The longest season in the history of the sport will reach its climax in Sao Paolo and as the Drivers’ title is still up for grabs, it explains why the two remaining contenders, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were both called to today’s FIA press conference yesterday. And it couldn’t be Brazil without having Fernando’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa also present.
Inevitably, there were not so many questions for the Paulista, as attention centred on the duel at the top, but it was clear from Felipe Massa’s answers that he is highly motivated going into his home race. Asked what he could do to help his team-mate on Sunday, he replied: “first of all, I will be trying to win here for the third time. That’s always the right direction to approach all races, always thinking about the possibility of victory. This is a very special place for me of course and I will be trying to win. Hopefully, Fernando can come second and win the championship without any problems!” Asked to look at this past season, the Brazilian admitted it had been difficult. “This has been a tough year and even in races where I was going well, for various reasons the results did not come. But after August everything went better and I got the right result at almost every race, so a very good second part of the season and a good preparation for next year.”
As for Fernando Alonso, he dismissed any thoughts of being under a lot of pressure. “I will treat this as a normal weekend, trying to score as many points as we can,” began the Ferrari man. “It would be good to finish on the podium to score a minimum of 15 points and then when we cross the line, we can see where is Sebastian and try to do the numbers. So, the podium and the chance to score more than 13 points is our first priority. What Red Bull does is not in our hands, but we don’t have much to lose, we can only win so we will try and do our best.”
Questioned about the gearbox penalty the team decided on for Massa in Austin, Fernando was rigorous in justifying the move. “I think we have seen many teams, this year and in the past, doing things to gain a strategic advantage by finding limits in the regulations,” maintained the Spaniard. “It was a strategic decision to get both cars on the clean side, given that we also had the Constructors’ title as a target. It worked quite well and if some people were not happy, I am still proud of my team, because it always tells the truth about what it does.”
Parallels with Abu Dhabi 2010, when it ended the season, are clear this weekend, because back then it was Fernando who arrived in the Gulf with a significant lead over Vettel, who went on to take the title. “This time the situation is different, because now we have DRS and KERS which makes overtaking more easy and even if you start from back on the grid you can make up places, as indeed we saw in Abu Dhabi this year, when Seb started last and finished on the podium,” said Fernando. “This is Formula 1, this is a sport and anything can happen right to the chequered flag. We will try and do the best we can and try to cross the line on the podium. If we win we will be very happy, but we know we need some strange combination of a result. If we don’t win, we will congratulate him (Vettel) and try again next year. If the race is run in normal circumstances we should finish second as it will be very difficult to recover 13 points. If something happens, maybe we can win the championship. But as it is not in our hands really, the pressure is much less.”
This season has not yet ended, but already thoughts are turning to 2013 and Fernando explained what would be the target for Scuderia Ferrari over the winter. “We were not happy with the car, from the moment it went on track in Jerez, but we managed to improve it enough to end up challenging for the championship, so there will be many changes for next year. Compared to the other teams, we will have to do more work over the winter to close the gap.”
Also on the FIA panel today was Michael Schumacher, who on Sunday brings down the curtain on a brilliant 20 year career. Asked for a comment, Fernando offered this eulogy to his great rival. “It’s been a privilege to race against Michael, whose record will be part of Formula 1 history for a very long time. We had some great fights and Michael always commanded great respect on the circuit and he has changed a little bit this sport.”