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#875 2012 Indian Grand Prix

2023-01-03 23:00

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#2012, Fulvio Conti,

#875 2012 Indian Grand Prix

Luca Montezemolo is strict in keeping his political activities distinct from his commitment to Ferrari. And so, while on Wednesday 17 October 2012 fro

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Luca Montezemolo is strict in keeping his political activities distinct from his commitment to Ferrari. And so, while on Wednesday 17 October 2012 from the stage of Italia Futura he preaches a country in the hands of young people and marked by meritocracy, at Maranello he is the author of a management inspired by prudence. A style summed up perfectly in five letters: Felipe Massa. That is, the Brazilian driver whose contract has been renewed by Ferrari until the end of 2013. Let's be clear: Felipe Massa is a good driver. For a period of his career even very good, so much so that to some he even seemed a champion. And, let's be clear, it is true what they are shouting in these hours from Maranello, namely that with him Ferrari has gone on the safe side. And yet it is also true that the choice perfectly contradicts the concepts of youth (thirty-two is not exactly springtime, in F1) and, above all, of meritocracy. For the past three years, Felipe Massa has been clearly the worst driver of those lucky enough to make it to a top team. This year, for example, he is ninth in the standings, overwhelmed not only by Red Bull Racing and McLaren drivers, but also by the two Lotus drivers and even Nico Rosberg. Last year, he did slightly better, sixth: but only because the Lotuses were not there, and Rosberg's Mercedes was not competitive. In 2010 he was among the causes of the World Championship lost by Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi: while both Mark Webber and Jenson Button took points off Fernando Alonso throughout the season, the Brazilian was careful not to do the same to Sebastian Vettel, who in fact won by only four points. In spite of this arithmetical carnage, three decent races in this championship were enough to convince Ferrari's top management. The rumours from Maranello explain the choice as follows: Stefano Domenicali has a pre-contract with Sebastian Vettel for 2015 (but the German driver could also be released in 2014) and so it was decided not to destabilise a pair that, all things considered, had only found its balance for one year. Now, assuming that the story of the pre-contract is true (and that it is not just a verbal commitment), assuming that the Red Bull Racing team management is naive enough to let its driver get away without pressure and without a raise, and assuming all this, there is a question that is still struggling to find an answer: but the Ferrari Driver Academy inaugurated three years ago at Maranello and presented to the world as the springtime for Italian drivers, the school for talent selected by the heirs of Dino Ferrari, the gymnasium of driving, well, what exactly is it for? In the meantime, Ferrari, via its official website, talks about Felipe Massa's confirmation in a note entitled: The reasons for a choice.

 

"A considered choice, by no means taken for granted or made inevitable by the lack of alternatives".

 

The Maranello team also excludes that the choice was directed by the wishes of his current teammate, because Ferrari chooses its drivers on its own.

 

"Many people knocked on Maranello's door, some were taken into consideration but, in the end, a very clear logic prevailed: nobody better than Felipe is able to ensure speed, talent and the ability to work for the good of the team. This is demonstrated by the Brazilian driver's career and the harmony that reigns in the team, which has remained united and compact even in the most difficult moments. The Ferrari fans know this well: certain choices are made solely and exclusively for the good of Ferrari. All the rest is chatter".

 

Moving on to other topics, on Wednesday 24 October 2012 Ferrari announced that it will run the Indian Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 28 October 2012, with the symbol of the navy on the single-seaters of Alonso and Massa. The symbolic act was decided by the Maranello team to show its closeness to the two Italian military personnel detained in the Asian country since 15 February 2012 on charges of causing the death of two Kerala fishermen during an anti-piracy action.

 

"Ferrari thus wishes to pay tribute to one of our country's finest excellences, while also hoping that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the affair involving the two Italian Navy servicemen".

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In the opinion of Ferrari chairman Luca Montezemolo:

 

"It is the contribution Ferrari can make to this affair".

 

But one also thinks about the World Championship, which sees Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel engaged in an extreme confrontation. On the eve of the Indian Grand Prix, the Spaniard says:

 

"The whole team wants to win this World Cup".

 

Fernando Alonso is pumped up and has the roadmap already in his head: the Spaniard dreams of the world title at the wheel of the Ferrari.

 

"In February we would have signed up to be in this situation. The Red Bulls are faster at the moment, but they were also faster in 2011, yet we scored more points than them. Now we need to do seven more than Vettel in the final four races, it can be done".

 

The approach is the right one.

 

"My motivation is at its highest, as is that of the whole team. True, Red Bull has been very fast in the last few races. But the season has been characterised by ups and downs for everyone. It is impossible for us to dominate in races like Red Bull has done in recent times, but we still hope to improve our performance".

 

The Spaniard also expresses a thought for Felipe Massa, freshly renewed for 2013: "I am happy for him and for the team, this gives us peace of mind. The Brazilian confirms the increased serenity that came with the renewal.

 

"Mentally, I am much happier and more serene, because I believe that good results bring other positives. Now that things are going well, I would like the season to continue a little longer, even though it has already been a long one for everyone. There are four races left, then there will be a break, which I think everyone needs, and after that I am already looking forward to next season, which I hope will be positive from start to finish".

 

Felipe Massa reveals that he went through a difficult period: his meeting with Luca Montezemolo was crucial.

 

"We talked about many things. I was alone with him and we looked at the past years, the bad ones and the good ones, and we talked about the future as we have often done and, in the end, everything was decided that day. I had a look at the situation in the other teams, but I never had any real talks with any team, because I always wanted to stay here".

 

Nick Tombazis, Ferrari's chief designer, says there will be new things here in India. How much are these novelties worth? Fernando Alonso answers:

 

"We will see it on Friday on the track. Words are useless. We always talk, every Tuesday, and Wednesday, and even Thursday, then on Friday we see nothing. So let's see tomorrow if this week's words are true or not, then tomorrow we decide how true they were. We haven't found anything in terms of performance for five or six races, let's see if this time it's the right time".

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Who is the Spaniard angry with? To whom are these words, so harsh in tone and angular in content, addressed? It is the little mystery that creates tension in the Ferrari box on this Indian eve of hopes and fears, the first in a long time, experienced as a pursuer rather than a runner. The impression of all those who witnessed directly the Spaniard's little unexpected outburst, staged during the weekend's presentation press conference, is that there is someone at Maranello who is not sleeping peacefully these hours. Instead, hearing what Fernando Alonso says, the problem is, as usual, the press. Who is right? The speech, which in practical terms makes no bones about it, leaves in the air the feeling that Fernando Alonso is a little annoyed by the announcements of the Greek engineer and in general by the pace of development of the car. It's just a feeling, though. And so comes the second question.So, Fernando, from what you've said you seem a bit disappointed with the way Ferrari has developed the car. Are you disappointed?

 

"No, I'm not disappointed. We always talk about Ferrari and all the developments they bring to each race, while then on Monday we have the report of all the developments that the others bring: there are pages and pages full of new things, with photos and performance data, stuff that wasn't talked about at all on the eve of the race. In short: for the others few words and many developments, for us few developments and many words. But not from us, from the writer".

 

There, that is the problem. The writer. Because the interview in which Tombazis announced developments at every race was not written by the usual newspapers that can't wait to talk about Ferrari, but directly from the Scuderia Ferrari website. So what? So it is hard not to read in the Spaniard's words if not exactly an attack on Tombazis, the man who signed off on the projects for the last three Ferraris, at least a small and understandable sign of nervousness towards a team that for some weeks now has failed to bring to the track what it takes to win. And meanwhile, up ahead, Red Bull Racing is increasingly competitive:

 

"This year we have seen a lot of fluctuating performances, with many teams that seemed to be uncatchable and instead were slow the next race. Hopefully now Red Bull's turn will come".

 

Otherwise it will be tough. As if that were not enough, the Indian Grand Prix turned into a diplomatic case. If you happen to look at the Ferrari and think that red and green white rectangle with the navy coat of arms in the middle is a flag, well, you are wrong. That is merely a tribute to the Italian navy. If you happen to assume that Ferrari is displaying it in India to try to make the local government aware of the case of the two Maroos arrested for the murder of two fishermen, you are wrong again. That is merely a symbol devoid of any political significance. Trying to lower the tension is a press release issued late in the evening on Thursday 25 October 2012 by Scuderia Ferrari, at the end of a painful dialogue with the FIA: a few confused words that precipitate into the grotesque an affair that began badly and was handled worse by the two main players, Ferrari and the Foreign Ministry. Which, in the aftermath of the South Korean Grand Prix and ahead of the Indian round, had asked the Maranello team to make a gesture of solidarity with the two detained Marò. Initially, the request was to put yellow tape on Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa's car. Then, however, faced with the Maranello team's perplexity, the ribbon was changed to a more discreet tricolour with the navy crest. From the outset, some had not taken the initiative well. Such a complex affair required a more articulate intervention than a sticker stuck to the bodywork. The Indians are rather touchy on the subject, so it was better to avoid any misunderstandings and any encroachment. However, these objections were dismissed almost immediately, and promptly a press release announced the Maranello team's sensational move. It did not take long to realise that it had been a mistake. On Thursday, Ferrari's press office at the circuit was literally stormed by the enraged local press, and the Maranello team spent twenty-four hours answering legitimate and sensible questions with embarrassed no- comments, and with circumstantial explanations:

 

"This is not a gesture of solidarity with the Marò, it is only a wish to find a solution".

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Within hours, the situation spun out of control. Even an Indian fishermen's association lashes out at Ferrari:

 

"An affront to Indian society and our community".

 

Then came the official statements. First that of the Indian Foreign Ministry, which says: 

 

"These are sporting events used to promote non-sporting causes".

 

Then, with far more worrying effects from the point of view of the Maranello team, which had come here to India to race and secondarily to sell cars, came the words of Bernie Ecclestone. And finally, decisive, the not so veiled threat from the FIA: Article 1 of the regulations forbids anyone to express or communicate politically oriented expressions. And so, after two days of controversy and resistance, unable to take a step back and lower the tricolour, Ferrari decided to take a half-step, transforming its initial message in favour of the two Marò into a very different statement. The flag?

 

"It is just a tribute to an Italian excellence".

 

Returning to the Indian Grand Prix, the organisers make minor changes to the track before the race. At Turns 8 and 9 the kerbs are raised, while at Turns 2, 3, 7 and 8 the synthetic grass area at the trackside has been extended. They have also ensured that they have made all the necessary arrangements to avoid the traffic problems experienced in 2011 in order to reach the circuit during the event, while problems and delays in the bureaucratic procedures for the teams to send material to the circuit remain, as in the previous edition. Turn 8 is named after Felipe Massa, the place where the Brazilian driver broke his car's suspension on two occasions during the 2011 edition of the Grand Prix. No changes were made to the plastic bollards at the point, which were instead increased in other corners of the track. Friday, 26 October 2012, Sebastian Vettel sets the fastest time during the first practice session, ahead of Jenson Button, who sets his best time only in the last phase. Fernando Alonso follows in third position. The track, initially poorly rubberized, gradually improves as the minutes pass. Sergio Perez's participation in the Indian Grand Prix is in doubt due to a severe cold. The Mexican driver is replaced in the first free practice session by Esteban Gutiérrez, making his Formula 1 debut. Also during FP1 Valtteri Bottas takes Bruno Senna's place at Williams and Giedo van der Garde that of Heikki Kovalainen at Caterham. Sebastian Vettel also set the fastest time in the second session. The German driver, in this case, precedes his teammate, Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso again sets the third best time. The Red Bull Racing drivers set the best time on soft tyres, while Ferrari is more competitive on hard tyres. Many drivers set their best time by running two lead laps. The session is characterised by numerous spins, without consequences for the drivers. At the end of the day, Fernando Alonso is confident:

 

"Today the track was still very dirty: tomorrow when it gets more grip it will be even more fun".

 

Fernando Alonso looks ahead to the Indian Grand Prix with confidence, after setting the third fastest time in both free practice sessions. In the Spaniard's opinion the tyre performance was satisfactory:

 

"We can hope for one less problem to be taken into account".

 

On the other hand, the tone was different for his teammate, Felipe Massa, who set the 15th best time after going off track.

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"It was quite a difficult day, especially in the afternoon. When we switched from the Hard tyre to the Soft, the balance of the car was no longer optimal and it became so difficult to drive that I ended up spinning. Unfortunately, a tyre got damaged and so I couldn't do the long-distance work that was on the priority list. So in the last half hour I dedicated myself to doing pit-spot tests, the only thing possible with the tyres in those conditions. Unfortunately, a tyre got damaged and so I couldn't do the long-distance work that was on the priority list. So in the last half hour I dedicated myself to pit- stop tests, the only thing possible with the tyres in those conditions". 

 

Meanwhile, from Italy, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo talks about the Formula 1 World Championship final on the sidelines of the inauguration at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello of the exhibition: Le grandi Ferrari di Sergio Pininfarina.

 

"We have to have four races of attack and great determination, also taking risks because the risks of the others at the start penalised us greatly. If we had not had those incidents, we would be in a completely different situation today. We'll give it our all, we have a very competitive car, very motivated drivers and we'll come to terms at the end. Do I believe in the World Championship? I would go all the way to the track and push the car, but the regulations forbid it...".

 

Saturday 27 October 2012 Sebastian Vettel also set the fastest time in the third and final free practice session. The German driver is ahead of Jenson Button and Mark Webber. A few hours later, in qualifying, at the end of Q1 the Caterham drivers, Heikki Kovalainen and Vitalij Petrov, the Marussia drivers, Timo Glock and Charles Pic, and the HRT drivers, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Kartikeyan, along with Jean-Éric Vergne of Scuderia Toro Rosso are eliminated. Pastor Maldonado sets the fastest time, on soft tyres. In the second phase the two Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Michael Schumacher, Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi are eliminated. In the decisive phase Fernando Alonso set the fastest time, but shortly afterwards Mark Webber managed to improve on the Spaniard's limit. Sebastian Vettel ruins his first attempt with a track excursion and is thus forced to pit. In the final minutes Jenson Button gets in ahead of Fernando Alonso, while Sebastian Vettel sets the fastest time. No surprises on the eve of the Indian Grand Prix. Free practice and qualifying confirmed the superiority at this stage of Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull Racing cars over the McLarens and Ferraris, forced once again to chase. The young German, already two times World Champion and leader of the classification, records the best time (1'25"283) and will start on pole position. Alongside him will start his team mate, Mark Webber, who even says he is surprised to have gained the front row so easily. The second row, a target Ferrari was aiming for by the admission of its team principal, Stefano Domenicali, was instead taken by the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. The two Ferrari drivers, on the other hand, managed with some difficulty to take fifth and sixth positions, with Fernando Alonso downplaying the result by claiming to be just 24 metres behind Sebastian Vettel, and Felipe Massa, who placed on the third row despite the many problems he had during practice. The characteristics of the Indian circuit, quite similar to the one at Suzuka but according to many drivers more technical and unpredictable, leave a window of opportunity not to consider the game already completely closed. Says Sebastian Vettel, after qualifying:

 

"We have to see tomorrow what happens in the race. I noticed that the McLarens and the Ferraris themselves showed a lot of speed in the straights".

 

If for Lewis Hamilton it is a matter of adding one victory to the three already achieved in the season, Fernando Alonso (who is also on three) knows that losing more points in India could be fatal.

 

"If Vettel finishes second, I have to finish first. If he doesn't finish the race, I can instead do any result in points".

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Apart from the improvements that can be added at the last moment to the Maranello cars, the variables of the Indian race are in the use of the new tyres, which seem to create some grip difficulties, and the strategy that will be adopted for the pit stops. Many teams seem to be leaning towards a single stop, while apparently at Ferrari the issue is still being studied. Says Felipe Massa:

 

"We still have to work out whether it is better to go for one or two pit stops".

 

However, there is no doubt that a success by Sebastian Vettel, predicted by many, could close the games and greatly reduce the hopes of the challengers in the final rounds in the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Brazil. Meanwhile, at least the controversy over the flag displayed on the Maranello team's car is resolved. Fortunately, the controversy over the Navy flag drawn on the Ferrari's chassis, as a tribute to the Maroos detained in southern India, has died down. The tension, which risked creating a new incident between Italy and India, was defused by soothing statements from the Indian Automobile Federation and F1 patron Bernie Ecclestone himself. Says the president of the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India, Vicky Chandhok:

 

"The tricolour embossed on the single-seaters of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa does not constitute a violation of our regulations".

 

In a statement, the executive, who is one of the architects of the track where India's second Grand Prix is being raced, reassures that his Federation will not allow politicisation of the event or attempts that could interfere with the course of justice, referring to the court case of military personnel Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone accused of the murder of two fishermen mistaken for Somali pirates. After fuelling the controversy, Bernie Ecclestone also toned down. The Circus owner is even surprised by so much fuss:

 

"It is a beautiful flag. I don't think there is anything wrong with displaying national symbols, they have no political significance".

 

Sunday 28 October 2012, at the start of the Indian Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel maintains the lead of the race, ahead of Mark Webber; Fernando Alonso passes, at the end of the long straight between turns 3 and 4, the two McLarens, but is immediately overtaken by Jenson Button. The Spaniard then moves up to third on lap 4, again at the usual overtaking point, at Turn 4. On lap 6 Jenson Button also gives up a position to Lewis Hamilton. In the meantime Sebastian Vettel consolidates a lead over Mark Webber, who in turn keeps Fernando Alonso at a distance. At the back of the field Nico Hülkenberg passes Sergio Pérez, and takes eighth place. On lap 25 Jenson Button returns to the pits to perform a tyre change. Afterwards, the other drivers also return to the pits to make their tyre changes. Lewis Hamilton also changes the steering wheel during his stop. At the end of this phase of the race, characterised by the tyre changes, the classification remains unchanged, with the two Red Bull Racing cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber still ahead of Fernando Alonso, followed in turn by the two McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Felipe Massa, sixth, is penalised by a fuel shortage that puts his finish at the back of the race in doubt. In the laps that followed Fernando Alonso closed in on Mark Webber, but failed to overtake. Shortly afterwards the Australian informs his engineers of the Kers malfunction. On lap 49 Fernando Alonso, after getting closer to Mark Webber, also following the Australian driver's difficulties in lapping, passes the Red Bull Racing driver and moves up to second place. In the final laps Fernando Alonso seemed to be able to get closer to Sebastian Vettel, from the bottom of whose car sparks were produced. However, the situation normalised and Sebastian Vettel wins the Indian Grand Prix, taking his fourth consecutive victory. Renault took victory number 250 as engine manufacturer. Fernando Alonso finished second, followed by Mark Webber, who was never really challenged by Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button was fifth, followed by Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna. At the end of the Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has 240 points, followed by Fernando Alonso, with 227 points. 

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Which means, of course, that the German driver came first and Alonso second. But anyone who only reads these numbers and has not seen the race has really missed out. Because if it is true that Sebastian Vettel dominated, immediately taking the lead and humiliating all his rivals with record lap after record lap, Fernando Alonso inflamed the public with a race like a true champion. The Spaniard in fact always led on the attack, first passing the two McLarens and then Mark Webber's Red Bull Racing. On the other hand, the other Red Bull Racing, Sebastian Vettel's, was really hard to catch, although in the end Fernando Alonso tried without fear. Now it is all about those 13 points of Sebastian Vettel's lead over Fernando Alonso. Few, many? It depends. It is true that there are still 75 points up for grabs in the next three races, but it cannot be forgotten that Sebastian Vettel has won the last four consecutive races and that Red Bull Racing is currently faster than Ferrari. It has to be said that in India the changes made to the Maranello car have narrowed the gap to Red Bull Racing a little, but it is clear that something is still missing: in this World Championship finale for Fernando Alonso there is nothing to be gained. It is crucial for him to get in front of the wild Sebastian Vettel. Obviously not an easy task. For the rest, the race showed a reborn Felipe Massa, combative right from the start, and a Mark Webber with some Kers problems at the end: Red Bull Racing is not indestructible.He tried everything, Fernando Alonso, to get even a tenth of a second closer to Sebastian Vettel. Not to beat him, but at least to send him a signal: if he wants to win the title he will have to give it his all, because he, the Spaniard, will never give up:

 

"I believe in it 100 per cent. I have to say that we will never give up. I am happy, they were fantastic throughout the weekend, but we will try to make it and redeem ourselves in the remaining races. I lost some points but that was pretty much the plan, we weren't fast enough to beat them, we limited the damage. We were fast on the straights, we lack something on the corners, however I have to thank the team for the car they gave me and that with this top speed allowed me to overtake. There are 75 points available and we are 13 points behind: we know we have to improve. We are not fast enough, especially in qualifying, but we can improve in Abu Dhabi or in the next US GP".

 

The Spaniard took second place from Australian Mark Webber, who was held back by Kers problems.

 

"Something like that could happen to Sebastian or me".

 

Fate could lend a hand, but what is needed above all is a step forward by the F2012.

 

"We have to introduce some innovations in Abu Dhabi to become more competitive in the Saturday sessions and also in the race. I repeat, there are three races to go and the World Championship is still a goal. It would be nice if we could finish ahead of Vettel and, even better, if we could win. Right now we cannot aim for success, we need to take a step forward".

 

Stefano Domenicali, who is obviously satisfied at the end of the race, expresses himself in the same way. The Ferrari team principal knows that Fernando Alonso did everything he could to limit the damage and managed to finish second.

 

"We will quit when the maths says so. It's a shame about the two races where Fernando was knocked out, we have to stick together, work, we'll do the maths at the end. Also pleased with Felipe's race. Anything new at Abu Dhabi? We'll see".

 

Speaking of Felipe, delayed by petrol problems:

 

"It was a battle from start to finish. Unfortunately it wasn't easy for me with the problems I had with the end of the petrol. It is good that I was very fast in the straights and that helped me. Maybe with a better qualifying we could have done better".

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On Sunday 4 November 2012 we start again. In Abu Dhabi. Fernando Alonso has clear ideas, almost a roadmap:

 

"We have to improve the car and use the next two Grands Prix to get closer, then, in Brazil, a circuit that should be more favourable to us, we will try for a shot".

 

Ferrari's team principal, Stefano Domenicali, indulges him:

 

"We are lucky to have a driver like Fernando, we will do everything in our power to put him in a position to try until the very end".

 

Meanwhile, not far away, Sebastian Vettel begins to smile.

 

"It is a step forward for the championship, but there is still a long way to go. Anything can happen as we have seen during the championship".

 

Sebastian Vettel is trying not to lose concentration in his pursuit of the World Championship:

 

"There is still a long way to go, we go one step at a time. To come here twice and win with pole is fantastic. This is a special circuit for me, the second and third sectors are fantastic. I am happy to be part of this group".

 

Slightly less happy is Mark Webber, who nevertheless thanks the crowd on the track:

 

"I want to thank the crowd who were fantastic. It was a difficult race, it was hard to find the right pace, I had problems with the car, but the others were good. Alonso and Hamilton behind were very fast. It was difficult to defend myself without Kers".

 

Speaking about the sparks caused by the car driven by Sebastian Vettel at the end of the race, Red Bull Racing team principal Chris Horner says:

 

"It was caused by a looseness or something that was picked up on the track. It lasted all of one lap, so no problem".

 

Then, talking about yet another Red Bull Racing success, he says:

 

"It's a good day for us, everything worked for the best, too bad about Webber's kers problem. Anyway, Alonso is always there".

 

Late in the evening, an unexpected tsunami of honey sweeps over the Ferrari motorhome. On twitter, on facebook, on the website, on press releases, everywhere, sappy words bloom about Fernando Alonso.

 

"Extraordinary, unbelievable, he gave 110%, formidable".

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Exclaim, in chorus, the men in red. But it is bitter, restorative honey. What happens? Simple: what's happening is that someone has had it rough. And that after forty-eight difficult hours, faced with the very real possibility of seeing the team crumble in his hands at the most delicate moment of the year, Stefano Domenicali has said enough is enough. It all began on Thursday afternoon, when Fernando Alonso, feeling that a World Championship he deserved was slipping through his fingers, said:

 

"Enough talk about developments, others bring new pieces, we announce them".

 

He says to those who ask him about an interview given to Ferrari's official website by Nick Tombazis, the Greek designer of the last three cars. Ferrari's equivalent of Adrian Newey at Red Bull Racing, in other words. Who is called into question directly on Saturday, after yet another disappointing qualifying session of the season.

 

"I am not fighting against Vettel, but against Newey".

 

Those who know him well know that the recipient of this message is Sebastian Vettel, to whom Fernando Alonso is trying to get the pressure up. With no new rear wing, he at least tries psychology. Part of the team, however, reads in those words an attack on the team, objectively incapable of offering anything remotely comparable to the competition since August. The reaction is harsh and can be summed up in the words of Pat Fry, the chief engineer:

 

"Ferrari had the potential to start from the second row today and didn't get it just because it wasn't perfect".

 

In short: because of Fernando Alonso, as someone else in the pits explicitly pointed out. Thus we arrive at Saturday night. When the Spaniard asks Stefano Domenicali for an explanation. To say that Fernando Alonso is annoyed is putting it mildly. His staff had to work hard to keep him from writing an explosive message (explaining that since Barcelona, since the start of the championship, Ferrari has been unable to come up with anything new for one of the most aerodynamically important parts of the car) and posting it on Twitter, where Alonso has 1.192.422 followers, compared to just 359.164 for Ferrari. Ferrari, in short, is on the verge of a media and sporting massacre. Stefano Domenicali intervenes forcefully. He calls out those who must call out. He reassures those he must reassure. And he starts Operation Honey.

 

"We are good at complicating our own lives".

 

That is the comment, laconic, of the team principal. Which closes the matter, for the moment. And meanwhile, from Italy, Luca Montezemolo says:

 

"We can still win the F1 World Championship. I believe in it. But we have to start better, that is important. We have to improve in qualifying. Alonso was extraordinary in India, he ran an attacking race like he had to do. He reminded me of Senna's first lap (in '93 at Donington, ed) but it was raining then. Now you can see two things. First of all, the points lost in two races because of the accidents: if Alonso had finished even just two third places, with 30 points we would be in a totally different situation today. And then the problem with qualifying, we'll have to talk about that for next season: if you start behind there's nothing you can do, because after five Alonso was already almost ten seconds behind. We have to start further ahead, that will be the goal for Abu Dhabi".

 

Thirteen points to recover, Montezemolo believes:

 

"Alonso and the team are one and the same and now it is very important to try to go on the attack in these last races. We all have to be united to give 120 per cent. We will play for the championship until the last kilometre. So far everything has gone well for our opponent, the wheel has turned the best, but we have to believe in it until the end. The important thing, I repeat, is to start ahead, also because you have seen that when Alonso had free ground in front he did better times than Webber and not far from those of Vettel".

 

Three races left to become World Champions. At Ferrari they hope so:

 

"But of course everything goes well for them From 1997 until today, except in two years we have always won or lost in the last race".


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