The lead over the pursuers after the Italian Grand Prix bodes well, but Fernando Alonso is not confident. Ferrari must now return to the top step of the podium:
"You have to try to win".
Says the Spanish driver, who after a comeback third place in the Italian Grand Prix has a 37-point lead over Lewis Hamilton when there are seven races left in the World Championship. Fernando Alonso does the math and does not let his guard down:
"There are still 175 points up for grabs, and 37 is nothing, all it takes is one bad race: we have to try to win races and approach each weekend as if we have to come back instead of keeping points ahead".
There is still a long way to go:
"There are seven races left that are quite stressful and where we haven't won in recent years, so we need to step up and keep improving".
Ferrari still has a chance:
"There is always room for development for everyone, perhaps a little more for us because we have not yet been able to introduce some improvements that others already have. But everyone, continues development. McLaren is in great shape, but new parts are important for us and we will try to catch up a little bit".
But even though the conclusion of the World Championship is still a long way off, people are already thinking about the future. Especially about the other driver behind the wheel of Ferrari. The only certainty is precisely Fernando Alonso, while Sergio Perez, second in Monza still has to wait. Luca Montezemolo freezes the Mexican's move from Sauber to Ferrari:
"It's too early".
Felipe Massa, who is bound to the team by a contract expiring at the end of the season, could leave Maranello next year. But the Mexican is not yet ready to drive a Maranello car:
"I'm very happy for him, first of all he proved that it was correct for us to bet on him when he was a very young driver. Then, thanks to Sauber and the Ferrari Academy, he has grown. To put a young man behind the wheel of a Ferrari, with all the pressure that entails, you need more experience".
Sebastian Vettel has also been approached at Ferrari in recent months, but the German driver, World Champion in 2010 and 2011, is unlikely to leave Red Bull Racing, to which he is bound until 2014. Montezemolo makes no secret of his esteem for the German driver, who who who knows may not retrace the footsteps of Michael Schumacher, who arrived at Ferrari at the age of 27 after winning two World Championships.
"I think Vettel is in much the same condition that Michael was in at Benetton. He's young, he's a very good driver and he's getting experience. It could happen, if you theoretically had to ask me for a name for the future, I would tell you his".
Only one thing is different (the only downside, who knows if enough to scupper the negotiations): in Michael Schumacher, Ferrari was asking for a rebuild, while Sebastian Vettel would find himself with the unwieldy Fernando Alonso, not too keen on having such strong teammates by his side. Meanwhile, one victory was enough to erase all the doubts and ill-feeling of recent months. Lewis Hamilton, after many market rumors and a pharaonic offer from Mercedes to replace Michael Schumacher, swears love to the team that raised and launched him in F1.
"I am happy at McLaren. I haven't made any commitments to any team, I haven't set a deadline. I won the World Championship in 2008 with McLaren and I am happy with these people and in this environment. There has been a lot of talk about my move to Mercedes, but I am happy at McLaren. We have a very good single-seater and we are able to compete with the other top teams; we certainly have a chance to win the World Championship".
In the standings, Lewis Hamilton has 142 points and is second, 37 points behind Fernando Alonso.
"Ferrari generally always has a good single-seater, but in 2009 new rules were introduced. Red Bull first modified their car and every year they developed it. On the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix the rules changed to some extent, Ferrari adapted following Red Bull's direction, while we made a different choice. For a change, at that point, someone started to take a cue from our single-seater".
Then the confessions blur into the personal.
"My sports idols? I recently met Muhammad Ali; it was the realization of a dream. He was not in good condition, because of Parkinson's disease, and I could not talk to him-I always dreamed of being able to do that. A couple of years ago I met Usain Bolt in a club in London. I said to him, You are incredibly fast. And he said, No, you're the fast one".
What about soccer? There seems to be little chemistry with Cristiano Ronaldo.
"He loves to be in the spotlight. I just like to go fast behind the wheel. I don't like to take my shirt off".
On the eve of the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa is optimistic. In the circuit's inaugural race in 2008, the Brazilian started from pole position, although he failed to win.
"I like the Singapore track and I think it suits my characteristics, although I have never had much luck there. So I look forward to the possibility of getting another good result and I hope I can do even better than in the last two races. We can continue on this path after what were two good races at Spa and Monza. I picked up a good number of points, especially compared to how things were going at the beginning of the season".
Felipe Massa explains, talking about the street circuit:
"There are similarities with Monaco in terms of set-up and also with Hungary, a track that requires a lot of downforce. If we look at these two races, we did better in the Principality than at the Hungaroring, so hopefully Singapore will be more like Monte-Carlo. Last year's race was very tough on tires, and even though our car is very different this year, I still expect a tough race, considering that we will have the same compounds as in 2011, Supersoft and Soft. Therefore, I expect to see more stops than we have seen in the last two races".
What makes the Marina Bay race unique is the time of the event, as this is the first and only race on the calendar that takes place entirely at night.
"For me there are no problems running under artificial lights as the lighting is so good that visibility is more or less normal. Physically, there are no difficulties adjusting to the night time because we don't change time zones, staying in the European one: we go to bed at 5:00 a.m. and wake up at 1:00 p.m. The race starts at 8:00 p.m., so at 2 p.m. European time: there is no difference. Of course it's strange to go to bed at five o'clock, but it works and we manage to keep this schedule all weekend".
On his future, the Brazilian driver is very quiet.
"There is no news about my future at the moment but there is no doubt that good results will help. I just have to continue to do my best and score good points, with the hope of hearing good news soon. It is always better to know where things stand and, of course, I want to know what I am going to do next year but I can guarantee that it never happened to think about it when I am in the car in the middle of the race. I'm aware that it's the results that count, so I know perfectly well that there can be risky situations in the race and that you have to think very carefully about what you're doing, since the priority is to finish the race".
The time has come to go on the attack. With seven races to go, Fernando Alonso has no intention of taking any further risks. After the last three Grands Prix on defense, the Spaniard is going for a win in Singapore. His 37-point lead over Lewis Hamilton and 39 points over Sebastian Vettel cannot let him sleep soundly.
"Now is the time to attack and win. I am confident and convinced that the car will be okay and that we can be competitive".
The triptych Singapore, Japan and Korea is set for the Circus.
"In these three matches, our goal is to win and consolidate the top spot in the standings. There are 75 points on the table and we have to get the maximum. We have to wait and see how we go tomorrow, but our goal is to fight for the pole and then to win the race. We were competitive in Monaco and Canada, which is kind of a street circuit, so we will try to do our best here as well. We know how important pole position is, so Saturday will be a key day for us".
McLaren has won the last three races.
"Now we have to catch up in the next two to three grands prix. It's true that McLaren is in great shape right now and after the last results they are the favorites, now it's up to us to improve the pace a little bit".
Alonso keeps calm as always:
"I'm not under pressure. We have five or six rivals for the title and seven races left to run. It will be a tight fight until the last race but I am probably the only one who can afford a mistake or a retirement, the others cannot. So I think they have a lot more pressure than I do".
Fernando Alonso also comes to the aid of Felipe Massa, whose future in Ferrari is uncertain.
"I have been working with Felipe for three years now and we have a very good relationship. If the team decides to change Felipe, whoever comes in his place has to do better than him. I've seen a lot of names circulating and I don't know if they were written with the head or the heart. With all the names you hear, if you compare what Felipe has done in Formula 1 and what these little names have done. You have to respect the decision that the team will make. But in my opinion you need a driver who respects Ferrari and the tradition that here we work for the team and the factory, that is the priority".
Fernando Alonso accelerates. Seven races to go, and that's all there is to it. Accelerate. And so, in the two weeks that have prepared the most spectacular race of the 'year, this nocturnal delirium called the Singapore Grand Prix, the Spanish driver has been ravaging himself with workouts: 741 km of cycling, 63 km of running, 21 km of swimming, all to back up a specific preparation, in the gym, grueling exercises with weights and, above all, elastic bands - the same ones that ladies with personal trainers use for buttocks and legs - applied to the head to simulate the centrifugal force of a 300 km/h curve, stuff to make the neck muscles explode. For that matter, no one denies it. We've come to the point. To the key point of the season. That of the final assault. At a time like this, it's win or go down. And after an extraordinary season such as the one the Spaniard has had so far, it would be a real shame to go down. So, on the first day of the long weekend in Singapore, after taking the satisfaction of settling two journalists who had challenged him in the simulator (Stefano Mancini of La Stampa took 27 seconds a lap, Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport, a professional karting past, retired due to a bout of nausea) the Spaniard dictates the line by dredging up the much-used sports clichés.
"There are seven races left will have to be seven finals".
And it matters little that in F1 there are no finals. What matters is that the message gets through loud and clear to everyone. Especially to the team and to Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso is banking a lot on the Brazilian for this final. In Singapore, Ferrari will bring many aerodynamic innovations, but the biggest weapon according to the Spaniard will be him, Felipe Massa. None of the chasing teams has, at home, as clear a situation as Ferrari. Both Jenson Button and Mark Webber think they can get back into the race for the World Championship, and so they will not have as cooperative an attitude as is expected from Felipe Massa. Speaking of the Singapore Grand Prix, following the criticism that had been reserved for the dangerousness of the rubber curbs in the last edition, when they came off with ease during the first practice session, the organizers decided to replace them with others with steel cores. On Friday, September 21, 2012, the first practice session is held on an initially wet track, forcing the drivers to mount wet tires. The best time is set by Sebastian Vettel, who precedes Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Romain Grosjean, after being excluded from the Italian Grand Prix following the accident caused at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, returns to the wheel of the Lotus-Renault, replacing Jérôme d'Ambrosio. Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua takes part in the first free practice session with HRT, as he did at Monza. The Mercedes F1 W03 features new side exhausts but not the Super DRS, which was used during the young drivers' test at Magny Cours. The Lotus E20 also no longer has the extra air intakes on the engine hood, which were supposed to improve the effect of DRS on the single-seater. In the second session Sebastian Vettel again sets the best time. The World Champion, thanks to the use of Supersoft tires, sets a time of 1'48"340. Jenson Button is second, while Fernando Alonso follows with the third best time.
Practice is interrupted with the display of the red flag for about half an hour, due to an accident of Bruno Senna at Turn 19. Lap speed says Sebastian Vettel is the fastest, race pace says Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen are the favorites for victory, average performance smiles on Fernando Alonso. So it is Fernando Alonso's cautious comment after the first day of practice:
"All in all, I judge this day positively even though the first impression is that we are not as competitive as we were in Monza two weeks ago".
The Spaniard warns that it will be necessary to wait for the verdict of qualifying to better understand the forces on the field. Felipe Massa adds:
"We still lack some performance on tracks that, like this one, require maximum downforce. It was not an easy day for me. The car was not right all day, and I also suffered particularly from excessive tire degradation, in both sessions. At the end of the second session we found that there were some things that didn't work properly but that doesn't explain all the problems. We need to study well what happened and remedy it as we prepare for the rest of the weekend. We have fairly clear ideas about the direction we need to take in terms of set-up: what is certain is that we have a lot of work to do".
But the difference on Sunday night in Singapore will be made by the brakes. Yes, because there is no doubt: this Grand Prix is the worst of the year, as far as disc and pad wear is concerned, and in the end much will be decided right in the braking sections. It is a problem of temperature and humidity but also, indeed above all, of the track. That starts immediately in a very hard way, with a monstrous braking at turn one where you go in just 85 meters from a speed of 296 km/h to 149 km/h, with a deceleration of 4.59g and with the rider having to exert a pressure of 115 kilos on the pedal. To say the worst braking of the year is in Canada (5g), but there after that there are no others like it. Here, on the other hand, after the first braking there is a series of very hard corners ending with number 4, considered the worst on the circuit: from 254 km/h to 140 km/h in just 67 meters. Beyond the fatigue endured by the drivers, what worries teams and engineers are the stresses to which the braking systems will be subjected. The snapshot of that concern were the close-ups of Brembo engineers-supplier to eighty percent of the F1 teams and all the top teams except Lotus-wandering around the paddock calling for ten minutes of rain before the start of the race. Already because the key issue is temperature, the challenging corners on this track follow each other at such a pace that the drives cannot cool down enough. The teams know this, which is why they have worked so hard both mechanically and aerodynamically to ventilate the device, but the risk of the discs staying above the critical 1000 °C threshold for too long is very high.
"Beyond that threshold there is more wear and tear on the material, at which point it is literally eaten up by braking".
Thus, the variants designed for the occasion by individual teams are likely to prove decisive. In this respect, the ventilation system devised by Ferrari could play a decisive role. Just as decisive - but in reverse - could prove to be Red Bull Racing's choice to apply the calipers at the bottom, in an area of the car with more vibration rather than at the top. Of course, the brake air intakes are not the only point on the single-seater that teams have focused on to try to make a difference here in Singapore. But from this point of view the news for Ferrari is not so good. The new rear wing, on which the Maranello team has been focusing a lot in recent weeks, went worse than expected, so much so that in the end the engineers decided to end the test day with the previous version. The wind tunnel data were not confirmed by the track, and that is usually a bad sign. Saturday, September 22, 2012 Sebastian Vettel also set the best time during the third practice session. Initially, the two McLaren drivers had demonstrated their competitiveness by using soft tires.
The use of the softer tires was concentrated, mostly, in the last minutes of the session. Mark Webber and Sergio Pérez are the authors of small touches to the guardrail, forcing both drivers to make a tire change for punctures. In the final moments of the session the red flag is also shown due to an accident of Vitalij Petrov, at the penutlima curve. At the end of practice Pedro de la Rosa is forced to replace the gearbox: for this reason the Spanish driver will be penalized with the loss of five positions on the grid. While Charles Pic is penalized twenty seconds, to be deducted from the total race time, for overtaking under a red flag. A few hours later, at the end of Q1 Romain Grosjean sets the fastest time. Instead, the two Caterham cars of Vitalij Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen, the two Marussia cars of Timo Glock and Charles Pic, the two HRT cars of Narain Kartikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa, and Kamui Kobayashi are eliminated. During Q2, there are numerous contacts against the guardrails by Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, with the Brazilian of Williams unable to continue the session, and thus closes the second qualifying session without being able to set valid times. In addition to the Brazilian, who is forced to replace his gearbox, thus losing five positions on the grid, Scuderia Toro Rosso's two drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne, Felipe Massa, Nico Hülkenberg, Kimi Räikkönen and Sergio Pérez are eliminated. In Q3 Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest time and wins his second consecutive pole position. The front row is completed by Pastor Maldonado, who wins the position at the last attempt. Instead, he has to settle for the third time and thus the second row Sebastian Vettel, who had been the fastest in all free practice sessions with Red Bull Racing. Fourth time for the other McLaren of Jenson Button. Fernando Alonso will start from the third row Alonso, alongside Paul di Resta in the Force India. Felipe Massa, on the other hand, was eliminated in Q2 and will start from P13, on the seventh row. Starting ahead of him will be Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, in his Lotus, ended practice by getting only P12. Says Fernando Alonso, at the end of qualifying:
"The pole position was absolutely out of our reach: Hamilton was from another world. We have to be satisfied with this fifth place, but that doesn't mean we don't think about improving our position tomorrow: our goal is the podium".
The result of qualifying, explains Ferrari's Spanish driver:
"It's pretty much in line with our expectations on the eve of the race, since we had not been particularly bright since yesterday afternoon. The only surprise of the evening was Maldonado, who was really unexpected in the front row".
As soon as practice ended, Fernando Alonso got out of the car and immediately realized that something was wrong with his body.
"I felt slowed down".
They took his temperature: 40.5 °C. But he doesn't have a fever. It's just that the Singapore track is moto hot, and his body has accumulated so much heat that it can't get rid of it.
"For that matter, it all burns here: brakes, suspension, tires".
Jokes the Spaniard, whose plan for the race, starting from fifth position with a car too slow to aim for a miracle, is clear:
"I imagine a very difficult race, all to be played defensively, careful never to compromise the result, focusing on strategy and concentration. Ferrari has been in trouble here since day one. It's been a long time since we were a second behind our rivals. That's why I'm less optimistic than usual: the goal? The podium would be a great result".
It is not in Singapore that Ferrari aspires to win the World Championship. On the Marina Bay circuit it will just have to not lose it. The problem is what happens next. And it is not a small problem. To understand its dimensions, one needs to listen not to Fernando Alonso's words, but to Felipe Massa's. With the sincerity of the defeated, the Brazilian admits:
"The pieces we brought in didn't work, we have to figure out why, in view of the last part of the season".
Starting off badly, with the track contradicting the results of simulations, the Maranello tam's season was straightened out after a huge effort, and for a long time most of the parts brought to the track gave the expected result. Now something has broken down. A reversal of the trend? From the bottom of the Ferrari pits they say no. The part we were banking on the most for this race, the rear wing, did not work. But in fact even during the great comeback the Maranello team had difficulties with the parts designed for circuits that require high down force, while with those designed for fast tracks they had better results. As if to say, it is a temporary problem, waiting for better times and races, in Korea and Japan. The chronicle of Saturday's Singapore race would not be complete without reporting the groundbreaking punishment imposed, for red flag overtaking, by the FIA on Charles Pic. Twenty-second penalty and an entire day at the disposal of the road safety information campaign: the French driver will teach in a driving school. On Sunday, September 23, 2012, a minute's silence is observed before the start of the race, wanted by the FIA and FOM to remember Sid Watkins, the Formula 1 doctor who passed away on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. Moments before the formation lap, Hamilton's McLaren - which had already had problems during qualifying - lurks, as per the regulations, at pole position waiting for the starting procedure. And as usual-perhaps with a little more urgency-the mechanics turn on the noisy generators to power the cooling systems. Which, however, were turned off, amidst vain British protests, precisely for the minute's silence. At the end of which the chillers were turned back on. But it may have been too late. At the start of the Singapore Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton maintained the lead in the race, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa is slowed by a puncture, forcing him to change tires as early as the end of the first lap. The Brazilian re-enters the track in last position. During lap 8 Mark Webber is the first to stop in the pits to change tires.
During lap 10 Sebastian Vettel also pits to proceed with tire changes. On lap 15, when the drivers who are in the top ten have all made their tire changes, Lewis Hamilton maintains the first position, followed by Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hülkenberg (on Soft tires, in fifth place since he has not yet pitted), Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez (also on Soft tires that have not yet been changed). On lap 17 Fernando Alonso passed Nico Hülkenberg while Sergio Pérez, who made a mistake, was passed by both Paul di Resta and Mark Webber. On lap 23 Lewis Hamilton is forced to retire due to a gearbox failure. Sebastian Vettel thus moves into first position. On lap 29 Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso make their second pit stop at the same time, and on the coreo of lap 30 Mark Webber also pits. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso, on Soft tires, attempts to overtake Pastor Maldonado, who is on Supersoft tires, at each corner, but fails to complete the maneuver. On lap 33 Narain Karthikeyan hits the barriers under the tunnel. To proceed with the oxidation of the car, the race management decides to bring the Safety car onto the track. The drivers who have not yet pitted take advantage of the race neutralization to change tires, with the exception of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Pérez, who extend their stint to make a single stop, in which they will mount Supersoft tires. Maldonado also makes another stop to return to softs but, on lap 35, is called back to the pits for a hydraulic problem. At the restart Vettel retains the lead, followed by Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Paul di Resta, with Mark Webber immediately overtaking Nico Hülkenberg. On lap 39 Michael Schumacher crashes into Jean-Éric Vergne: the two are forced to retire and race management sends the safety car back onto the track. Webber makes his third stop, Hulkenberg and Pérez their second. When the Safety car returns to the pits, Sebastian Vettel leads the race ahead of Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Paul di Resta, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, while Felipe Massa is the author of a fine overtaking move on Bruno Senna, and takes ninth position.
Later, the Brazilian Ferrari driver also passes Daniel Ricciardo and climbs to eighth position, while Kimi Räikkönen passes Romain Grosjean. During the final laps, duels involving the drivers in the middle of the pack are witnessed. During lap 49 Sergio Pérez damages the front wing in an attempt to pass Nico Hülkenberg, while Mark Webber tries to overtake Kamui Kobayashi, but it is precisely the German of Force India who takes advantage and passes both: however, Hülkenberg punctures a tire and is forced to make an additional pit stop. The race is stopped at the end of lap 59 due to the two-hour mark being reached, two laps from the scheduled conclusion. Sebastian Vettel wins the Singapore Grand Prix, followed by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Paul di Resta is fourth, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez. Nico Hülkenberg scores the first fastest lap of his Formula 1 career. Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix without too many problems. A victory gifted by Lewis Hamilton, who after dominating for 24 laps had to surrender when he was leading the race, due to yet another failure of his McLaren. Of course, the German driver obviously deserved the victory (he was very strong, lapping at record pace, always staying very close to Lewis Hamilton), but when you win because the one in front of you retires there is always that vague taste of unfulfilled triumph. Psychological driver finesses that are soon forgotten when the championship gets tough. So Jenson Button celebrates for his second place and - above all - Fernando Alonso has something to toast about because his third place is really worth a victory, because with this result the Spaniard remains at the top of the World Championship standings with 194 points, a full 29 ahead of his direct pursuer, who is now no longer Lewis Hamilton but Sebastian Vettel, who rises to 165 points. But that's not all: the Ferrari driver is 45 points ahead of Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen (149) and 52 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who is stuck on 142 points. Of course, there are still six races to go, but these seemingly unreliable McLarens and Red Bull Racing show just how much the World Championship win could be in the Maranello team's favor. There are two things in fact, perhaps missed by most, that give pause for thought: the words over the radio of Lewis Hamilton, when he realized that his gearbox had broken, and the attitude of the Red Bull Racing men, when Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line. In fact, the Briton said:
"It's okay guys, we worked well, we gave it our all".
With a bewildered resignation, as if what was happening to them was normal. The Anglo-Austrian team, on the other hand, prayed with folded hands and visibly trembled in nervousness: the fear that the car might break down before the checkered flag devoured them. In short, McLaren and Red Bull Racing are competitive, more so than Ferrari, but they have obvious reliability problems. The first 24 laps, in fact, with the terrible pair Hamilton-Vettel leading the race were impressive: these two drivers ran at the top of their game, showing what a distance there is between McLaren and Red Bull Racing and the others. But then if there is no reliability, it is all useless. In Ferrari, however, they can also rejoice in the awakening of Felipe Massa, who was the protagonist of a record comeback (on a track where it is very difficult to overtake), from last to eighth. On the first lap, in fact, the Brazilian punctured and after returning to the pits he lavished himself in a series of heart-stopping overtaking moves. Welcome back Felipe. As they say, a third place like this is worth the win. Victory, and maybe even something more. Because to take away all these points in a weekend that started badly, with a slow car and a wrong rear wing, is to send a loud and clear message to the competition, it is to impose one's mark on a season. And that is why Fernando Alonso, a little joking a little not, emphasizes the psychological point. It doesn't matter who wins individual Grands Prix, what matters is that in the end ahead of everyone in the standings is him.
"Put it this way, in Monza Hamilton won and Vettel went out. Here Vettel won and Hamilton stopped. As far as I'm concerned, if they continue like this, it's perfect".
"Yes. However, it must also be clear that this will not happen. It will not always happen that the opponent closest to me in the standings will drop out. Between now and the end of the season we will have to get back to winning".
Was it a difficult race?
"Very much so. After all, we knew we were not competitive here at all. We noticed that right away. We didn't have the pace. In qualifying we did a half miracle to put together a lap in Q3 and qualify fifth. Come to think of it that was the key to the weekend, if we had started behind it would have been much more difficult. Maybe impossible. But the rest of the race was not easy either. The start was so-and-so, I lost the position right away to Di Resta, then I 'made it up between the first and second corners but I had to fight. So did I have to fight with Maldonado".
That, however, eliminated itself. Then there was the safety car.
"Yes but that also came at the worst time. Because we had changed tires just five laps earlier. And we couldn't enjoy the pit stop given by the safety car. Unlike the others. I mean, if I put all the difficulties of this weekend together and consider that I finished third, well I would just say that's a fantastic result".
The ranking also says so
"Compared to the other four title contenders, we lost a few points to one and gained a lot of margin to the other three others".
Now there is Suzuka.
It is a similar track to Silverstone. In England we went strong, we hope to go strong there as well. But it is very difficult to make a prediction, this year has been a giant seesaw for everyone: let's say for sure there is that Ferrari, at this moment, needs to recover efficiency and performance. Fifth and 13th in qualifying, as happened here on Saturday, is a result that is not good. Especially if we consider that similar characteristics at this circuit-which was the worst for us-we will partially find them again in Korea and Abu Dhabi. By then it will be good to have found something to improve the car. Stefano Domenicali talks about orgasmic approaches, saying he wants to avoid them. Considering that this brilliant guy made in Italy was known in the paddock for the untranslatable (in English) and not exactly exciting expression calm and chalk, well, then it's easy to understand what kind of climate is in the Ferrari pit. The engines have been silent for a couple of hours already. The onslaught of the dreaded Lewis Hamilton-whose McLaren is the fastest and at the same time most erratic car on the grid-has just crashed against the rock of unreliability. Alonso tweets with his Dasha, Massa tries to explain his own strange performance to himself and others, and then it's Domenicali's turn to chart the course toward the World Championship finale.
"Avoid orgasmic approaches".
It is the slogan. Which then, in the face of the ill-concealed perplexity of the audience, is developed as follows:
"It's simple. We cannot think of winning the world championship by only making placings in the next six races. We have to try to get back to winning. And to do that, our first goal must be to give Alonso back a competitive car. And yet we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of the aforementioned approach, that is, we have to avoid getting caught up in the eagerness to develop parts that look good on paper and then instead on the level of 'effectiveness, not to mention efficiency, leave something to be desired".
Domenicali does not say so explicitly, but the impression that the reference is to what happened right here in Singapore with the (failed) rear wing is quite strong.
"The next two circuits, Japan and Korea, should be more favorable to us. We need to create the conditions for Alonso to take advantage of them".
Actually, the conditions - beyond the car - are already decidedly favorable for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso's talent, intelligence and - let's face it - luck have turned the season - which started off very badly - into a kind of trap for rivals. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are now in the unpleasant position of having to take points off each other. Whatever they do, whatever results they win, one way or another they end up favoring the Spaniard at least in part. And that from a psychological point of view can play a devastating role. In this sense it is funny to consider how the Englishman, so hated by Fernando in his McLaren days, is the best ally. He is third, 52 points off the top and pissed off. If he wants to get back in the race to win the World Championship, he has to beat Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton has the talent and the right car to do it. The Singapore Grand Prix amply demonstrated this. Until the gearbox broke, his McLaren set the pace with an ease unknown to other cars. But yesterday's race also proved something else. And that is that Ferrari is very reliable. And this in the end is likely to be the other key factor. Because while it is true that a strange curse seems to have fallen on the 2012 F1 that affects all cars that start a Grand Prix from second in the overall standings (it has happened twice to Lewis Hamiltone time to Sebastian Vettel), it is also true that arriving safely at the finish line, in this sport, is a necessary condition. And, sometimes, even sufficient.
"Singapore is one of the toughest races in the World Championship. It's very long, it's a killer as a track, there's no room to make mistakes. I took advantage of Hamilton's failure, I saw he was leaking oil for a few laps, but I kept a good pace all weekend. I'm happy and proud to have won this race".
This is how Sebastian Vettel comments on the race after returning to the top step of the podium.
"I would like to dedicate this victory to Sid Watkins. He brought the limits of safety forward".
Then the German driver returns to talk about the current season.
"It's been a great season so far for everyone. It's fun but there are still several races left, the cars are competitive but we have to keep pushing".
From his wall, Lewis Hamilton does not want to give up:
"It is a difficult time for us. The bright side is that the car is fast. There are still six races left, I don't want to give up and I want to keep winning".
Stefano Domenicali says he is satisfied, but urges the team to keep working:
"We have to be satisfied with how the race went. Fernando went to the podium. Too bad for Massa, he was unlucky, although he made a good recovery. We have to keep developing the car if not, podiums won't be enough for us. Head down and let's keep working on development".
Jenson Button did not expect Red Bull Racing to be so strong:
"It was tough, Vettel at the start accelerated and I didn't expect such a difference in speed, but in the end I made it. Of the second place I am reasonably satisfied. For us as a team to have sagged, with Hamilton's retirement, is disappointing, but we did a fantastic job".
Luca Baldisserri swears it was just a joke, but it is striking that he, too, is joking about Michael Schumacher's performance, his now recurrent mistakes on the track and his decidedly advanced age.
"Michael now has prostate problems, make way for young people".
The medium of the cutting message is the usual twitter, chirps that hurt and above all travel quickly around the world. It makes an impact because Luca Baldisserri is not just any fan, discovered cursing in front of the TV for the umpteenth collision of his favorite, the German with the Mercedes who crashes into poor Jean-Éric Vergne and his Toro Rosso; but he is a Ferrari employee, the head of Ferrari's Driver Academy, which invests and bets heavily on young talent. Above all, in the not-too-distant past, when Michael Schumacher was not taking his legend to the track but was busy in his early career collecting world titles, Luca Baldisserri was the head of his car, the head of the engineers, with Ross Brawn his trusted strategist, the one who-with sometimes risky tactics-helped Michael Schumacher win. Luca Baldisserri is merciless, and with his joke there is a risk of a serious diplomatic incident between Ferrari and Mercedes, the team that still does not know whether to renew Michael Schumacher's expiring contract or retire him forever. There is an air of confrontation, which is perhaps why a couple of hours later the sharp chirp from Luca Baldisserri's profile disappears, leaving room for a timely clarification:
"Mine about Michael was a joke shared with him himself: I wish him to break all the records he has not yet been able to conquer. Just to think that I want his retirement is not to understand what still binds us".
It was a game, not a serious one. A tease, not an invitation to step aside, leaving his steering wheel perhaps to a surging Hamilton, who after retiring from Singapore has less and less desire for McLaren. Serious, however, is the decline of Schumacher, 43 years old in January, who has done very little in his second life as a driver and who this season, if possible, has done even worse than the first two that marked his return to the track. In three championships never a victory, in the record book remain 91, but there was no need to get back into the game to prove he was the greatest ever. Never a pole position, 68 remain, and even here he is undisputed record holder. But also rare has been his presence on the podium, this year only at Valencia, on June 24, 2012, the only flash in a World Championship as a comprimario, with seven times out of fourteen outside the top ten. On the other hand, copious have been the accidents he has caused, with the latest one (it will cost him the loss of ten grid places at Suzuka) likely to be the reason for the loss of patience of Mercedes executives.
"I didn't have my brakes in temperature".
Says the German driver to justify himself, but there are those who insinuate that he slowed down late because his reflexes have slowed by now and he saw Jean-Éric Vergne only at the last moment. Whatever the truth, it becomes difficult to speculate on his contract renewal. Perhaps, even in deference to his legend, the time has really come to say enough is enough.