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#873 2012 Japanese Grand Prix

2023-01-05 23:00

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#2012, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Siria Famulari,

#873 2012 Japanese Grand Prix

A caress for his protégé, Fernando Alonso, the strongest driver of all time. Everything still to be decided, however, for Felipe Massa, who remains on

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A caress for his protégé, Fernando Alonso, the strongest driver of all time. Everything still to be decided, however, for Felipe Massa, who remains on the grill for a few days, waiting to find out if he will be confirmed as second driver. The president of Ferrari, Thursday 27 September 2012 Luca Montezemolo, at the Paris Motor Show, analyzes the moment of Ferrari and its drivers. We will still have to wait to know the fate of the Brazilian:

 

"I took a few days to reflect on the second driver. I hope that the trend that began in Spa, including psychological as well as results, will continue and be confirmed in Japan, after the good performance in Singapore. We also need to improve our car. The real problem is having more certainty that the innovations we bring are confirmed on the track. Fernando Alonso is the strongest driver I've ever seen on the track. He impresses me for three things: for the interpretation of the race, especially for tire wear, because he is a great motivator for the team, and for his presence in Maranello".

 

A lot depends on Ferrari, like almost everything in F1. The choice that Luca Montezemolo will have to make regarding the future of Felipe Massa could lead to a series of driver exchanges. Yes, because while waiting for the World Championship to elect its king, many teams and many riders are thinking about their future. The most restless of all is Felipe Massa. The Brazilian begins to convince himself that he has earned his confirmation at the helm of Ferrari. Montezemolo's words, in effect, while leaving the matter still hanging in the balance, seem to open more than one glimmer:

 

"I hope that the progress he showed in Spa and Singapore, including psychological as well as results, will be confirmed".

 

Should this not be the case, the main favorite for his place is Sergio Perez, but Nico Hulkenberg or Paul di Resta could also arrive in Maranello, both young, fast and now mature. On all three, however, there is also McLaren, which does not want to be found unprepared for the possibility that Lewis Hamilton decides to accept the court of Mercedes. The Germans, it seems, are reaching an agreement with Michael Schumacher who could be behind a desk next year (although he would be thinking about Sauber), and would rely on Lewis Hamilton to relaunch their challenge in a big way in Formula 1. Many are interested in attending this whirlwind tour. The first is Sebastian Vettel. His future at Ferrari - alongside Fernando Alonso - is considered certain. We just need to understand what is meant by the future: excluding - or almost - 2013, we need to understand whether the German will arrive in 2014 or 2015. Much will depend on Red Bull Racing, which appears to be willing to keep its driver. Another interested viewer is Kimi Raikkonen. After his successful return to F1, the Finn still hasn't renewed his contract with Lotus and is looking around. As well as, until recently, Robert Kubica. The Pole has been approached in these hours by Pirelli, which would have offered him the possibility of returning to F1 as a test driver, a way like any other to get back on the market after last year's accident. However, on Thursday 27 September 2012, his hopes were frozen by the statements of Igor Rossello, the surgeon who performed the reconstruction surgery on Kubica's right arm:

 

"Not even a long rehabilitation will be able to fully restore the mobility of the hand (which has learned to sign autographs with the left, having problems holding the pen with the right, ed). At the moment it is difficult to say whether it will ever return to F1".

 

Who appears less interested in the driver market is Fernando Alonso. For him, whatever happens will change little, given the state of devotion in which one lives in Maranello. Given the necessary premises, the facts arrive on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix. And so, on Friday 28 September 2012, Mercedes formalizes the separation from Michael Schumacher, and focuses on Lewis Hamilton. The Briton, who signs a three-year contract, will be the first guide of the German team from 2013. 

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For the German driver, on the other hand, the definitive end of his long career seems near.

 

"The signing of the 2008 world champion marks a new chapter for Mercedes in Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton will succeed Michael Schumacher, who has contributed significantly to the development of the Silver Arrows over the past three years".

 

The Englishman will team up with Nico Rosberg: the economic details have not yet been specified. But it is probable that Lewis Hamilton has found an agreement with the German team on the basis of 19.000.000 euros per year for three seasons. Another novelty is the arrival of Austrian Niki Lauda, who will join the Mercedes team as non-executive chairman of the board of directors.

 

"The time has come for me to take on a new challenge and I am very excited to start a new chapter with Mercedes".

 

With these words, Lewis Hamilton comments on his move to the German company in a statement.

 

"Mercedes-Benz represents an incredible heritage in the world of engines - with the same passion for victory that I have. Together - continues Hamilton in the note - we will be able to grow and face this new challenge. I believe I can help bring up the silver arrows and achieve our common goal of winning the World Championship".

 

The Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, is also satisfied, declaring:

 

"On behalf of Mercedes, I would first of all like to thank Michael Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team over the past three years. As always it has been a pleasure to work with Michael. Looking ahead to 2013, I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton The arrival of a driver of Lewis' caliber is a testament to the importance of Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1 and I am proud that he can share our vision and ambition for the success of Arrows d' silver. I believe the pairing of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year, and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together".

 

For one World Champion that arrives, another says goodbye.

 

"I had a good three years with the team, but sadly it didn't go as we all would have liked on the sporting side. I wish Lewis all the best and the team achieve the success we have worked so hard for over the years. I would like to thank the team for their trust and all the guys for their unconditional commitment. Now I can concentrate on the next races".

 

Despite this, Michael Schumacher will give his all in the last rounds of the World Championship:

 

"My motivations are intact. My motivations are completely intact after last week's news, especially as Suzuka is one of the highlights for me".

 

However, the German driver will hardly be able to play a leading role in Suzuka, given that he will be relegated ten positions on the starting grid due to the accident with the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in the recent Singapore Grand Prix.

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"I like the circuit. There are sectors that put a driver's qualities to the test, it hardly happens anywhere else. Of course, it would be nice to achieve a prestigious result. My chances are greatly reduced by the penalty, but these difficulties for They've always been a challenge to me".

 

To replace Lewis Hamilton next season, McLaren hires Sergio Perez. Also in this case the news is already official.

 

"McLaren is delighted to announce that it has signed the Mexican driver to a multi-year deal, effective at the start of the 2013 season".

 

Sergio Perez will team up with Jenson Button.

 

"I am thrilled and delighted to become a driver for McLaren. It is one of the greatest teams in the history of Formula One. For more than forty years McLaren has been a single-seater that every driver aspired to drive. I grew up with the great triumphs of Ayrton Senna and I am truly honored that they have chosen me to partner with Jenson Button from 2013. I spent the 2012 season working very hard to demonstrate my potential, but I have always remained humble and focused. always, extremely grateful to Peter Sauber and all the team for giving me the opportunity to race in Formula 1".

 

And Felipe Massa, for his part, says:

 

"Do I have a good chance? In my opinion yes, I'm quite confident about this. I think the decision will be made in the short term".

 

A season with few lights and lots of shadows. Never before has Felipe Massa's future been uncertain as this year. The Brazilian, after coming close to winning the World Championship in 2008, began a slow decline accentuated by the arrival of Fernando Alonso. In view of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Brazilian tries not to think about his future.

 

"Now what matters most are the results, which means that I have to concentrate race by race. I know what I'm capable of doing and what my abilities are. The team knows it too, since I've been here for more than a year." day or a year! The best way to deal with the situation is to run without worrying about the future".

 

The Paulista driver reached the podium of the Japanese Grand Prix, precisely on the second step, the year in which, 2006, he also had the honor of taking pole position.

 

"Suzuka is a difficult and complex track, where a rider can make the difference, being aggressive in the fast corners. Being the fastest in qualifying certainly gives a good feeling. That race was good, even if I had to stop well earlier than expected due to a problem with a tire, which made me lose position to Fernando, who was then in another team. At that moment Michael (Schumacher, ed) was fighting for the title, but his engine gave out, which it cost him the championship. Despite everything, it was a good race for me: I finished second after an exciting fight with the winner".

 

Analyze Felipe Massa:

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"The presence of so many fast corners means that you have to use a lot of muscle force in those points, which means that you work more than usual on the neck muscles in order to prepare yourself to handle the high lateral accelerations, as well as doing the usual work on the heart through aerobic exercises. In general, in this last part of the year we prepare ourselves to manage a period in which we travel a lot. The Suzuka runway is not very close to intercontinental airports and it takes a bit of a road Furthermore, immediately after there is the race in Korea so it becomes important to arrive early in Japan also to adapt to the different time zone".

 

And he concludes:

 

"Our car can be competitive at Suzuka, because there are so many fast corners that suit the F2012, as we saw at Silverstone: these two tracks have several characteristics in common, in terms of downforce and set-up. In reality, I hope we will be more competitive on all the remaining tracks in the World Championship: every race is very important, for Fernando, for the team and of course for me too! We are aware that we have to work hard to do it between now and the end of the championship. The car has changed a lot after the Mugello test and then we continued to develop it. We brought new solutions to practically every race. The goal is to have at least one point more than our opponents in the last race so I hope we can improve even more in this final glimpse of the championship compared to what we have done so far".

 

Six games still to go and 29 points to defend. The fight for the world title is in full swing and for the leader of the World Championship, Fernando Alonso: every point becomes of vital importance. A crucial Grand Prix is being held in Japan for the final fight and in contention, in addition to the Spaniard, is the reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel. A little further behind are Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Jenson Button, with Kimi Raikkonen ready to take advantage of any mistake by the most famous drivers. Says Fernando Alonso, thinking about the entire season journey:

 

"If we win the title, it will be a small miracle. We've come a long way since the first six races, when we couldn't get into Q3 and were 1.5 seconds slower than the best. Now the car has improved and we go to the podium much more regularly and we are more optimistic, but we have to see what we can do between now and the end. If we win the title, it will be a miracle, but if we don't succeed we would still have done our best, because I think we have had fourteen perfect races to date. , therefore, making mistakes in the last six. We have to keep calm and bring home as many points as possible on Sunday: sometimes we will be fourth, other times second. It depends on the race, it depends on which rival is doing what, let's see if we will be aggressive or defensive In Singapore, for example, we were aggressive at the start to compensate for a bad qualifying, but in the closing stages Button and Vettel were too far ahead and there was no point in taking any risks. Every year you improve and learn from your mistakes. So far this year we have been very consistent and getting the most out of the car, so I'm very happy with that, not just personally in terms of driving, but also for the team. Because here on the track, in all areas, we have achieved the maximum. So far, the whole package, the rider, the team, the strategy, the tire management, have benefited from what we learned last season".

 

On Friday 5 October 2012, during the first free practice session, Jenson Button set the best time, ahead of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. The latter had been the fastest in the first phase of practice, before giving way to Mark Webber at the top of the timesheets. The session ended slightly early due to Nico Rosberg going off the track at turn 4, which led to the display of the red flag. Other track excursions are carried out by Michael Schumacher and Timo Glock at Degner and by Romain Grosjean at Spoon Curve. Following the water drainage problems on the track encountered in previous editions, the Suzuka track was resurfaced from the end of the initial S to the final chicane. 

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Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde, who finished sixth in GP2, takes part in the first free practice session at Caterham, as he did in the Chinese Grand Prix, in place of Heikki Kovalainen. In this session Valtteri Bottas also takes the place of Bruno Senna at Williams-Renault. Otherwise, following the disputes between China and Japan regarding the possession of the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese pilot Ma Qing Hua of the HRT has difficulties in receiving a visa to enter Japan. The second practice session was also interrupted by the display of red flags, just six minutes after its start, due to a spin by Paul di Resta at the Spoon Curve. When the session resumed, Fernando Alonso set the fastest time. But during FP2, first Jenson Button and then Sebastian Vettel managed to lower the limit imposed by the Spanish driver. In the second part of the session, the drivers tried the Soft tyres. In this stage Jenson Button sets the fastest time, then preceded by Sebastian Vettel. In the final minutes Mark Webber lowered the limit, bringing it up to 1'32"493. Kimi Räikkönen was unable to practice for most of the session due to technical problems with the Kers battery, while in the last minutes of the session Vitalij Petrov's Caterham loses the rear wing in the middle of the straight. Red Bull Racing rediscovers its competitiveness in the Land of the Rising Sun. This is at least the response of the first day of free practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, the fifteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Mark Webber was in fact the fastest at the end of the two sessions on the Suzuka track, ahead of Lewis Hamilton's McLaren by 0.214 seconds. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest, 0.8 seconds behind him, who at the end of practice said:

 

"Today was a pretty good day. The sensations in general are good and I don't think the high temperatures can be a big problem for the tyres. It's hard to say if we can be as competitive here as we were at Silverstone: three months have gone by since then and we know exactly how the opponents' cars have evolved compared to how much we have improved. We have to wait for tomorrow because usually the cards on the table are reshuffled on Saturday".

 

The announced transfer to Mercedes next season has certainly not affected the motivations of Lewis Hamilton, intent on playing all his chances of victory in this season finale, perhaps to make someone think again. However, Mark Webber is running as favorite to win the Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull Racing is very competitive, as evidenced by the third place in the timesheets achieved by the reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, who pushed his RB8 0.343 seconds behind his teammate, a time not achieved with Soft tyres. Good performances also for Nico Hulkenberg. The German, with his Force India, precedes Fernando Alonso. Both Ferrari drivers complete the extensive work program defined by the team on the eve of the tests, which began first with the study of some aerodynamic configurations, testing above all different wings, and then concluded with the usual comparison of the two compounds made available by the Pirelli (Hard and Soft) with a long run with a full load of petrol. But for the intent of the Ferrari box, the attention seems more focused on the question relating to the drivers, with the future of Felipe Massa still unknown. The team principal of the Maranello team, Stefano Domenicali, spoke on the matter:

 

"I don't think it's that relevant or interesting whether or not I know who will be next to Fernando (Alonso, ed) in 2013. Very soon we will tell you what the reality will be but, until there is any news, I will remain silent , also because I would start to be very boring in giving the same answer to the same question".

 

Returning to talk about Force India for a moment, Paul di Resta was unable to complete a fast lap because, arriving at the Spoon Curve, he touched the sand on the outside of the corner and spun, crashing into the barriers a few laps after the start of the session, causing a brief suspension of practice. The same fate also befell Michael Schumacher, who did not start well after announcing his decision to retire, three years after his return to Formula 1. The German from Mercedes will also have to pay for a ten-place drop on the grid. Signs of improvement instead come from Lotus, with the French Romain Grosjean in sixth position, while the Finnish Kimi Raikkonen closed the day with the fourteenth time due to a cooling problem in the Kers batteries. 

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With practice now over, an accident also occurred for Vitaly Petrov: the rear wing of the Caterham gave way at the end of the main straight and the Russian ended up off the track. Instead, the two McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton dominated the first free practice sessions on the Japanese track, finishing respectively in first and second position.

 

"Suzuka can be the crossroads of the World Championship".

 

Fernando Alonso says. The track, in fact, is very reminiscent of Silverstone where Ferrari proved to be highly competitive. The same thing should happen here, even if the first free practice highlighted the McLarens and Red Bull Racing, compared to Ferrari.

 

"We could have a great race".

 

Relaunches Fernando Alonso, who is aiming for the minimum result of a placement, another small step towards the world title. Even if Stefano Domenicali would like a victory:

 

"Podiums may not be enough".

 

Saturday 6 October 2012, also in the third and final free practice session, Red Bull Racing sets the best time. This time, however, it is Sebastian Vellel who precedes his team-mate, Mark Webber, and the Brazilian Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa. Nico Hülkenberg hits the barriers at the Degner corner: for this reason the German driver is forced to replace the gearbox: this replacement will result in a penalty, with a loss of five positions on the starting grid. Fearing practice, Charles Pic was recalled and fined 5,000 euros for slowing down Lewis Hamilton in the final part of the track, during FP3. A few moments later, during Q1, Michael Schumacher qualified for the second session only thanks to his last attempt. The two Caterham drivers, Heikki Kovalainen and Vitalij Petrov, the two Marussia drivers, Charles Pic and Timo Glock, and the two HRT drivers, Narain Kartikeyan and Pedro del la Rosa, together with Bruno Senna, who however complains about the fact that he was thwarted by Jean-Éric Vergne. For this reason the Frenchman is penalized with the loss of three positions on the starting grid. Pedro de la Rosa's performance was excellent, managing to precede Charles Pic's Marussia and Vitalij Petrov's Caterham. In Q2, Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Pastor Maldonado, the two Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne, and the two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were eliminated. At the start of Q3 Sebastian Vettel is immediately the fastest, so much so that no one will be able to worry him in the final phase of the third practice session. 

 

Mark Webber is second, with the other Red Bull Racing. During the final minutes, the drivers were penalized by a spin by Kimi Räikkönen at the Spoon Curve, which led to the display of the yellow flags. Lewis Hamilton was penalized above all, closing the practice with the ninth fastest time. Sebastian Vettel will start in front of everyone in the Japanese Grand Prix. After dominating the third free practice session, the German driver took the fourth pole of the season. Jenson Button sets the third fastest time, but the Briton will be demoted five places for a gearbox change. Fernando Alonso will start sixth. However, at the end of practice Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are summoned by the race stewards to clarify an episode that happened at the last minute in Q3. In addition to the German, accused of having hindered the Spanish in the final stages, Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez are also summoned, suspected of having completed the fastest lap under the yellow flag. In the end, all the drivers were acquitted, with the German confirmed in pole position, Kobayashi and Grosjean on the second row and Sauber's Casabella alongside Fernando Alonso, in fifth position. Felipe Massa fared no better: just 0.021 seconds was the difference between his best time in Q2 and that of the tenth and last qualified driver. The Brazilian will however start from the fifth row, taking advantage of the penalty inflicted on Nico Hulkenberg, also for changing the gearbox. 

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It was also a day to forget for the Mercedes: Michael Schumacher, thinking of the relegation of ten positions on the grid, played with savings, in Q2 he did no better than the thirteenth best time but held on to a set of tires for the race. Nico Rosberg does no better, who is fifteenth and will start behind the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, another disappointment of the day. Bad also for Bruno Senna, whose qualifying finishes even in Q1, due to the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne which slows him down in the chicane on his last lap: the Brazilian does not take it well, the Frenchman receives three penalty positions.

 

"It’s not bad".

 

Says smiling Sebastian Vettel, who for the fourth year in a row will start from pole position in the Japanese Grand Prix.

 

"I'm very happy with today's result. I had perfect qualifying and I couldn't ask for more from the car. Yesterday we had a great start, then the car improved with each outing and I'm very satisfied with the result. The car was fantastic , I was able to find the time day after day and it is clear that I expect a good race tomorrow".

 

 Vettel feels at home in Sukuza:

 

"A unique, special, fast circuit with great support. It's wonderful to drive here".

 

And in the meantime explains Fernando Alonso, penalized by the yellow flag for Kimi Raikkonen going off the track.

 

"We were unlucky as never before, we caught the moment when the yellow flag came, we could have set the fourth fastest time which, given Button's penalty, would have allowed us to start from third position. Very unlucky today, let's hope very lucky tomorrow. They say we're always lucky but we forget when things go wrong".

 

The only consolation is that he managed to get behind the two McLarens.

 

"They weren't super-fast but they have the race pace. It's good to have them behind but they're staying strong and we'll need to get a good start".

 

Also because the two Red Bull Racing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber seem very competitive indeed.

 

"They are very strong, they won in Singapore and this is a track that suits their characteristics. It will be a difficult Sunday in excellent points, we hope to finish the race, given that reliability has been our strong point so far, and everything It can happen. We'll need to get a good start, a good strategy, keep the tires under control and see what happens".

 

Sebastian Vettel seems to have raised his voice a bit in front of the marshals, annoyed at being placed under investigation after he had just taken a stunning pole position.

 

"Why always me?"

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He was recognized as guilty: according to the commissioners, he really hindered Fernando Alonso, but he was given a very light sentence, a simple yellow card. The second which therefore turns into a much bigger problem, because according to the new regulation, the third is penalized with the loss of three or five positions on the grid, depending on the severity of the penalty. Sebastian Vettel is said to have protested, Christian Horner certainly raised his voice, the team principal of Red Bull Racing, who believes his team is too much called into question and fears that in this final sprint the judges will replace the track and the time trial. In the end, judging by the verdict, it can be said that they won. The problem is that this decision (reference is made to paragraph 1 of article 16, which is very generic, while for Jean-Éric Vergne, who stood in the way of Bruno Senna, there was talk of paragraph 7 of article 31, which is less discretionary and which the almost automatic relegation of the driver, in this case 3 places) did not go at all well for Ferrari, which officially continues to claim that it fully respects the decisions of the FIA and its commissioners, but was hoping for a very long afternoon, full of trials and surprises. Nothing filters out from the Maranello team's pits, the anger, if there was any, didn't show itself, only an intuition, with the Spaniard forced to start from the third row. However, it is clear that together with the long sprint, a decisive war of nerves also began between Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. On yesterday's episode, the anger is almost trivial: either Sebastian Vettel hindered or not, and if he did, he couldn't be sanctioned so lightly. But it should be remembered that this season there are already three precedents, with a clear political battle. In Monte-Carlo, Red Bull Racing had come under fire for a hole in the flat bottom (immediately filled immediately afterwards), with a clear aerodynamic advantage. In Canada there was talk of manual adjustment of the height from the ground, prohibited under the closed park regime and with Red Bull which replied by saying:

 

"Ferrari does it too".

 

In Singapore, Red Bull Racing and McLaren brought a front wing that performs a sort of rotation, the FIA noted and suddenly this surprise weapon disappeared at Suzuka. Traveling within the limits of the regulation, always, and there is the risk that the sprint for the World Cemetery could be somewhat poisoned. Because Ferrari professes absolute respect for laws and sentences, and nobody doubts it. But he has no desire to be fooled.

 

Sunday 7 October 2012, at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel maintains the first position, while an accident occurs at the first corner which forces Fernando Alonso, with a flat tire from Kimi Räikkönen, and Nico Rosberg, whose car is hit from that of Bruno Senna, to the withdrawal and entry onto the track of the Safety car. Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber are forced to change the nose after both pitted. The Frenchman was also penalized with a ten-second stop and go for contact with the car of the Australian Red Bull Racing driver. After two laps behind the safety car, the race resumed with Sebastian Vettel in first position, followed by Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen, Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton. At the restart, Sergio Perez tries to overtake Kimi Räikkönen, who resists and forces the Mexican to go wide at the first corner, ending up giving the position to Lewis Hamilton. The Mexican takes back his position during the sixth lap, surprising the British at the hairpin. Between lap 14 and lap 17 the drivers make their first pit stop. At the end of this series of tire changes, Sebastian Vettel remained at the head of the group, followed by Felipe Massa, who gained two places, then Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton, who again passed Sergio Pérez. Again at the Hairpin, during lap 19 the Mexican attacks Lewis Hamilton again, but this time he goes wide, spins and is forced to retire. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel continues his race with a high pace, increasing the margin of advantage over Felipe Massa. Between lap 31 and lap 32 Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen and Kamui Kobayashi made their second stops. Back on track, Lewis Hamilton resisted Kimi Raikkonen's overtaking attempt and thus gained a position. Between lap 35 and lap 37, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel also made their second pit stops. The ranking remains unchanged. In the final laps, Jenson Button got close to Kamui Kobayashi, but was unable to pass him. 

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Sebastian Vettel wins the Japanese Grand Prix, followed by Felipe Massa, who returns to the podium for the first time since the Korean Grand Prix in 2010. Kamui Kobayashi, third, takes his first and only career podium. The Sauber driver is also the first Japanese to return since Takuma Satō in the 2004 United States Grand Prix. Jenson Button is fourth, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel reopens the challenge for the victory of the World Championship: with his victory-domination and with the zero points (as the drivers say) conquered by Fernando Alonso, now the Spaniard no longer dominates the standings. In fact, the Ferrari driver has only a four-point lead over Sebastian and - as a result - the Japanese Grand Prix was put on file, leaving a sense of disappointment inside the Maranello team garage, despite (or perhaps precisely for this reason) ) the second place of Felipe Massa. In fact, Ferrari was really competitive, and this testifies to the fact that Fernando Alonso could have achieved a good result at Suzuka. The Spaniard was entirely innocent of this disaster: he was rear-ended by Kimi Raikkonen, remedying a puncture that sent him straight into the sand at the first corner. But the other aspect not to be ignored, precisely for the purposes of the World Championship, is Sebastian Vettel's immaturity. The German rode an exceptional race (pole, lap record, in the lead from start to finish) but he also ignored the advice from the pits where they begged him several times not to overdo it. 

 

Advice in a manner of speaking, because in some moments of the race they literally begged him, in others they almost insulted him ("don't be stupid") but he did nothing. He ignored the indications. Sebastian Vettel thus came to lock the tires under braking, to pulverize all the records and give his engineers the cold chills, all with a 20 second advantage over Felipe Massa and with Fernando Alonso retiring. God only knows what was happening to Red Bull Racing in terms of temperatures and pressure hydraulics. Now in the pits of the Anglo-Austrian team we are celebrating, of course, but if Vettel's car had broken down again, perhaps Sebastian would have had to escape quickly from the circuit. But let's go back to talking about Ferrari: Felipe Massa back on the podium after two years it's an event. But will it be enough to win the place in Ferrari for next year? Mystery. One thing is certain, now the Maranello team is racing again with two drivers. And this is certainly a good thing for the 2012 season, even if the Constructors' World Championship is now lost. As we said, however, the drivers' one is now wide open: Fernando Alonso remains in the lead of the World Championship, but sees his advantage over Sebastian Vettel reduced to just four points. The Spaniard thus remains at 194 points, ahead of the World Champion, who has 190 points, Kimi Raikkonen, with 157 points, and Lewis Hamilton, with 152 points. Anything could happen. The show will certainly not fail in the next races.

 

"Baby, you're gorgeous, fifty-three perfect laps. I adore you, you're gorgeous".

 

The return of the damned Sebastian Vettel, still him, a real nightmare for Fernando Alonso, impossible not to see him again, has something childish, when, after a walking race, but in which he pulled like hell, ignoring any call for caution from part of his team, thus addresses his car. His voice over the radio, all recorded, compliments from the team, his tender and shouted reaction. Red Bull Racing gave him wings and he flew towards the finish line and let his world championship dream take off again, the mad desire to climb to the top of the world for the third time in a row. An eagerness seasoned with excellent statistics, thrilling numbers, Juan Manuel Fangio reached 24 victories, when he has just turned 25 and who knows how many seasons he still has ahead, after Saturday he had overtaken Jim Clark and Alain Prost in the pole position classification , reaching 34, and starting the mad pursuit of legends such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. He has already won the world title twice, he thinks that there is no two without three is one of the most beautiful proverbs ever invented, but all this string of wishes would not be possible if he hadn't driven a wild Red Bull for years Racing. Sometimes this year he let him down, but not at Suzuka:

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"I had a wonderful car in my hand, it got better with every lap. Perfect balance, speed, everything was there. From the pits they told me to be careful, calm down, you've won now, save the engine and tyres, but I felt too much at ease. This is why in the penultimate lap I set the fastest lap of the race. I pushed and everything came easy, with a car like this you can't resist. If I could dream of the perfect car at night, I would dream exactly of this one, my Red Bull at Suzuka".

 

An incredible enthusiasm, which also mixes with a certain candor. Like when he talks about how he learned Alonso was out.

 

"At the start I didn't notice anything, I was in front, out of trouble, everything happened behind me. I understood that Webber had been rear-ended, then I saw on the monitors that there was a Ferrari sideways. I thought, it will be Massa and I went ahead. However, passing through the control tower and seeing the standings, I realized that the Brazilian was behind me, fourth. So I said to myself: the one outside must be Alonso".

 

And a laugh follows, just to make it clear, without hypocrisy, that the news certainly didn't sadden him. If anything, absolute ruler as he was, it gave him a strange terror:

 

"At a certain point I realized that I had no more rivals, that everything had become simple and I began to be afraid of being distracted. You get lost for a moment and you're finished, Formula One doesn't forgive, trouble if you don't stay focused from the start in the end".

 

He must have done it brilliantly, because the others could only see it with a telescope. The most striking example is Felipe Massa, in his best race of the season. He pushed like crazy and at most managed to get within ten seconds of gap. Then Sebastian Vettel increased his pace and the distance became stellar again. Red Bull Racing is once again competitive, and now the German is once again the favorite to win the final. But woe to tell him, the candid expression immediately gives way to the grim and determined gaze:

 

"Too many times this year everything has changed in the space of a weekend, it's a crazy World Championship and there's never a boss. It's just me and Alonso and we're starting as equals. We will play it to the end. And it's going to be a hot battle".

 

Dissolved in a cloud of gravel. Fernando Alonso is furious, frustrated, sad, but any thought that crossed his mind would never lead him to give up. The lead in the standings disappeared in an instant, in just one straight, just long enough to get rammed by Kimi Raikkonen and goodbye left rear wheel, while Sebastian Vettel keeps away from the chaos of the start and flies undisturbed to the finish line. Previously the watchword was resistance, managing the advantage accumulated, now it's assault, because you start over, you start from scratch and there are only five races left until the epilogue. On Twitter, the Spaniard immediately finds the right tactic:

 

"If the enemy thinks of the mountain, you must attack from the sea. If he thinks of the sea, you attack from the mountain".

 

Impeccable. But is Ferrari capable of pandering to Fernando Alonso? This is where the second, decidedly sharp, key phrase enters the scene:

 

"The car has been the same for six Grands Prix. We have to grow, improve, we need a leap in quality if we want to be able to beat Red Bull".

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The same for six races, from the German Grand Prix, held on Sunday 22 July 2012. A date that coincides with his last triumph. But the Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali, is quick to deny it.

 

"These are words dictated by despondency, Alonso's frustration must be understood, he could easily have finished second and instead was thrown out at the first corner, with a flat tire he was forced to raise the white flag. The car is absolutely not the same, we are developing it, as performance has increased in tone, only that the others are also working and they have improved more than us. Catastrophism does not pay and is useless, a harmful and often very Italian way of acting. It makes no sense to panic, let's try to stay calm and react immediately, trying to look at the positive sides of this race as well".

 

Nico Rosberg has no doubts about the culprit of the initial carom that forced him to retire together with Fernando Alonso.

 

"Unfortunately it was again Grosjean who touched Webber who ended up in the middle of the track, we all slowed down, but they didn't have time to avoid the impact behind".

 

Kimi Raikkonen finished the Japanese Grand Prix in sixth place. The Lotus driver hit Fernando Alonso's car in the first corner, but he is not to blame.

 

"My start was difficult. I stayed on the left, others followed, I made contact with Fernando but I couldn't go further to the left, I touched the front wing and he punctured. Fighting with Hamilton? I just didn't have sufficient speed, I lost time at the pit stop, I lost some points, however I'm in a good position in the world championship".

 

During the week, Lewis Hamilton announced his divorce from McLaren, to join Mercedes, and the season finale seems more difficult for him. Hopes of winning the World Championship seem to be significantly diminishing. But the duel that saw him as protagonist with Kimi Raikkonen after a pit stop was still good:

 

"We had a small battle. There's a long history between me and Raikkonen, however he was corrected, he's a fantastic driver and I'm happy with the duel with him. As for the race, we didn't have any problems, the car was improving "Although some things happened that I can't explain. Worried about Red Bull being strong? I think everyone must be, they've always been very fast, I think Fernando is more worried than me".

 

For Ferrari, however, the joy deriving from the second place conquered by Felipe Massa remains, a podium found after two years. The Brazilian was the author of a good start, a decent pace, and a result that will probably allow him to snatch another year from his contract. Felipe Massa is sure of it,

 

"I think this performance will solve my problems for the future".

 

Domenicali does not deny it:

 

"Results like this are important and they help".

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However, it is difficult to show the positive side to the Spanish. He too congratulates Felipe Massa:

 

"He played a great race".

 

But he still remains angry about him. This is also demonstrated by his behavior after the race, when he quickly tells the media:

 

"I was rammed, Raikkonen took me right in, now a mini sprint begins, nothing is lost, but we will have to be better than Vettel and score more points than him".

 

And then he runs off the circuit. After all, he would have little to say, except that Ferrari must become faster, especially in qualifying:

 

"Since in the race we always got away with it".

 

The same concepts that Stefano Domenicali has been repeating for some time. In Korea we will still race in defense, in India a development is foreseen that should allow a qualitative leap in performance.

 

"We hope so".

 

The team principal just says. In the beginning he had spoken of two victories:

 

"Then, before Suzuka, given the retirements of Hamilton and Vettel, I had hoped one would be enough. I changed my mind again, one success is not enough, two are necessary".

 

Yes, now Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are almost on par. Meanwhile, from Italy, Luca Montezemolo declared to the media, at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix:

 

"The final victory still depends on us, only bad luck held us back, preventing Alonso from making a vacuum. Calculations are soon made: between Belgium and Japan he lost at least thirty points, he could have been largely in the lead. However he remains the strongest driver. The important thing is to have strong nerves. It is in these moments that I want to see the Ferrari I know, a team focused and always ready to give their best. I expect an extraordinary job from our technicians, as they have shown many times that they can do in the past".

 

The president's words are therefore addressed to the technicians, even if he then explains:

 

"I'll be speaking to Fernando on the phone soon to give him further motivation to face these last five races with a knife between his teeth, as the rest of the team must do. Yesterday Felipe's second place was very important, and his contribution becomes even more fundamental in this final part of the season. I expect an extraordinary job from our technicians, who have shown that they are capable of it: we are perfectly aware that this World Cup still depends on us".

 

How will it end? We will see. Certainly Sebastian Vettel has given Ferrari a gift by showing how far Red Bull Racing's potential goes. And it is also for this reason that the engineers told him to stay calm. Now, however, in Maranello they have understood. 

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They understood that a half-miracle will be needed to stay ahead of Vettel. Will they make it? We will see. Certainly, on Monday 8 October 2012, Fernando Alonso still hasn't got over his anger and disappointment at being rammed at the start by Kimi Raikkonen, but in his messages to the fans he flaunts great calm. Movements and state of mind have no more secrets, he takes care of it, via Twitter, to keep everyone updated. Fernando Alonso is serene in Tokyo, where he took refuge on Sunday evening, fleeing Suzuka and the bad luck this place brought him, intent on discovering interesting places, before submitting to the usual physical hammering in the gym.

 

"Everything is ok, let's not give up".

 

It is his watchword, positive thoughts even if the great advantage over Sebasrian Vettel has disappeared and now almost everyone points to the German as the great favorite in this five-race sprint. The Spaniard knows that everything has become tremendously difficult, but he has no intention of giving up. Precisely the words that he wanted to hear Luca Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari. The problem is that any effort will be impossible before the Korean Grand Prix. The space between the two races is too short, on Sunday 14 October 2012 the same car seen in Japan will be on track, more than discreet with Felipe Massa, superior to Lotus and McLaren, but unable to keep up with the pace of the Red Bull Racing . The Anglo-Austrian team preferred to keep a low profile, and in Suzuka they enjoy spreading alarmism, such as the team principal, Christian Horner, who talks about a Ferrari with great ideas in store to put on its car. In fact, further development is planned, the hope for the Maranello team is that it can take a big step forward, but all of this cannot happen before the Indian Grand Prix. Until then it will be necessary to run in defense. Given that even the adversaries clearly say:

 

"The next runs will be in our favor".

 

The hope is that once again it will be Formula 1 that amazes, with predictions that have never been met. Maybe Red Bull Racing in Korea doesn't suit the tires well and that would give Fernando Alonso hope again. However, there is little hope that help will come from Lewis Hamilton. He would have the talent but now, after his farewell to McLaren and the announcement of his move to Mercedes, the English team has put him on the sidelines of the project. He will no longer be able to participate in technical meetings, he will no longer know future secrets. In Japan he comments:

 

"The car was fast, then something must have happened that I don't understand".

 

Think about it, it's not difficult. He is now a closed chapter, the future is only Jenson Button.


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