 62 did not change the fate of the World Championship. During lap 65 Vitalij Petrov passes Charles Pic and climbs to twelfth position, a very important milestone for Caterham which, thanks to this overtaking, closes the Constructors' World Championship in tenth place, the last to be awarded the prizes. During lap 67, the reigning World Champion passed the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher (in his last race in Formula 1), moving up to sixth position. Two laps later the safety car comes in again due to Paul Di Resta's accident at the Arquibancadas, so the last lap takes place behind the safety car and the race ends with the victory of Jenson Button, fifteenth and last in his career for the English driver.
Fernando Alonso is second, followed by Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Jean-Éric Vergne, Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen. Sebastian Vettel is confirmed as World Champion. Fernando Alonso was beaten. This is the definitive verdict of the Brazilian Grand Prix, despite the sensational second place of the Spanish driver, thanks to the sixth place of the German driver conquered after a thousand vicissitudes. Which do not only concern the rain or the chaos of strategies changed a thousand times: Bruno Senna, at the start, rear-ended Sebastian Vettel's car with unprecedented violence, who found himself spinning, last but fortunately with the car unharmed. Just one question. But what is Red Bull made of? Bruno Senna gave Sebastian Vettel's car a terrible blow, but the German's car was harmless. Incredible. Or almost, since he continued with a completely crushed exhaust. Incredible, however, the race had many things. Among these was the umpteenth accident involving Lewis Hamilton when he was leading the race: Nico Hulkenberg tried to pass him, with the result of hitting him and thus favoring the return of the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. In short, in the end Sebastian Vettel wins the World Championship by three points ahead of Fernando Alonso, who recovers ten at Interlagos. Ferrari has a lot to complain about: two accidents that cost them points, the fact that they haven't had any technical failures and the irony in some ways of seeing their opponents kissed by the star of luck. The consolation of having conquered the second place in the standings of the Constructors' World Championship remains to the detriment of McLaren. It's worth 5.000.000 euros, but that's a very small amount given that there, on top of the world, there's always the same team: that Red Bull Racing unbeatable for three years in a row. A nightmare now.
"It is an incredible and indescribable feeling. Sebastian never gave up and deserved this third world title. Fernando Alonso has also done very well throughout the season and it is precisely for this reason that Vettel's success is even more important".
So the Red Bull Racing team principal, Christian Horner, tells of his joy.
"What Vettel has done in the last three years has been truly fantastic. I thank him, Webber and all our fans, including the Italian ones, who have supported us from start to finish".
And Adrian Newey adds:
"We thought it was over. It was a really difficult, very complex, stressful race. At one point we thought it was over but Sebastian did a great job".
Adrian Newey, chief designer of Red Bull Racing, comments on the third world title conquered by Vettel at the end of a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix.
"After the first lap we didn't even know if the car could continue, there was a lot of damage, we got worried. Then the weather conditions changed continuously, there was also the problem of managing the car since we had to make two pit stops -stop instead of one".
And the chancellor of the German government, Angela Merkel, is also celebrating, paying tribute to Sebastian Vettel:
"With the third consecutive world title, at the age of just 25 he is already in the history of this sport".
The Red Bull Racing driver was crowned Formula 1 World Champion for the third consecutive year.
"As has so often happened this season, he has demonstrated extraordinarily strong nerves and driving skills in Sao Paulo too. Like millions of fans, I am thrilled by his comeback in this league, after a difficult start to the season".
On the other hand, the Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali, bitterly confesses:
"Destiny hasn't really been our friend, we couldn't do more than that, I'm sorry for Fernando because he deserved the title. It hurts to lose like this in the last race, we have to start again immediately. Vettel spun here, at turn 4, and restarted. These too are signs of destiny".
While Fernando Alonso retorts, saying:
"This has been by far the best year of my career".
The world title was missed by just three points, but Fernando Alonso is more than satisfied with his season.
"It's the first time I've got riders, former riders and fans from all over the world to agree that this has been my best World Championship. I have a very positive feeling about this 2012. I'm proud of the team and the season we've had. We lost the World Championship when Grosjean went over my head".
And he adds, referring to what happened in qualifying at Suzuka, where the German only took a reprimand after having hindered Fernando Alonso:
"We lost him in Japan, when surprisingly Vettel was able to start from pole position. Vettel had hindered me in qualifying, and they only gave him one booking. Even now I ask myself: why?"
The Spanish Ferrari driver is already looking ahead.
"We'll try again next year".
Then, he analyzes the race.
"It was chaotic, complicated as we wanted. With every lap you asked yourself: will I have the right tyres? The asphalt was constantly changing, we could have ended up on the grass, but Massa and I got on the podium instead. What more can you ask for?"
Try some weird strategy here in Brazil?
"We couldn't afford it, we had to act according to the manual, because we wanted the podium at all costs. They took a risk, but they could afford it. I finish second, but I'm sure of one thing: this has been my best season ever. I've never raced so well in F1".
And on the Maranello team's season, second in the Constructors' World Championship, he says:
"We didn't have the fastest car of the season. It was already a miracle to fight for the World Championship and it was a miracle to make it to the last corner. It is clear that not everything went well, otherwise we would be the ones to rejoice. In qualifying we were too slow, in the end even worse than Williams and Force India, not just Red Bull and McLaren and if you start so far back in the race you can't win the World Championship. We clung to the championship, but I repeat, it is a miracle to have reached the end in these conditions and it would have been a miracle to win. We absolutely need to improve in the flying lap".
Emotional on the podium at his home Grand Prix, Brazilian Ferrari driver Felipe Massa says:
"I want a different, competitive year, that's all I'm asking for".
Felipe Massa archives a season between lights and shadows, and dreams of a better future. The Brazilian from Ferrari finished third in front of his home crowd, in the last race of the year in Brazil. And he didn't hold back the tears. Explains the Ferrari driver, who finished behind Jenson Button and teammate Fernando Alonso:
"I don't know what happened to me, I think it was the thrill of racing here and not being able to finish in the position I wanted".
Felipe Massa restarts from the second part of the season which has just ended. The Brazilian has earned confirmation in the Maranello team, and has rediscovered his happiness.
"It's great to race here in front of this wonderful crowd. I'm back to doing what I love. I'm having fun, something that didn't happen until mid-season".
There's even poison in the tail. The public has not yet recovered from the continuous emotions; Vettel, who raced with a broken radio and couldn't communicate with the pit crew, just realized he had won his third World Championship. Fernando Alonso has yet to go to the podium and his gaze is lost in space, immobile, the helmet still on his head, the film of the missed opportunity drilling into his brain. People don't know, Vettel ignores, Alonso doesn't metabolize, but an insistent rumor circulates in the pits: the German has passed Kobayashi with yellow flags, you can't, he will be penalized, he will lose sixth place, he will finish further back and hand over the World Championship to Alonso who finished second at the finish line. The rumor is irrepressible, the strange thing is that no communication has ever arrived from the race stewards, it does not appear that Vettel is under investigation. It is the people of the Internet who have put him there, he even shoots a photo with the offending overtaker. But that yellow that you see in the background is deceiving, just ask the judge and everything deflates. He saw, the inspector, the yellow, he noticed the overtaking, but he also knows that that yellow was intermittently, not a sign of danger and consequent overtaking prohibited, but simply a slippery track. Vettel could overtake and now, without any danger, he can enjoy his triumph, at the end of a race that knocked him down a thousand times and put him back on his feet a thousand times, a mix between hell and heaven, seasoning the most complicated race of his life, the maturity exam that perhaps served to demonstrate that this German driver is up to the greats of the past.
"And now Michael's records are really at risk".
Smiles, Niki Lauda. He had foreseen it in unsuspecting times and now that the German anthem, the true soundtrack of this season, is once again playing on the podium, he can repeat it with legitimate satisfaction. In reality, however, Lauda is wrong. Because if it is true that Michael Schumacher's seven victories are still quite far in Sebastian Vettel's horizon, it is also true that many other records set by the former Ferrari driver in Formula 1 have already been broken by the young World Champion. To understand each other, no one to date, not even Michael Schumacher, had managed to win so much and so early. At just 25, Sebastian Vettel has already put three Formula 1 World Championships on his bulletin board. At his age, Michael Schumacher had only won two (and he would have had to wait a long time before winning the third). Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, nobody. But he, Sebastian, doesn't want to think about it. Either you win or you count the victories. This is how he prefers to talk about the Brazilian race:
"It was an incredible Grand Prix. The hardest of my career, I think. The adversaries tried everything to make life difficult for us, but we continued to believe in ourselves and we made it".
Vettel is very happy with how he held his nerve in the difficult moment:
"It's not easy when after four corners they make you turn and you find yourself last. Luckily none of those following me caught me and I was able to continue".
In his words there is also a bit of controversy with Ferrari:
"A lot of people have tried to use dirty tricks to hinder us, but we have never let ourselves be distracted. And we won".
In reality, he says, he didn't immediately realize he had won:
"The radio hadn't worked for some time and so I didn't know what Alonso had done. So I cheered afterwards".
That is when Helmut Marko and Christian Horner embraced him telling him the sporting significance of his feat. They are interested in records and how. By winning his third consecutive title, Sebastian Vettel has accomplished a feat only achieved by two other greats in the past, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio, even if they did it at a much later age. With the third title, Sebastian Vettel detaches colleagues of a certain prestige such as Fernando Alonso, Mika Hakkinen, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Alberto Ascari, and joins legends such as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham . Only one record will never be able to beat, that of Jackie Stewart, who managed to win three consecutive titles by playing only 99 races, while it took him 100.
"Being in the history books with people of this caliber is really exciting. Champions like Lauda and Schumi have always been role models. Having approached them gives indescribable sensations".
Three goals still remain in his viewfinder: the next one, Alain Prost, four titles; the next, Manuel Fangio, five titles; and the dream, Michael Schumacher, seven titles.
"I said it in time about him and I repeat it. There are all the circumstances for Vettel to aim to overtake Michael".
Lauda says, referring in particular, in addition to the talent of the driver, also to the technical supremacy of Red Bull:
"Winning in Formula 1 is always a combination of two elements, the driver and the car. If you choose the wrong car you can't make it. But Sebastian is young and if he won't screw up his choices then he really he can dream".
In Niki Lauda's opinion, among other things, having won so much already as a youngster is a big advantage:
"Winning the first time is very difficult because that's where the pressures are the most. Then it's always easier".
A downhill road, car permitting. And it is here, according to many, that Sebastian will have to prove that he is a true champion, in choosing his team. The alternative, according to what they tell in the paddock, is clear: Red Bull Racing or Ferrari, since 2015. If they continue like this in Maranello, it is quite predictable what Lauda would suggest to them. And he seems to agree.
"Leaving in Ferrari? I have a contract until the end of 2014 with Red Bull, a team with which I won three consecutive World Championships and which shows constant growth year after year: I really don't understand why I would want to leave".
Despite the night of partying at the Nobel-Club Villa Mix in Sao Paulo, between blaring music and flowing caipirinhas, Sebastian Vettel is lucid and relaxed in the aftermath of winning his third Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship.
"Sunday was the toughest race of my career, but the story isn't over yet. Michael Schumacher has dominated like no other driver has done in history, I am thinking of one goal at a time".
Approached on several occasions to Ferrari, to compose a dream couple with Fernando Alonso since 2014, Sebastian Vettel dismisses market rumors:
"I have a contract, and you know it better than me, until the end of 2014. I'm very happy with what we've achieved so far and I don't think the story is over yet. I'm very happy at Red Bull and my only thought is to give all that I have also in the next few years with this team. At the moment I can't see myself thinking about another team, I'm extremely happy with the position I'm in, it's amazing what we've achieved".
Now the World Champion will fly from Sao Paulo to England: the destination is Milton Keynes, home of Red Bull Racing, where he will celebrate with those who worked behind the scenes for a fantastic season. Saturday 1 December 2012, Sebastian Vettel will be in Graz, Austria, for an exhibition; Sunday 2 December 2012 he will instead be in London, to receive the award from the prestigious Autosport magazine, then he will return to Austria, to Salzburg, to meet Dietrich Mateschitz, Mr. Red Bull. After visiting the patron, Vettel will finally be able to spend a couple of days with friends and family before flying back to Istanbul, where the FIA's annual gala will be held. His triumphant 2012 will end in Bangkok where, from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 December 2012, Vettel will participate in the Race of Champions, where, paired with Michael Schumacher, he will have to defend the title conquered last year. The day after the great disappointment at Interlagos, with the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso missing out on the Drivers' Championship by just three points, president Luca di Montezemolo speaks of pride and regret:
"Certainly not having won is a great regret and a great regret because we always want to win and we came close. I am proud of the work done by the team to have created the most reliable car, for never making mistakes in strategies and tire changes The team has done its duty to the fullest. Even if in the last five races we have been the team that has scored the most points, even if I was pleased to have our two drivers on the podium yesterday, a faster car was missing. would allow us to start ahead in qualifying. This was the real problem of our season".
Montezemolo also talks about how Alonso will react to this bad blow, and the judgments made by the Spanish driver on the competitiveness of the car:
"He will react like the whole team: the team will work to have what I ask of everyone right from the first race, i.e. a car that is born well and is immediately competitive. Fernando will react on his own, pushing even further in awareness than with a competitive car nobody beats him.As for the car, Fernando is partly right, provided that in 2013 we maintain this extraordinary level of reliability which allowed us to be second in both the Drivers' and Constructors' championships. But we need a faster car he's right".
On the reasons why the car has not always been faster, Montezemolo is clear:
"What happened this year adds up to what happened last year. On this I will ask for a very in-depth analysis and organizational and method improvements because next year we want to have a winning car from the first race, which is not happened in the last two years”.
The Ferrari president concludes by speaking of the incomparable fans of the Maranello team:
"Thank you all for the great support. We hoped to be able to win for them too but we must be proud to have been protagonists again this year up to the last lap of the last race and we are here in Maranello working hard to win the championship. next year. We'll give it our all".
While Vettel spends the whole night celebrating, Ferrari is thinking about the future on Monday 26 November 2012. The Maranello team is already ready to attempt a new assault, with a 2013 that must return at all costs to the world championship scepter that has been missing since 2007. Ferrari questions itself, and above all Alonso questions himself, very sweet in commenting on the umpteenth setback, but also lucid in understanding what went wrong and what will have to change next season. The Spaniard has no doubts about the strength of his team.
"I have a contract with Ferrari until 2016, my choice was clear, I intend to end my career in Maranello and I'm sure that sooner or later wearing red I will win a World Championship".
However, he would like to succeed sooner rather than later, better to say immediately, already at the next attempt. And so here is the request, which could also be defined as a supplication, but which has the value of a diktat.
"We have to improve in qualifying, in the flying lap, become as fast as everyone else. A car that always starts from behind on the grid cannot hope to win the World Championship. If you always have to chase after Sunday, you're forced to talk about a business, maybe a miracle, and miracles almost never happen. As we were set up on Saturday in 2012, it was a miracle to get to the last race in the fight for the title, and a miracle it would have been to overtake Vettel and win after an incredibly chaotic race like the one in São Paulo. We came close to the feat, but this shouldn't deceive us. In qualifying we never beat the Red Bulls and rarely the McLarens, in the final we were even slower than Force India and Williams. It is fair to say that the new car will have to be immediately competitive, start strong, fight to win right from the first race. These are obvious desires, unavoidable purposes. But at the start it must be fast even on Saturdays. If you want to seek glory, sometimes you have to be on pole".
And not just two, as happened to him this season, at Silverstone, where he finished second, and at Hockenheim, where he happened to win the Grand Prix. Two pole positions are few, worse still only three times on the front row, with second place in Barcelona. An unbearable problem, which also echoes in the great regret for this final standings, the accidents at the start at Spa and Suzuka. In the first case, rammed by Grosjean, Alonso started fifth, in the second, touched by Raikkonen with a flat tyre, he was sixth.
"We lost the World Championship there".
Says Alonso, however making it clear that when you're in a tussle, it can happen, while in pole position the risks would be much less.
"But we were the best, in the pits, in exceptional pit stops, in strategies, and also in development. I don't forget what car we had in the first tests at Jerez, we've grown a lot, unfortunately not enough".
Something more is needed, because it's a shame to waste a talent like the Spaniard, who in Stefano Domenicali's opinion is the best driver around.
"Alonso was fantastic".
And the Spaniard nods and raises:
"I have never run so well, the best year of my career".
On Tuesday 27 November 2012, following up on the rumors that had already emerged at Interlagos, the Spanish press questioned the legitimacy of the world title won by Sebastian Vettel. In particular, the three overtakings that the Red Bull Racing driver would have carried out under yellow flags in a hectic stage of the race held at Interlagos are questioned. A penalty would have effectively deprived Sebastian Vettel of the World Championship and handed it over to Fernando Alonso. Vettel's conduct, for the record, was judged regular by the marshals involved in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Now it remains to be seen whether Ferrari intends to appeal and thus reopen the fate of the World Championship
"Since I know how to overtake?"
On Wednesday 28 November 2012, in a somewhat piqued way, during the celebrations for the victory of the third World Championship, Sebastian Vettel struck down those who accused him of not having enough talent and courage and of knowing how to win races only starting from pole position. The problem is that overtaking him has been causing an uproar for days, with images via the internet, and risks making him lose the world title. The manoeuvre, illegal according to the Spanish press, refers to overtaking Jean-Éric Vergne during the fourth lap under yellow flags, something prohibited by the regulations. Vettel's impropriety is spread through an internet video, the accompanying comment speaks of a prohibited move, and invokes a penalty. For breaking the rule, the penalty is clear and is based on many precedents, which concern both overtaking with yellow flags and under the safety car. He foresees a drive through, a mandatory walk to the pits, if the marshals discovered the irregularity during the race or a 20-second penalty if the penalty is imposed after the finish. Therefore, in the event that Sebastian Vettel is found guilty, the addition of 20 seconds would demolish him from sixth to eighth place, reduce the points collected from 8 to 4, and allow Fernando Alonso to overtake him in the championship standings by one point. . It would thus be a sensational assignment of the World Championship awarded after the end of the race. The accusations from the Spanish press are clear, but not so the images, or at least their timing, which leave room for various interpretations and in fact make Vettel's possible infringement judged borderline. Hence the political problem which calls into question Ferrari, which for the moment avoids expressing an official position, and the FIA, which according to article 179 bis could also act ex officio, in the presence of new probative elements, but which she doesn't seem too convinced of the video, and would prefer that it was possibly the Maranello team that sparked the controversy. What is certain is that Maranello is in possession of the official images, those sent by FOM, Bernie Ecclestone's company, and is studying them (which the FIA and Red Bull Racing are also doing).
Ferrari has until Friday 30 November 2012 to present an appeal, but before deciding it wants to be sure of the irregularity. If the examination of the Vettel case were to be asked, the same three commissioners present in Brazil would have to decide. And it is not clear, in the event that the standings were changed (usually the drive through or the 20 seconds post-race must be accepted and that's it), whether Red Bull Racing would then have the possibility to appeal. Yellow or green? Video analytics are going crazy on the web. And the images of Sebastian Vettel overtaking Jean-Eric Vergne seem unmistakable despite the fact that the race is under a yellow flag, as demonstrated by the signal on the driver's dashboard, therefore overtaking is prohibited. Now, however, a still image appears where a commissioner would be seen waving a green flag in front of the German's Red Bull, therefore the green light for overtaking. Certainly two conflicting reports, and it will be important to understand how the FIA will evaluate the two reports. Meanwhile, the Maranello team is asking the FIA for clarification via letter. Ferrari itself gives the news on its Twitter profile.
"No Vettel case".
A few minutes after Ferrari's request, the response from the FIA arrived on Wednesday 28 November 2012 through a spokesperson who, in the specialized periodical Autosport, explained:
"For us there is no case and Sebastian Vettel's overtaking of Jean-Éric Vergne in the Brazilian Grand Prix is legitimate".
The FIA source explains what happened:
"The yellow flag at Interlagos went into operation at the light panel just before turn 3 and was withdrawn 150 meters before turn 4, when the green light appeared. However - he continues - there is a marshal post between these two panels and a green flag was waved at that point. According to the rules for the Brazilian Grand Prix, if a green flag is waved before the green light (the case of Vettel) it is the first green that counts".
For these reasons, according to the FIA, overtaking Sebastian Vettel is totally legitimate, which is why the race judges were not informed of the potential violation. However, what is absurd is that the luminous signals had been inserted to prevent a driver from not seeing the signals from the marshals through the flags. As in the case of the Brazilian Grand Prix, where visibility was reduced. How can a signal through flags, which has been deemed invalid in certain situations, already be valid for the signal that replaces it? Ferrari's long day ends with these doubts, encouraged by its president, Luca Montezemolo, to do better next year:
"We make a very strong car from the first race and capable of winning the World Championship".
The images from the Brazilian Grand Prix of the German overtaking in Vergne, irregular because under yellow flags, went around the world. And so, on Thursday morning, the Maranello team announces that it has asked the Federation for clarifications in a letter. Not a real complaint (there is time for that), but a sort of reminder, so that the guardians of the regulation could investigate the matter further. Anger emerges in the evening, because no written response has been received from the FIA to this official move. The president, Jean Todt was travelling, he will only be in Paris on Friday 30 November 2012, and this is probably the cause of the official inaction, which effectively prevents Ferrari, on a formal level, from deciding whether or not to file a complaint.
But through sites and newspapers the FIA has made it clear that the Vettel case does not exist and that Ferrari, in the event of a protest, would have had no chance.
"Overtaking is regular, the race direction has not been informed of any violations".
Then it's up to Charlie Whiting, the guardian of the rules, to go into the details, while a video published on the website of the newspaper Marca (Spanish like those who first raised the question) with slowed down images tends to prove the innocence of the Red Bull driver , arguing that there could probably be a marshal waving a green flag in the background, clearing for Vettel to overtake. Thesis that Whiting enriches with many details:
"The yellow flag came into operation with a light panel just before turn 3, in track marshal sector 3, and was withdrawn 150 meters before turn 4, when the green light appeared. However, between these two panels there is a commissioner who waves a green flag on the left and if the same is waved before the green light, for the pilot it is the first go-ahead that counts. So Vettel hasn't committed any infractions".
Almost the equivalent of an early sentence (on which Ferrari however does not agree) to which Bernie Ecclestone's sarcasm is added:
"This story is a joke. Ferrari has a great desire to win, but if you look back and think about its past... Among other things, it moved late. We need to protest now, not days later. Vettel is the right World Champion. And I don't think there's room for a civil action".
On Friday 30 November 2012, the issue regarding Vettel's overtaking on the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver, Jean-Éric Vergne, ended without any major changes. Ferrari, through an official note released on its website, clarifies:
"The request for clarification addressed to the FIA regarding Vettel's overtaking of Vergne was dictated by the need to shed light on circumstances that emerged on the Internet only in the days following the conclusion of the race and not by the desire to undermine the legitimacy of the sporting result. Tens of thousands of requests were received from all over the world, and it was our duty to investigate, asking the Federation for an opinion, an episode that could have left a shadow in the eyes of all Formula 1 fans, not only from Ferrari fans. This morning the FIA sent the answer with its opinion on the episode: Ferrari takes note of it and, consequently, considers the matter concluded".
Even the FIA, through its official website, issues a note in which it explains that Vettel's overtaking was correct and that therefore there was no irregularity to investigate:
"The Federation replied to Ferrari, with the same constructive spirit, declaring that the overtaking manoeuvrer did not violate the rules, therefore there was no irregularity to investigate and it was not reported to the marshals by Race Control".
And Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, later explains:
"We had a duty to ask the FIA for an explanation, but we didn't want to question the man who won the title. We believe Alonso deserved the title after having had his best season as a driver. What was he missing? Having a car faster and a bit of luck, considering that he practically ran two races less than his main rival.It's instead up to us to give him and his teammate Felipe Massa, excellent in the second part of the season not only in terms of results but also as a team man, a stronger single-seater, especially in qualifying. Fernando's season was ten".
Having taken note of the decisions of the FIA, probably the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, does not take kindly to the words of Bernie Ecclestone. And on Saturday December 1, 2012 he says:
"We must have respect for very old people, especially when they get to a point where they can no longer control their words. Of course, old age is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities".
The president, who spoke at the Ferrari day in Valencia, countered the criticisms received by Bernie Ecclestone for his request for clarification from the FIA on overtaking Sebastian Vettel in Brazil. The circus boss had defined the behavior of the Maranello team as inconsistent with his story, and the alleged case a joke. In Valencia, Montezemolo goes on the counterattack.
"There are some things that are not right in F1 and the time has come to clarify them once and for all in the competent bodies. It is not possible that F1 will not transfer more technology to our production cars. Aerodynamics is becoming something that it has nothing to do with research. This can't be a sport in which there are no trials and tests on the asphalt, our patience has reached its limit. We are manufacturers, not sponsors. As Ecclestone says, it's a joke".
The Ferrari president also spoke of Sebastian Vettel's overtaking in Brazil and the Maranello team's request for clarification:
"Someone cried foul, yet Ferrari's behavior was transparent and respectful towards our fans".
As for the request for clarification from the FIA on overtaking Sebastian Vettel in Brazil, Montezemolo reiterated that Ferrari did the simplest and most straightforward thing.
"We received the images the day after the race, images which by the way ended up on all the sites in the world. The Federation replied that everything had taken place regularly, so the discussion is closed for us. Congratulations to Vettel and Red Bull are right and proper because they won. Let's hope it's up to us next year to receive them. However, we were in contention until the last race to win the World Championship, and next year will be a crucial season for us. The important thing is to always stay at the top and run as protagonists. Now, head down, we need to work to give our two drivers a winning car".
The president also speaks of the lack of resistance offered by Michael Schumacher towards Sebastian Vettel in Brazil, and the criticisms of Ferrari's teamwork which often penalized Felipe Massa.
"I would have hoped for a different last race from Michael and this left me with a pinch of bitterness. He was a driver who experienced many extraordinary moments with Ferrari. Team play? It's one of our strengths: both Felipe and Fernando know how to make a team. This is why we have been criticized on several occasions. I don't want to make any controversy about this, let's stop there".
Still in Valencia, in different tones, the Ferarri team principal, Stefano Domenicali, comments on the season that has just ended:
"We had an extraordinary season, even if it ended with a bitter taste. Massa, after a difficult start, after the summer, what we wanted was back, Alonso was ten. For next season, we need to improve the car above all in qualifying, because always starting from the back becomes difficult. The important thing is to maintain the positive points of this year, our engineers have clear ideas on how to improve the car. We will try to start immediately with a faster car, the important thing is to always believe in it".
Domenicali also returns to the controversy surrounding Vettel's overtaking under the yellow flag:
"From a sporting point of view, the controversies have highlighted some things in the sporting regulations that need to be improved. Ferrari didn't ask the FIA for clarifications to discredit Vettel, but to clarify certain episodes that had been brought to light".
For next year Stefano Domenicali expects to see the same duels:
"The battle will be with the same teams, I think we will see a more competitive McLaren".
For a moment, Fernando Alonso forgets the defeat, and already tries to look ahead, reiterating once again:
"It was a fantastic year, the best of my career".
Also because he has no regrets about the season that has just ended:
"Although he didn't win, I think I've grown a lot. I don't have the titles of Fangio and Schumacher but to be a Formula 1 great, it's not enough just to win. We also need to play seasons like the one that just ended".
The Spaniard also feels the confidence around him has grown.
"Before coming to Ferrari, people were divided. They had a more or less good opinion of me, but now I notice a different kind of respect. And this gives me the impetus to face next season in the best possible way".
On the affair of the yellow flags and Vettel's overtaking, Alonso is lapidary:
"I didn't know much about this speech about the flags, there were videos going around, people wanted clarity, the team sent a letter to get clarifications and everything was much clearer".
The Spaniard doesn't believe that Ferrari lost the title in the last race anyway.
"No, I believe in Spa and Suzuka. But it was still a miracle to see, race after race, what we managed to achieve. Next year we will try to improve the car, trying to start further up the grid thus avoiding risking accidents. We also hope to have a little more luck. I think that in terms of strategy, pit stops, departures, reliability it was a perfect year. The only thing that was missing was the car, which didn't allow us to be at the level of the best for most of the year. It's the only thing we need to improve but it's also true that it's the most difficult. With all the difficulties we've had, I'm thinking for example of the delay we had in the winter tests, being having come to fight until the end for the title means that we are a great team".
Repeat yourself, possibly with an even better epilogue. This is Fernando Alonso's hope for 2013: to close the technical gap with Red Bull Racing and McLaren, and conquer the Drivers' World Championship. To do this, we will have to deal once again with the Anglo-German team, which has the role of favorite, and with Sebastian Vettel to whom the runner-up grants the honors of arms: he is the right champion. For this reason, the Spaniard is asking his team for an extra effort: to make better use of the rules, becoming even a little smarter if necessary. This is the synthesis of Alonso's thought, who spoke on Tuesday 11 December 2012 in Madrid, on the sidelines of a public event. It's time to take stock, it's not just that.
"I am very happy with my season, it was a perfect year and difficult to repeat but 2013 will have to be even better".
It will be necessary to be competitive from the very first races.
"Among other things, starting worse than this year will be impossible even if Red Bull will certainly be the favourites, at least at the beginning".
Super power sharpened in the season finale.
"He finished dominating and the rules will be more or less the same. In the last few Grands Prix they gave us six-eight tenths of a second per lap, we will have to make up this gap in two months, which isn't easy, so there will be a lot of work to do, we will have to work overtime in the winter but the starting point should be much better than last season.There is always something to improve, there are always things you can develop, with the experience and technological means at our disposal provision there are aspects that we can improve".
The difficulties of the mission do not escape the Spaniard.
"Red Bull and McLaren finished the year well ahead of us, and have already made their way into 2013, we finished behind Lotus and Force India but we fought for the title until the end so next season must necessarily be better''.
It is inevitable to go back to talking about what happened at Interlagos, with the subsequent request for clarification from Ferrari.
"The decision to ask for an explanation on the yellow flag was almost mandatory out of respect for all the Ferrari fans who wanted clarity. Ferrari asked for a clarification and the FIA replied that on that occasion there was the green flag so everyone is calm, the decision was right and case closed. Vettel is the right champion, he has scored more points than the others, he is there for all to see".
From Alonso, however, a request also comes to his team: we need to do like Red Bull and make the most of the complexity of the rules.
"There have been several episodes where other teams have been at the limit, we haven't, but this has always happened and always will. However, we too have to think within the confines of the regulation, looking for some limits, some gaps, as other teams do, to try to improve performance".
The goal to pursue is always the same:
"Be first and second on Saturday and Sunday. There have been teams that have succeeded in this in recent years such as McLaren or Red Bull or Lotus itself, which reached the podium with Grosjean and Raikkonen, we didn't".
The following day, Wednesday December 12, 2012, Fernando Alonso receives a small consoling gesture. The World Championship was won by Sebastian Vettel, but the Spaniard is the best Formula 1 driver for 2012. The decision was made by an authoritative jury: the team managers of the twelve teams that took part in the last World Championship. This is the response of the survey proposed by the British magazine Autosport. The twelve jurors, using the same score as in the World Championship, awarded the Spanish Ferrari driver. On this occasion, the Spaniard clearly prevails in the standings with 269 points, against the 198 of the German Red Bull Racing driver. Fernando Alonso prevails with the widest difference (71 points) in the five years in which Autosport has launched the survey. For the Spanish driver it is the second success in this special classification drawn up by the team principals. And for the second time he won it finishing second in the World Championship, as happened in 2010. In third place, despite the many problems he had during the season, Lewis Hamilton, who with 177 points beats the returning Kimi Raikkonen by one point. Jenson Button follows with 104 points, Mark Webber with 66 points, Nico Hulkenberg with 50 points, Nico Rosberg with 39 points and Sergio Perez with 30 points. Tenth place for the other Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa, with 27 points. Meanwhile, during the same day, it was announced that Norbert Haug, the boss of Mercedes Motorsport, will leave the company at the end of the year. The German company communicates it through a note from the Board:
"His contract expires at the end of 2012 and by mutual agreement we have decided not to extend it".
Haug had joined the sports division of Mercedes in October 1990. He was also a vice-president of Daimler AG. And his contribution to the recent history of the German company in Formula 1 was notable. Comments the CEO of Daimler, Dieter Zetsche:
"He put his signature on an era and was the main protagonist of the return to success of the Silver Arrows in Formula 1".
In his long career in Mercedes, he has contributed to the conquest of several Formula 1 world titles for drivers and constructors. A palmares that clashes with that of the season that has just ended, in which the German team took just one success with Nico Rosberg in China.
"I didn't even think for a moment that I had committed an irregularity. Even though a lot of things happened in that race, I definitely saw all the flags and their colours".
Sebastian Vettel has no doubts about what happened on the track at Interlagos, in the last Grand Prix of the World Championship. The World Champion relives the overtaking on the Brazilian track which caused some discussion and Ferrari's request for clarification to the FIA. A success that Sebastian Vettel has never feared to see fade.
"I was only informed that Ferrari had something up, Christian (Horner, ed) called me telling me that obviously Ferrari were not too happy with the result of the race. After the FIA checked the images and confirmed that "Everything went according to the rules, Ferrari gave up any protest. But believe it or not, I knew right from the checkered flag that there hadn't been a single wrong maneuver on my part".
The Brazilian Grand Prix was the last leg of Alonso's close fight for the title.
"We've never stopped believing and that's been the key this year. It's easier said than done. There's a lot of pundits jumping into throwaway speculations about who's going to be the champion and who's going to be the loser and you don't have to be conditioned".
In short, no distractions for the German.
"You have to stay absolutely focused on the goal without worrying about what other people are doing. Some of my opponents may have underestimated the importance of every single point. Only three points in the end divided the first from the second, who still wrote their name on the trophy by those who didn't".
At 25, the Red Bull driver has already put three world titles on his bulletin board, but who asks if he will face it. To those who ask him if he will live 2013 still with a killer instinct, he replies:
"Killer instinct? It's not me. Sure, I know I have a special place in the team but I still consider myself part of a team and as such I want to achieve the same successes as in the last three years".
Thanks to a competitive nature by nature.
"Personally, I've never had to pretend to have motivations because they're part of my nature. Sure, right now it's nice to savor the title win and all that goes with it, but what stays in your mind the most are the steps taken to getting there: the nervousness on the grid at the first race, the stress when things don't go as planned, the podiums... all these moments remain in your head forever".
On Wednesday 19 December 2012, during the traditional end-of-year dinner in Maranello, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, reiterated:
"Bernie Ecclestone was wrong to deal with things that are not his. Fathers and bosses no longer exist. Our behavior has been not only transparent but perfect and Bernie had nothing to do with any interpretations of yellow, green and blue flags. He used expressions that I don't accept. We're going to make a change, the current management of Formula 1 poses problems of immobilism for us. We are at the end of a period characterized by the style of a man who has done important things, as will happen with me: In about ten years I will ask myself the problem. At 75, not at 82".
Luca Montezemolo wants a constantly growing Ferrari.
"Alonso had an extraordinary season, he called it his best since he's been in Formula 1. I hope next year he can say it was our best season, not just his. I don't want to go back to the episodes, Ferrari was transparent when it put Fernando in a position to be helped by Felipe Massa. The opponents in the future will remain McLaren, the only one that has been continuously in recent years. I expect a Ferrari with a little more aggression and extremism, a less conservative attitude in the interpretation of the regulations: others have had it, even if I have seen things that I didn't like.If a car is not in order, you don't have to tell them that they have to fix it for the next race, they should remove of points".
One of the nodes of 2012 was the renewal of Felipe Massa, strongly desired by Montezemolo.
"If you change, you have to do it with someone who makes the difference and who is fast. Coming to Ferrari is something that creates an impact, drivers who give a guarantee of being stronger than Felipe, I didn't see any. We didn't want to change the balance and the good atmosphere in the team. With Domenicali we waited a long time and I think we made the right choice, we finished second also with Felipe's points. In the second part of the season he went better both in the race and in qualifying".
Ferrari is history. Proud of its charm and its incomparable past, proud of a present which at an industrial level (cars sold, presence in the world and operating income) allows it to beat every record annually, cannot, especially in Formula 1, the tip of its golden iceberg, being caught unprepared for the future. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that on Wednesday evening in Maranello, during Christmas dinner, Stefano Domenicali, the head of sports activities, announces an organizational revolution, with the division of the aerodynamic sector into two sections, creative on one side and operational on the other (all, however, with the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, the Maranello one closed for nine months to improve its efficiency), but above all with the unbundling of two different development projects, a group, directed by Simone Resta, who will take care of the 2013 car, called to regain the World Championship after six years, and another, coordinated by Fabio Montecchi, who will think about the 2014 car, a complex job, because it will have a hybrid engine and many new regulations to take into account. The future, with an F1 that will change radically, cannot wait. But there are those who, eager to win again, don't want to look that far. Domenicali talks and President Montezemolo, from the other side of the table, interrupts:
"The future doesn't interest me, I don't even know where I'll be in 2014. You, Domenicali, have to give me a winning car right away. Every year we trust: super car from the first race. Then at the first test we catch a second from the others. At that point we come back, but maybe it's not enough. I broke down... I've been saying since 2009 that we need to start well. And this year I don't hear reasons".
The president dispenses serenity and smiles, in front of the usual Christmas menu, tortellini and zampone, but also determination and desire for change. Changing Ferrari's latest trend in terms of results and changing the way F1 is managed, starting with the name of the boss father, Bernie Ecclestone. President Montezemolo, will Alonso be able to give you a world title sooner or later?
"He has to succeed sooner rather than later. Indeed, immediately. At the end of 2012 he said: it was my best season. I would like him to say in twelve months: it was our best season. He is the best driver ever. Change it to Vettel? Only if he decides to retire to Hawaii. If you have Alonso, you have to give him your all. And all the work of the team must be aimed at his abilities".
"We were right to confirm it, the results of the last few races proved us right. For six months he disappeared, then finally started driving as he knows. I recently saw him transformed, another person, more charged. There was no one around who was stronger than him. Racing for us is enormous pressure. And another one in his place could have altered the consolidated balance".
When did he realize that he should have complimented Red Bull Racing in 2012 too?
"In Singapore. We had high hopes but on the track we realized there was nothing we could do. In Korea another blow. There are many regrets, considering the advantage we had at the end of the summer. Another regret: if they hit our car, we stop, see Spa or Suzuka, others, like Vettel in Brazil, leave again. And again: if there is an irregular car, the marshals don't take away the points, they say: fix it for the next race. Incredible. But we have never grown in qualifying. And at the beginning we were too far behind".
Why does this always happen?
"We are not extreme in interpreting the regulations, too cautious as in 2011. Or, this year, we go too far. We need something in between, one millimetre from the border. Within the rules, or maybe outside and no one notices".
Ecclestone would then criticize...
"The time of masters and godparents is over. He exaggerates, he didn't have to deal with the yellow flags and then he laughed at us, he used terms that he doesn't accept. Because on the Vettel affair our behavior was transparent and perfect. We asked for explanations and we accepted them. You rather think about bringing F1 back to what it is, a technological challenge. We're fed up with cheap deals: racing on simulators and no tests, very slow cars, GP2 at best, instead of third-party cars from the big manufacturers. Paddocks where there is no longer contact with riders and garages, races in absurd places and at absurd times".
Who would you want instead of him?
"I won't name names. But I would understand if in ten years time someone said that I have to step aside and leave Ferrari. And I'll be 75, not 82".
Who knows if the Red Bull Racing cycle will have ended at the time.
"They will not be our opponents for the next ten years, but McLaren. There is no escaping the long game: either us or them".