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#874 2012 Korean Grand Prix

2023-01-04 23:00

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#2012, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#874 2012 Korean Grand Prix

The World Championship? It's a two horse race. Lewis Hamilton declares surrender. Despite missing five races and 42 points behind Fernando Alonso, he

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The World Championship? It's a two horse race. Lewis Hamilton declares surrender. Despite missing five races and 42 points behind Fernando Alonso, he is out of the fight for the title. It is clear who the two horses are, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, as is the discomfort of Lewis Hamilton, who, after choosing to switch to Mercedes, feels marginalized by McLaren. Words in clear contrast to what McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said:

 

"We are still in the running for the final victory".

 

But now Hamilton is a separate person in the house. Ferrari, on the other hand, does not give up. A long and rather eventful technical meeting takes place in Maranello on Tuesday 9 October 2012. Luca Montezemolo is decidedly angry and pointed this out to Stefano Domenicali, who has just returned from Japan. In South Korea the car will only get four minor updates. He will run in defense, waiting for a big development scheduled for Sunday 28 October 2012, in India. In the meantime, Fernando Alonso is putting the unfortunate weekend in Suzuka behind him and is ready for the mini-World Championship in five races, which will decide the title. The Spaniard, after recharging his batteries in Japan for a few days, is already looking forward to the next race on the Yeongam circuit in South Korea.

 

"The disappointment was strong but it's now archived, it's useless to dwell on it any longer. As I said before leaving the circuit, now we're starting from scratch, given that there are just four points between me and Vettel and the others are also a bit closer. Whoever scores one more point than everyone else will win. To do this, you'll need to have a fast car, don't make mistakes and hope that any mistakes by others don't cost you dearly, as happened to us, first at Spa and then at Suzuka. Without these episodes the situation would be very different".

 

The last few races have highlighted a more competitive Red Bull Racing than Ferrari.

 

"Certainly there were some teams that made an important step forward in the latter part of the season, while we didn't do the same, especially as regards the behavior of the car on certain types of tracks. It's equally true that in Monza, for example, we had a car capable of taking pole position but then in Singapore we got lost a bit and, in some way, we also suffered from it in Suzuka, where in any case Felipe proved to be quite competitive in the race: if he wasn't as fast as the Red Bull, he was certainly faster than all of them the others".

 

After referring to Massa's excellent performance in Japan, second behind Vettel, the Spaniard broadens the scope of his analysis.

 

"After all, these ups and downs seem to characterize this championship: in Japan, McLaren seemed less strong than it did in the previous race, while Red Bull came out in an important way, something that also happened to Sauber for example. There is a lot of talk about our team because everyone's eyes are always focused on the 'red': here, for example, if we try a wing once and we don't use it, it becomes a coincidence, but these are things that happen regularly in all teams. Now all we have to do is get back on the road in the right direction and I'm sure we will".

 

Fernando Alonso then reaffirmed his trust in the team.

 

"I'm sure we'll be able to play our cards to the fullest. The people who are working on the car are the same people who have been doing it up until now and there's no reason they can't do well even now". 

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And adds:

 

"Let's not forget that if they're still leading the World Championship it's because we've been able to improve the car in an important way compared to the beginning of the championship and because we've always been able to make the most of what we had available. No one has ever given us anything, on the contrary Spa and Suzuka have deprived us of placements that were largely in within our reach. The miracle that has brought us here to this position does not have divine origins but is the result of the work of all of us, from the first to the last. Formula 1 is a team sport: we all win and lose together".

 

And adds the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, in view of the last five races of the Formula 1 World Championship

 

"I spoke for a long time with Alonso who seemed very excited to me, we are playing it to the end and I have great faith in the riders. If Alonso hadn't been taken out first at Spa and then Suzuka he would still have a great safety advantage today. For reasons that do not concern him or even Ferrari, today we find ourselves having five races in which we start all over again. Winning depends on us, there is a great commitment, there is great will and determination".

 

Rabies disposed of, Alonso returns to the trenches. Having recharged his physical energy in Japan, the Spaniard is ready to fight on the Yeongam track, a circuit that Ferrari greatly fears due to its abundant slow corners in the last two sectors, points where a lot of traction is needed and where the Maranello car has lacked so far, but which gave Fernando Alonso a splendid success in the rain two years ago. Once again the South Korean Grand Prix risks weighing heavily and Fernando Alonso is aware of this.

 

"We are still in the lead and we have the opportunity to play our chances to the end. True, a 4-point lead is a trifle. In practice, Vettel and I find ourselves having to start from scratch, but in this mini world championship made up of five races, no one can afford to make mistakes".

 

A great weight, in the opinion of Fernando Alonso, may have luck.

 

"Up until now, she hasn't been our friend, we've earned everything on the field, only to pay dearly in Belgium and at Suzuka for the mistakes of others. Considering our starting point, it was a miracle to find ourselves three quarters of the championship in the running for the final victory, but the credit goes entirely to the team who were able to improve the car a lot. Now we have no intention of giving up".

 

Alonso corrects his statements regarding Ferrari's technical delay:

 

"Our strength was to make the most of what we had available. Red Bull has grown more than us lately, but a month ago at Monza we had a pole car. We have to believe it, anything is still possible".

 

A trust arrived by telephone also in Italy. On Thursday 11 October 2012, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, assured:

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"This morning I spoke for a long time with Alonso and he seems very excited to me".

 

The race for the Formula 1 World Championship passes through South Korea, where Fernando Alonso hopes to recover some of the points lost in Japan and once again consolidate his leadership:

 

"It was an almost perfect championship for us. Right now, we all need defining points. We've been pushing hard since the first winter test, so there's no change in approach for these last five Grands Prix: we'll continue to do what we've been doing up until now. We had a good start, well planned strategies and a good approach always aimed at maximizing the points to be scored in each race. Both at Spa and at Suzuka we had two zero-point races, but those were episodes that happened beyond our control. I will attack in all races, battling everyone, trying to maximize our points, as we always have, but without overloading. In the last four races, we lost a lot of points, with the non-finishing of the Belgian Grand Prix, which was beyond my possibilities. Then there was the problem of having to start from tenth at Monza and finally the puncture in the first corner at the Suzuka track: we can expect to have some ups and downs over the rest of the season. Hamilton too far in the standings? It's more difficult for Lewis of course, but there are still plenty of points available and plenty of time for him to react to the situation".

 

If Ferrari experiences a moment of difficulty, Sebastian Vettel hopes that his Red Bull Racing will be able to continue the positive trend and fill the four-point gap that separates the German from Fernando Alonso:

 

"I come from two successes, morale is very high and here we are looking for another positive result. This circuit should suit our characteristics, we have always been competitive here. So let's try again. The season so far has been unpredictable and we don't know what will happen here. We just have to give our best. We have seen that many single-seaters can surprise. In Barcelona, for example, Williams was very competitive: Maldonado drove a fantastic race and won. Rosberg did the same with Mercedes in China: we they are more than two single-seaters able to triumph".

 

The German driver continues:

 

"The same goes for the World Cup: there have been many changes. We had good and bad days: in the last two races we went very fast, but before the last one-two we hadn't managed to reach the finish line in Monza. Things can change quickly, we have to stay focused. I don't actually know if the situation improves for us in the second half of the season. We've been pushing like crazy since the beginning, the goal is always to get the most out of it. Repeat the comeback of 2010? He seems to have great vacations in the summer, I should probably do the same during the winter".

 

Despite being 42 points behind Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton also retains a glimmer of hope:

 

"There are still 125 points to take: we will continue to attack trying to collect as many as possible. Against a Red Bull that was practically unassailable on all tracks in recent years, this year we have a car capable of competing, we have improved a lot. We are still in the race for the title, with a car that gives us enough confidence to make us attack up to the maximum".

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For sure, the upcoming South Korean Grand Prix represents a great opportunity for Felipe Massa. If he were to get back on the podium in Japan, the confirmation will be certain. On the other hand, woe if Romain Grosjean were to crumple again at the start.

 

"I will try to avoid accidents".

 

And even worse if it hits Mark Webber, who wanted to beat him up in Japan and accepts his apologies with little conviction on Thursday. Finally, Sauber has a new manager: her name is Monisha Kaltenborn, 41 years old, she is the first woman to hold such a high role in F1. Friday 12 October 2012 Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time, ahead of Fernando Alonso, who led for most of the session, and Mark Webber. The Dutchman Giedo van der Garde leads the Caterham again, in this case that of Petrov, in the first free practice session, as he did in Suzuka. Dani Clos instead takes the place of Narain Karthikeyan at HRT, always in the first practice sessions on Friday. Finally, Jules Bianchi and Valtteri Bottas replace Nico Hülkenberg and Bruno Senna, respectively on Force India and on Williams. At the end of the second practice session, Sebastian Vettel preceded Mark Webber by 0.032 seconds, followed by Fernando Alonso. The only major incident was an engine problem in Sergio Pérez's Sauber. At the end of free practice, the engine on Charles Pic's Marussia was replaced: for this reason, having already used the maximum number of engines foreseen for the season, the French driver will lose ten positions on the starting grid. Michael Schumacher suffers a reprimand from the marshals for having obstructed the HRTs on two occasions during practice. Sebastian Vettel flies in the free practice of the South Korean Grand Prix, the sixteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship scheduled at the Yeongam circuit. Fifth in the morning session which saw Lewis Hamilton set the best time, the German of Red Bull Racing significantly lowers his time, and going from 1'40"088 to 1'38"832 he is the fastest of the day. His team mate Mark Webber kept his pace, second in 1'38"864, while Fernando Alonso, who finished behind Hamilton in the first session (1'39"450), despite improving (1'39"160) remains 0.328 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel with the third fastest time overall. In the second session, behind the Spaniard, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, with Felipe Massa sixth at almost 0.6 seconds (1'39" 422, in any case better than the 1'39"854 in the morning which had earned him fourth place behind Webber). Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, was unable to repeat himself and lapped in 1'39"717, almost 0.6 seconds slower than in the first session. Fernando Alonso is cautious, while Felipe Massa expresses cautious optimism. These are the sensations in Ferrari after the first two free practice sessions of the South Korean Grand Prix. The Spaniard, called upon to defend a four-point lead over Sebastian Vettel, set the third fastest time overall.

 

"It's difficult to say where we are compared to the others, because today we mainly looked after ourselves, working this morning on comparing different ideas on the configuration of the car and, in the afternoon, on the tyres. We will have to wait until tomorrow to get a more precise picture of the situation. The track has improved a lot from one session to the next: it's a particularly accentuated phenomenon here because there are practically no competitions on this track and, this morning, the asphalt was particularly dirty. Let's hope that tomorrow the situation will be better because it's always more fun to drive when the asphalt offers a minimum of grip. The most demanding part of this track is certainly the third sector, the shortest in terms of travel time, where there are practically only curves. The set-up choices are mainly dictated by the performance of the car in the third sector, while the other two are certainly easier to deal with".

 

The Brazilian appears more satisfied.

 

"I would say that this weekend has started in a positive way but the important thing is to continue on this path tomorrow and Sunday too, when it really counts. Our car seems to be quite good on this track, which gives us hope, even if we will only find out the truth tomorrow, in qualifying. From what we could see in the second session this afternoon, the difference between the Softs and the Supersofts is certainly not that high. We had a good time with both, both with little and a lot of petrol on board. Now let's try to prepare ourselves as best as possible for qualifying which promises to be very closely contested: there are some very strong opponents and we will have to do everything perfectly if we want to hope to be up to them".

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Adds Pat Fry:

 

"All in all it was a positive day, as always on Friday we had a lot of work to do and we managed to do practically everything we wanted. This morning the goal was to evaluate some of the new features on the car and various aerodynamic configurations, in particular as regards the rear wing, in order to choose the best one for a track like this. In the afternoon, we concentrated on comparing the two types of tyres, Soft and Supersoft, which Pirelli has made available to the teams in this Grand Prix, both over short and long distances. From what we saw this afternoon, the difference in performance doesn't seem that great, but it's true that the evolution of the track should, in theory, accentuate it in the next few days. I would say that we have a fairly clear idea regarding the fundamental technical choices for this Grand Prix: now we have to try to optimize the package available to achieve the best possible result".

 

The Red Bull Racings are flying, and even if it's just free practice, there's reason to be optimistic about qualifying. Admits Sebastian Vettel:

 

"We ran a good program today and I think both Webber and I made the best of it. We'll see where we can improve between now and tomorrow, this circuit reminds me of Budapest and we'll need some downforce. However, we've gathered some good information so far and the guys will use it to work on the car overnight".

 

Lewis Hamilton, who will win the world title?

 

"I'm out".

 

So?

 

"I would like Alonso, if he deserves it. He is the most sensitive, cleanest rider, the one who makes the least mistakes. Vettel has always had a great car, he has grown a lot, but he has to share his triumphs with Red Bull. Fernando also needs Ferrari, but he has contributed a lot to making it grow, making it competitive and reliable".

 

Speaking of Ferrari: McLaren's sports son, weaned and raised in this team, at the end of the season you decided to change. Why didn't you think about Ferrari?

 

"To say that I haven't thought about it is wrong, even if in reality my thoughts are still almost all for my current team. Ferrari is the dream of many, it's a very nice car, I'm referring to the road one, it's a fascinating team. I know that they have spoken to many managers, including mine, but there has never been a real approach and even that slightest contact has not been followed up".

 

So she chose Mercedes. Don't you think you made a mistake?

 

"Only those who know me can understand. Do you know why I race in Formula 1? Not because I love speed, but challenges. And when I fight in the middle of the group on the track, the adrenaline is skyrocketing. Staying with McLaren was the easiest thing, because I have a car that could win the title in 2013 and maybe Button will do it. Becoming world champion for the second time with McLaren would have been nice, but doing it with Mercedes is even better. And then Ferrari would have been a real move, with Mercedes the rest in the family. When I started, McLaren and Mercedes were the same thing".

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Maybe, but at the moment certain dreams with his new team don't seem possible.

 

"Of course, the best are others, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, but in 2014 many rules will change again and if I learn well next year...".

 

He will have Nico Rosberg as a teammate.

 

"We've known each other for a lifetime, the first challenges in Italy, in Parma, in Vairano, on karts in Lonato, near Brescia. We are great friends, even if there is a beating on the track".

 

As a better partner Fernando Alonso or Jenson Button?

 

"I have excellent relationships with both of them. From Alonso I learned a lot. I was a novice, so maybe some disagreements arose from that too, I was trying to steal all his secrets. At his debut in McLaren it's not bad to have a master like him. We respect each other with Button and in recent years there has never been a lack of harmony".

 

Will Sergio Perez succeed in replacing her?

 

"I did well right away in my first year, he comes with more experience than me. On paper, it's easier for him, but be careful: racing in a small team is not the same thing. They will immediately ask a lot from him, he will have to learn to handle the enormous pressure".

 

He makes it clear that he is supporting Alonso for the World Cup. But who is really stronger, him or Vettel?

 

"Fernando. With the right car, he is unrivaled".

 

On Saturday 3 October 2012, during the third and final practice session, Sebastian Vettel again set the best time, ahead of the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. The other Red Bull Racing, that of Mark Webber, is penalized by some electrical problems. A few hours later, in the first phase of Q1, Narain Karthikeyan spun, which forced him to abandon qualifying without setting a valid time. The fight to avoid exclusion is intense: Bruno Senna is eliminated, who also tries, unsuccessfully, to use the Supersoft tyres. Together with the Brazilian and the Indian, the two Caterhams driven by Vitalij Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen, the two Marussias of Charles Pic and Timo Glock, and the other HRT driver, Pedro de la Rosa, were eliminated. In the second stage, a technical problem on Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso forced the Australian driver to leave his single-seater along the track in the final stages of the session. This leads to the display of the yellow flags in the last stretch of the track and this penalizes many drivers who make their last attempt to enter the top ten. Jenson Button was thus eliminated, together with the two Saubers of Sergio Perez and KAmui Kobayashi, the two Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado and Paul di Resta. In Q3 Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in his first attempt, followed by Fernando Alonso. In the last attempt, however, Mark Webber managed to lower the limit imposed by his teammate and conquered his eleventh career pole position, the number 200 for a Renault-powered car. At the end of the session, the gearbox was replaced on Daniel Ricciardo's car. For this reason, the Australian loses five places on the grid. Mercedes is fined 10.000 euros for having sent Michael Schumacher back on track during qualifying, in a manner judged dangerous, when Lewis Hamilton arrives. 

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Mark Webber will have teammate Sebastian Vettel alongside him. The German precedes Lewis Hamilton's McLaren and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. The Spanish driver says, at the end of the tests:

 

"Red Bull have a faster car but we have a better team. We have taken a step forward compared to the previous Grand Prix, both in terms of grid positions and gap from the leaders. It can be seen that our car adapts better to this track, given that it is basically the same one that raced in Japan a week ago".

 

The goal, between now and the end of the year, is very simple:

 

"Arrive in front of Vettel. From now on, he won't count much on how many points he scores, he will count on scoring one more than my direct opponent".

 

Fernando Alonso could be helped by Felipe Massa, sixth on the starting grid, preceded by the Lotus of the Finn Kimi Raikkonen. The Brazilian Ferrari driver says:

 

"It was a pretty good qualifying even if not perfect. I made a few small mistakes which maybe cost me one or two positions but, all in all, sixth place is certainly not a disaster".

 

Romain Grosjean's Lotus and Nico Hulkenberg's Force India follow on the fourth row. The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher close the top ten. At the end of qualifying, the Red Bull Racing engineers, informing Sebastian Vettel of the loss of pole position, had said:

 

"Sebastian, you weren't fast enough, Webber is ahead of you".

 

Sebastiano Vettel's angry reply was this:

 

"Why didn't you warn me that Massa was on the track?"

 

And the answer was even more laconic:

 

"What did we have to tell you? You know that everyone is looking for the best lap in extremis, you had to expect it".

 

In short, signs of tension are emerging within the Red Bull Racing team. A question and answer that animates the strange eve of the South Korean Grand Prix of Sebastian Vettel, decidedly nervous, despite the fact that he will start in front of Fernando Alonso. Red Bull Racing confirmed its competitiveness in qualifying. Only a few hours later, however, Sebastian Vettel specifies:

 

"I'm not on pole because of me".

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A state of mind that contrasts with the serenity of Fernando Alonso:

 

"It's been like this for years, we arrive hanged on the last lap, with no more soft tires and no possibility of making mistakes. Luckily then there's the race, where we always improve, and the team's work. Vettel has the fastest car, but we have the best team".

 

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner responds:

 

"Think of the last two Constructors' World Championships".

 

Meanwhile, from Germany, Mercedes announces that in the event of Bernie Ecclestone's conviction in the trial involving him on TV rights, they will ask for his removal from Formula 1. On Sunday 14 October 2012, at the start of the Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel immediately overtook his teammate, Mark Webber, and moved into first position followed by the Australian and Fernando Alonso, who managed to overtake Lewis Hamilton. Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen are positioned behind them, while Jenson Button's McLaren is rammed by Kamui Kobayashi, who will later be penalized with a drive through penalty, forcing both the British driver and Nico Rosberg to retire. In the first laps Sebastian Vettel manages to make a series of fast laps that lead him to have more than 3 seconds ahead of Mark Webber, an advantage that he maintains at the time of the first pit stops to change tyres. After the first series of stops, the positions did not change, but Lewis Hamilton's car encountered a mechanical problem which caused the British driver's car to lose downforce, first being overtaken by Felipe Massa on lap 21 and then, subsequently, also by Kimi Räikkönen, who nevertheless managed to overtake. Lewis Hamilton stops on lap 26 to make his second stop, and will then be forced to make a third on lap 43, sinking down the standings. After the pit stops Sebastian Vettel managed to increase his lead over Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, with the latter unable to get close to the two Red Bull Racing drivers, and with Felipe Massa remaining a few seconds behind his teammate. The flanking positions saw various duels, with Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean battling for sixth position, while the two Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers, Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, who started sixteenth and twenty-first respectively, managed to finish in eighth and ninth position ahead of Lewis Hamilton who, having trouble with the car, ended up with a piece of synthetic grass caught in his car a few laps from the end. 

 

At the finish line Sebastian Vettel took the lead and won the Indian Grand Prix, followed by Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa is fourth, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Jean-Éric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton. Farewell to the top of the World Championship standings for Fernando Alonso: on the Yeongam circuit in South Korea, Sebastian Vettel humiliated his rivals, going on to win undisturbed, thus relegating Mark Webber to second place and the Spaniard to third place. In terms of standings this means that now Sebastian Vettel is on 215 points, and Fernando Alonso on 209 points. Is everything to be redone for Ferrari? More or less, even if the excellent performance of Felipe Massa (fourth but above all with excellent times in every phase of the race) bodes well for the last few Grands Prix. Not only that: thanks to the Brazilian's contribution, Ferrari has now overtaken McLaren in the Constructors' World Championship standings: the Maranello team is in second position, behind Red Bull Racing. But what scares us now is the progression of Red Bull Racing: Sebastian Vettel has recovered 48 points from Fernando Alonso in the last five races. Not only that: the German dominated the last three races, demonstrating an undeniable technical superiority of Red Bull Racing. How can you stand in front of someone like this who drives such a fast car? Mystery. A mystery that only the technicians of the Maranello team will be able to understand, because without their intervention the World Championship is certainly lost. This is the meaning of the South Korean Grand Prix, a race that marks the turning point in the race for the World Championship, much more than one might imagine. 

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A World Championship which, at this point, can only become a solitary ride by Sebastian Vettel towards the top of the world or, alternatively, one of the best seasons ever with Fernando Alonso and the Ferrari technicians' frantic chase towards the title. We will see. Otherwise, Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus finished fifth, followed by Nico Hulkenberg's Force India and Romain Grosjean's other Lotus. New World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium at the South Korean Grand Prix by spraying champagne all over the place and thanking his team.

 

"I'm really very happy, I had a fantastic race, I started well despite being on the dirt, then I tried to push and made two great pit stops. The only mistake I made was flattening the tires at turn three, it was my fault". 

 

And adds:

 

"But I'm happy and I thank all the guys in the pits who worked hard in the pits every night, let's hope we can continue like this in the other races too. It will be tough to stay in front, we look forward to the next races, many things can happen, we have to give our best and we'll see at the end of the year without making calculations".

 

You can sense a touch of disappointment from Mark Webber, who admits he made a start to forget:

 

"The start wasn't sensational, after which I could have hoped to recover but I didn't make it. So I tried to keep up. I'm a little disappointed on one side but happy for the team".

 

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso frowns on the podium at the South Korean Grand Prix, which despite his third-place finish saw him lose the World Championship lead to Sebastian Vettel.

 

"I'm happy with the car's performance, a good result for me and Felipe (Massa, ed), now we need one last step to be as competitive as Red Bull. A good team result given that we overtook McLaren in second place in the Constructors' World Championship".

 

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali comments:

 

"Losing the leadership in the World Championship isn't fundamental. I was pleased to see our two cars get back on track. Now we have to keep believing in it all the way. The pressure is on them. Now the pressure is on them. It was important to bring home significant points and today we did our best".

 

Finally a joke about the future:

 

"Technical news in India? We'll see".

 

Nico Rosberg, forced to retire after the initial accident, raises a cry of alarm:

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"Many riders are taking a lot of risks in this period, and it's exaggerated. I haven't seen the pictures yet. Too bad, we were going better this weekend, I was hoping to finish seventh".

 

As mentioned, Fernando Alonso on the podium struggled to hold back the disappointment. It's easy to say six points are nothing, we won't give up, we will continue to fight, we are still in the running. But now the dreaded overtaking has arrived, now he's the one chasing. He had taken the lead in the World Championship on Sunday 24 June, in Valencia, he had led the standings for almost four months, seven races, suddenly he found himself with an enormous advantage and now not only does he have to start from zero, but with four Grands Prix to go he is actually the one who has to chase. The German has won the last three races, and dominated in Korea. Fernando Alonso responded with two third places, 45 points down, and so the 39-point lead he had after the Italian Grand Prix went up in smoke. Fernando Alonso looks grim, angry or sad, depending on how he wants to see it. The Spaniard swears he is satisfied with his performance and that of Ferrari.

 

"We couldn't do more, Red Bull was unreachable, but we proved to be the second force in the championship, much better than McLaren, with my third place and Massa's fourth".

 

He assures that he is happy, but he makes it clear that he expects something different. Once again comes the phrase that will also be the daughter of frustration, as Stefano Domenicali describes it, but which Fernando Alonso never spares:

 

"I've been racing with the same car for six or seven races, we have the same things, I try to defend myself, but it's not easy, especially when you're not competitive in qualifying and you're always forced to start from behind".

 

There is the sentence and also the inevitable appendix:

 

"Now for India I expect news. There is an important development planned, we will test it on Friday and hopefully it will bear fruit on Saturday and Sunday. I am convinced that we can play it to the end. But we need a leap in quality to respond to a team that had monopolized the front row in Suzuka, which behaved in the same way in South Korea and took home a double in the race".

 

India, the appointment circled in red by Ferrari. It would be unfair to speak of a last chance, because the points available remain so many and Sebastian Vettel's advantage at the moment is really small, but there is no doubt that the Maranello team is betting a lot on this Grand Prix and on the growth in performance it should highlight. Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, preaches calm and continues to insist that the team must work lucidly:

 

"Without the risk of making a mistake in any development plan, not even in the slightest detail".

 

In such a tight sprint, speed and chronometer count, but so does reliability.

 

"Because a withdrawal could have devastating consequences".

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In the meantime, the imminent announcement of Felipe Massa's contract renewal could help for the serenity of the team. Officially Ferrari does not confirm anything, but Stefano Domenicali is sufficiently sincere and eloquent with a brilliant trick:

 

"Do you want to know something about it? I quote my favorite singer, Laura Pausini: listen, there's a message for you".

 

It will arrive shortly and Felipe Massa has his ears pricked up. After all, the Brazilian was publicly praised by the team, he could have overtaken Fernando Alonso, finishing on the podium and instead he followed meekly behind. He just pointed out, proudly:

 

"With the pace I had here, maybe I could have overtaken Webber as well".

 

However, the feeling remains that he feels like a rediscovered rider. The evil ones insinuate: I believe it well, he was afraid of staying on his feet and started to push. Massa smiles in the face of wickedness and replies with a psychological explanation:

 

"I had a lot more pressure before than now. At one point, at the end of August, I said to myself: why haven't they told me anything yet? But is Ferrari really waiting so long to give Alonso a partner? So I thought, okay, if it's not me, I can't help it. I just have to clear my head, try to drive well and go back to having fun. Maybe this reasoning helped me: because I'm finally getting the results I was looking for".

 

And in the help, probably, there will also be a 2013 dressed in red. But now the real help is another, he must support Fernando Alonso to make him close the season on top of the world. The Spaniard, having recovered from his disappointment, is ready to put his head back on the handlebars. He says that overtaking Sebastian Vettel can't be a humiliation:

 

"Because in a way I expected it".

 

He was prepared for the worst, but now he wants the best. Recognizing that Red Bull Racing was stronger than Ferrari in the race too, and not just in qualifying.

 

"However, in the most difficult moments we always know how to get the most out of it".

 

And the hope of Ferrari fans is that he is right. Recalling what happened in 2000, Michael Schumacher's first title. Overtaken with four races to go by Mika Hakkinen at Spa, six points down. And then? Four triumphs and the bells of Maranello to celebrate. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, strokes the car. He kisses her. It is the tool of glory and worships it as a girlfriend. The German is in love with his Red Bull, a car that allowed him to win the third consecutive race, the fourth of the season, to overtake Juan Manuel Fangio and reach other legends such as Niki Lauda and Jim Clark with 25 career successes. And probably in love, in a professional sense, also with the designer of the machine, that Adrian Newey who continues to build missiles and often makes the German an invincible pilot. Sebastian Vettel on the podium cuddles him, and with the strength of his twenty-five years he would like to play a good joke on him, water his eyes with champagne, maybe make him cry with pain mixed with joy. However, the engineer is smarter than him, otherwise he wouldn't create certain cars, and he cheats on him: he has a diving mask, Vettel can tilt the bottle as much as he wants, it will be a useless effort. Scenes of jubilation, for a Sunday to be framed. Sunday after months of chasing overtaking Fernando Alonso. What's the first thing that comes to mind?

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"My mechanics, this victory is dedicated to them. First Japan, then South Korea, they got very little sleep, worked almost every night. And now it's not like they'll be able to rest much, there's India to think about".

 

The guys in the pits will thank you, but the bosses will pull your ears. In the end they told her to slow down and she didn't.

 

"I was managing. Everything was perfect, I don't see what I should have worried about".

 

In truth, judging the times, Sebastian Vettel had a high pace. The engineers of the Anglo-Austrian team have gone so far as to say: be reasonable, slow down.

 

"Mine is a dream car, perfectly balanced. The secret of my times in the last kilometers is very simple: my tank is empty, I'm lighter, and being much faster is inevitable".

 

Is there something in this race that put you to the test?

 

"Many moments, but first of all the departure. Mine was great, but I knew it was crucial to pass Webber right away. I pulled alongside him and when I was in seventh gear I heard him breathing beside him. Luckily the straight stretch here is very long. And luck that I managed to come out strong from the third corner, finding myself in the lead with the help of Kers. In doing so, everything went downhill".

 

And you are back with your hands on the World Championship.

 

"Calm. We are having a fantastic time right now, which we hope will continue for a long time. The car is fine, it was fast in Japan, it was fast in South Korea. But I don't underestimate Alonso: in Suzuka Ferrari seemed to have problems, but here it was much closer. Too many times this year the tables have turned. Six points ahead are too few to sing victory".

 

Don't you think you gave Alonso a good psychological blow?

 

"I don't know and I don't care. I'm used to looking only in my house. This is a very difficult championship and to win it you have to be perfect, taking care of every detail. I don't care about psychology, I think about doing my best job every weekend. And I think the team thinks the same, as they know how to work very well around the car".

 

So good as to invent the double Drs, and then not to use it...

 

"I didn't use it in Suzuka and not even in South Korea, there was no need. We need it to go faster, it's an extra weapon. Sometimes, however, it also counts to think from your gut: you get a set-up right and this gives you much more than a thousand new parts".

 

Did she do it here?

fotor_2023-7-21_15_11_13-fotor-20230721151131.jpeg

"I think we saw…".

 

From Italy, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, spurs the boys on him. And among the words expressed there is also good news, such as the possibility of having Felipe Massa back for next year and the closure on the arrival of Sebastian Vettel.

 

"There's no doubt that in the middle of the season it was unthinkable to reconfirm Massa. But now he's giving us what we're waiting for. We'll talk on Tuesday and then we'll make a decision. Massa did very well at Monza in Japan. He's a newfound Massa. I asked him to come to Maranello tomorrow and we'll talk for a long time. I think he's always given a lot to Ferrari and that he has a good understanding with Alonso. I'm counting on him to take points away from his rivals".

 

Not only that: the president of Ferrari assures that there has always been a perfect relationship with the Brazilian driver.

 

"I've talked to him forty times this year. It's true that the car at the start of the season had such characteristics that he couldn't drive it but I always told him that we needed his reaction and from Spa onwards he started to go better, he knew he had all the possible support from the team".

 

But the driver issue didn't end there:

 

"Alonso with Vettel together with Ferrari in 2014? Today we all have problems, having seen Massa in the race, other than talking about drivers. 2014 is yet to come but I don't want to have two roosters in the chicken coop, I want two drivers who race for Ferrari and not for themselves, I don't want problems and rivalries that we haven't had between Schumacher and Irvine, Schumi and Barrichello, and between Alonso and Massa or Massa and Schumi. Two roosters in the coop don't I like them and they create imbalance and tension and harmony in a team is the most important thing, even more so in difficult moments when you have to do everything to recover".

 

And so, on Tuesday 16 October 2012, the announcement of Felipe Massa's stay at Ferrari was made. The announcement is made by Ferrari with a note.

 

"I am delighted with this agreement. Ferrari is my sports family and I have always raced in Formula 1 driving engines built in Maranello: I can't see myself behind the wheel of a single-seater powered by other engines!".

 

These are Felipe Massa's first words after the renewal. The Brazilian driver, fresh from fourth place in South Korea, meets the president Luca di Montezemolo on Tuesday morning.

 

"First of all, I want to thank President Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, who have trusted me and have always supported me, even in the most difficult moments. Both of them, the team and all the fans can be sure that I will do everything in my power to help the Scuderia reach the goals it sets itself every year".

 

Fernando Alonso is also satisfied with Felipe Massa's confirmation:

 

"I'm delighted to continue for another year with Felipe Massa as my teammate. I'm sure we're the best team. After eight different teammates, Felipe's confirmation is another demonstration of what I'm saying: don't believe everything you read, unless it's official".

 

Him words of satisfaction also from Stefano Domenicali.

 

"We are pleased to have extended the relationship with Felipe for another year. He has been part of our family for over a decade and has shown, especially in this last part of the season, that he is once again competitive at the top level, as we expect every driver at the wheel of a Ferrari to be. We have always supported Felipe, even in the most difficult moments of his career, and we are sure of his value and that he will be able to repay the trust that has been renewed in him".


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