|Circuit||Yas Marina Circuit
|Distance||305,355 km / 189,779 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||5.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||8.|
Maranello, 4 November – The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has never been kind to Scuderia Ferrari. Again this year the circuit alongside the first theme park dedicated to the Prancing Horse had no presents for the men in red. It wasn’t as bad as the first year of this race, when Ferrari failed to score a single point, but yesterday’s 14 points are nothing to shout about. In theory this track is probably the least suited to the F138, especially in the third sector where traction makes the difference. In fact, qualifying showed that between turns 11 and 21, Alonso and Massa made up much of the gap, not just to Red Bull but also to Mercedes. Yesterday, the race pace, as has been the case these past few years, was better than that over a single lap, but clearly starting in the middle of the pack it’s harder to exploit it than with a clear track.
However, this is not the time to be downhearted, quite the contrary. There are nevertheless positive signs that can be taken away from Sunday’s race. Both Felipe and Fernando showed great determination yet again, thrilling the spectators at the track and those watching on television with some really spectacular and brave overtaking moves, such as the Brazilian’s pass on Hamilton and the Spaniard’s on Vergne. The team worked well in the garage and on the pit wall managing a race that was hard to decipher, especially in regards to tyre behaviour. Running a long first stint on the Soft tyres opened the window to try and run a one-stop race, but once it was clear that wasn’t possible, the team reacted promptly and in Fernando’s case led to an important fifth place finish. In fact, he set the race fastest lap in unusual circumstances, showing that on Sunday, the car’s potential is noteworthy.
It’s true therefore that we have lost out to Mercedes in the fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship, but there is still plenty of room to remedy the situation in Austin on 17 November and then in Interlagos a week later. The team has not resigned itself to its fate, as it returned to Maranello today. It is aware that a slight improvement in qualifying of all the components, can allow it to close the gap in the classification. Difficult but not impossible.
Stefano Domenicali: “Considering our start positions, the outcome of this race is positive and we leave Abu Dhabi aware we have limited the damage. We knew we had a difficult weekend ahead of us and we paid the price for our results in yesterday’s qualifying. Despite that, I am pleased with the performances from Felipe and Fernando, because both of them managed to give it their all on a track that was hostile to us. Given the situation, today we could have ended up further away from Mercedes in the Constructors’ classification and yet we managed to pull out a bit on Lotus and limit the points lost in the battle for second place. Now we must tackle the two final rounds of the season, the two of them in very different conditions and track types. Our motivation is still very high and, along with that, we will try and run the car as it stands, as well as we can”.
Fernando Alonso: “I am happy to have brought home points for the team in a race that was always going to be tough, on what has been a very difficult weekend for us. Given the gap to the top four, I certainly couldn’t have done more. Starting from further back, we knew we would find ourselves in traffic, therefore having done well at the start, I tried to overtake as much as possible. When we saw that we were always behind another car, it became impossible to think in terms of a single stop and it was clearly better to switch to two and attack. As the Mediums were holding up quite well, we thought we’d use the Softs for a short stint to try and do a series of quick laps. As for what happened with Vergne after the second pit stop, I don’t know what the stewards will say, but the rule states that if you have an equal amount of car to the other one on the track then you can use all the space. But this was only one incident in a race which, for me, was fantastic. Now, if we don’t want to give up our fight in the Constructors’ Championship, we absolutely must do better and finish the last two races on the podium”.
Felipe Massa: “Today I was competitive from start to finish and pulled off a lot of passing moves with a car that handled well. It was a great race. Our strategy was based on a single stop, but when we realised that the pace was too quick for the rear tyres and the wear was greater than expected, we decided to make a second stop so as not to take any risks. Fitting the Mediums rather than the Softs was not the best decision, because the softer compound was quicker by at least a second per lap: I’d managed to do 19 laps on them in the first stint and it would not have been a problem to do the same in the final part of the race.It’s a real shame, because we could have finished at least fifth, but even if this is not the result we deserved, I am still pleased with my performance. Now we head for Texas and Brazil, two tracks that on paper should suit our car better and where I hope I can continue to be competitive”.
Pat Fry: “Today’s race was intense and action packed and our drivers were in the thick of it right to the end, despite the fact that the top places were out of our reach. Initially, we had thought of running just a one stop race, but when we realised that that the wear rate of the Mediums in the second stint would not have allowed us to go all the way to the end, while doing competitive times, backed up by our simulation systems, we told Fernando and Felipe to go flat out, as they would need to make a second stop. With Fernando, we managed to get to lap 44 which meant he was able to run the Softs to the end of the race. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the same with Felipe and with him we chose not to risk it, keeping him on the Mediums. It was a real shame. The two F138s proved they had a good pace, definitely better in the lower temperatures and both drivers were involved in close fights and made spectacular passing moves. In the last two races, we must improve, especially in qualifying, because only by starting further forward can we put ourselves in a position to fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship”.
The leader came in for Medium tyres on lap 14, with enough of an advantage to head back on track still in the number one position, with Felipe only 6.6 behind now, but obviously yet to change tyres. In fact, it was Fernando to stop first on lap 16, fitting the Medium Pirellis and dropping to fourteenth place. Two laps later and it was Felipe’s turn to come in for the Prime tyre and he now found himself in eighth place, between Hamilton and Hulkenberg. At this point the only front runners yet to pit were the Force Indias of Di Resta, in second and Sutil in sixth. The Scotsman finally changed tyres on lap 20, which meant it was now a Red Bull one-two with Vettel leading Webber, from Rosberg, Grosjean, Sutil and Hamilton with Felipe seventh.
Fernando passed Perez on lap 22 to move back into the top ten and Bottas in the Williams next time round to lie ninth. A great move from Felipe on Hamilton on lap 26 saw the Brazilian take his F138 up to sixth behind Sutil, who as one of the few to start on the harder tyre, had yet to make a pit stop. The Ferrari man also found a way past the German on the same lap so that he was fifth behind Grosjean, while Fernando was just on Hamilton’s gearbox in eighth, as the two champions closed on Sutil. The Englishman got past on lap 28, but the Spaniard had to wait a bit longer, so that by the time he’d dispensed with the Force India, Hamilton had managed to pull out a gap, but as the Mercedes came in for its second stop on lap 29, Fernando was sixth again behind Felipe.
On lap 33, Webber and Rosberg came in from second and third for their second visit to the pits, so that Grosjean was now second behind Vettel and it was round this time that Fernando began to up the pace and close on Felipe. Vettel made a second stop on lap 37, but his lead was so great that he was in no danger of losing it as he rejoined and he was followed in by Grosjean in the Lotus. The Frenchman rejoined in fourth just ahead of the duelling Ferraris. Felipe brought his F138 in for a final tyre change on lap 38, however it was not the quickest of stops in 3.8 seconds and he rejoined in ninth place.
Fernando made a second pit stop on lap 45 and came out just behind Vergne’s one-stopping Toro Rosso, but just swept past, at which point Felipe found himself right on the Frenchman’s tail. In the closing laps, Fernando was only half a second behind sixth placed Hamilton and closing on the Englishman fast. With four of the 55 laps remaining, he swung past the Mercedes, thanks to the DRS and set his sights on the much slower Di Resta. The Spaniard had the bit between his teeth and was all over the back of the Force India, making the move on lap 52 to secure fifth spot, which is where he stayed to flag. Separating the podium trio from the Spanish Ferrari driver was fourth placed Romain Grosjean for Lotus, with Di Resta sixth for Force India and Hamilton seventh in the Mercedes. Completing the points places behind Felipe were Sergio Perez for McLaren and Adrian Sutil in the Force India.
After this arduous India-Abu Dhabi back to back, the teams have a short respite before heading West for the final two races in the Americas, starting with US Grand Prix in Austin in a fortnight’s time.
4 the number of points finishes for Felipe Massa in the same number of Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. Tonight’s eighth place can be added to a fifth in 2011, a seventh last year and a tenth in 2010. Felipe did not take part in the first edition of this race in 2009, as he was still recovering from the accident in Budapest.
21 fastest race laps for Fernando Alonso, eight of them with Ferrari. Today is the second Sunday best performance for the Spaniard after he’d been quickest over a single lap in the German Grand Prix. Alonso thus joins Vettel and Berger in tenth place in the all time record table, which his headed by Schumacher on 77 fastest race laps.
52 points scored by Fernando Alonso in five Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. The Spaniard has finished second twice, in 2011 and 2012, fifth once, this year and seventh in 2010. Only in 2009 did Fernando fail to finish in the points, when he finished fourteenth.
65 consecutive Grands Prix in which at least one Ferrari has finished in the points, which is an outright record. There has not been a no-score since the 2010 British Grand Prix. Since then, the team has scored 1329 points, an average of 20.44 per race.
230 the number of fastest race laps set by Ferrari in 868 Grand Prix participations. The Scuderia leads the record table, 77 ahead of McLaren and 100 in front of Williams, the only teams to have scored more than 100 fastest race laps.
Yas Marina, 3 November – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in fifth and eighth places respectively. The Spaniard thus strengthened his hold on second place in the Drivers’ table with 217 points, while Felipe now has 106. In the Constructors’, Scuderia Ferrari is still third, on 323 points, 11 down on Mercedes and 26 ahead of Lotus.
At the start the F138s ran seventh and eight, with Massa ahead of Alonso. On lap 16, Alonso pitted to switch from Softs to Mediums and two laps later Massa did the same. At this point, Felipe made up a place on Hulkenberg while Alonso was twelfth. The Spaniard passed Perez in the McLaren and Bottas in the Williams, thus going ninth on lap 22.
In the middle part of the race both Scuderia drivers caused some excitement. Massa passed Hamilton and Sutil to go fifth and was then joined by Alonso behind him, who also ran a very quick stint. Felipe pitted for a final time on lap 38, still for Mediums, while Alonso stayed out until lap 44. The Spaniard went for Softs, rejoining seventh ahead of Massa and behind Hamilton’s Mercedes. In the final ten laps, Fernando pushed hard to pass Hamilton and then Di Resta, crossing the line fifth and setting the fastest race lap on the very last lap. Sebastian Vettel won the race for Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso: “This qualifying has been as difficult as the rest of the weekend, even if in some races, starting eleventh on new tyres can help, so let’s hope that’s the case here. It is without a doubt better to make it through to Q3 but unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a very clean lap and I didn’t manage to make it by a few tenths. This is one of the tracks where we suffer a bit more than usual, but in general our Sunday performance is better and so, again this time, our approach to the race is positive. We must absolutely get a good start, stay focussed and run a perfect race if we want to take points towards our aim of finishing second in the Constructors’, because it will be a tough fight. We have seen that in the heat, the Softs work better than the Mediums and so logic dictates we should start on the softer tyre while it’s still daytime and switch to Mediums when darkness falls. Clearly, we have to see how things go”.
Felipe Massa: “I am pleased with my qualifying and things went better than I’d expected. All weekend, we haven’t been competitive enough and after this morning’s free practice, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to Q3, but then, thanks to a lap where I got the maximum out of the car, combined with the drop in temperature, I managed to make up a few places. Today I did all I could and I think that without a bit of oversteer at the final corner, I could have done even better. This track does not suit our car, as you need good traction and the high temperature doesn’t help either, but the race is run in the evening and I hope that will allow us to bring home those important points we need right now, even if it’s definitely not going to be easy”.
Pat Fry: “Right from the start of the weekend, we have struggled to be competitive at this track and the outcome of qualifying reflects the hierarchy through the field that we have seen since the start. Even though we worked a lot on improving the balance of both cars, we continued to suffer from a lack of grip, especially in the third sector where our rivals make the difference. In the first two sectors, we do not have any particular difficulties and we can maintain split times that are not far off those of the best, but in the final sector the gap gets bigger which has badly effected the overall lap time. When the temperature dropped, we managed to make the tyres work better, which meant the car was more reactive, even if it was not enough to allow our drivers to secure better positions. Tomorrow, we will face a very difficult race, in which it will be vital to avoid traffic in the first stint as much as possible and so we are banking on a clean start. We will have to do everything perfectly if we want to help our drivers in their quest to bring home as many points as possible”.
Yas Marina, 2 November – The bare facts are that Fernando Alonso failed to get into the final part of qualifying for the very first time this season. But there’s a separation between one’s perception of that fact as a terrible showing and the reality, which is that the Spanish Ferrari man is eleventh on the grid, on the clean side of the track. In other words, it’s not as bad as the shock of seeing him giving interviews to the press while the final top ten shoot out was still going on. As for his team-mate Felipe Massa, the Brazilian had a good afternoon, taking into account the shortcomings of the F138 on a track that plays to qualities that are not our car’s strong points, like the need for good grunt out of slow corners and the ability to operate well in very hot conditions. The Brazilian got the very most out of his car, first of all to squeeze into the final top ten shoot-out by the skin of his teeth and then by hoisting his way up to a fourth row start in eighth place.
The Brazilian shares his row with Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, while the Spanish Ferrari man finds himself on the inside of Paul di Resta’s Force India on Row 6. With both Mercedes ahead of our pairing, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton monopolise Row 2 as well as Lotus being in front; the aforementioned Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen up in fifth spot, the fight for the Prancing Horse’s current target for this final part of the season, taking second place in the Constructors’ classification, is hardly an easy task. So, it’s a case of looking for that usual Sunday turnaround, of which there have been plenty this season. The key ingredients are the redoubtable starting abilities of our two drivers, their ability to pick a line past those ahead of them when the lights go out, combined with a good race pace, excellent pit stops and a well planned strategy. Everything will be revealed tomorrow, once it gets dark.
Once again, it’s the two Red Bull drivers who will have an unimpeded view of the lights going out tomorrow. For only the second time this season, Mark Webber has taken pole, beating Sebastian Vettel.
Yas Marina, 2 November – Dusk in the desert did not prove propitious for Scuderia Ferrari. At the end of a busy session, Felipe Massa finished eighth and Fernando Alonso failed to make the cut into Q3 and will start tomorrow’s race from eleventh on the grid.
In Q1, both men set good times, doing a first run on Mediums before switching to the Softs, as did all 22 cars on track. Felipe was second with a 1.41.254 and Fernando was fifth in 1.41.397.
Q2 began with a run on the Softs from the previous session and in the last four minutes, everyone switched to new ones. At this point the F138s began to struggle more than expected. While Massa secured the tenth place in 1.40.989 to go through to the final shoot out, Alonso only just missed out, having to settle for eleventh in 1.41.093.
In the final part, Massa went out on track towards the end, doing just one run, using the final set of Softs available. The Brazilian was eighth fastest in 1.41.015. Pole went to Mark Webber in the Red Bull in a time of 1.39.957.
Yas Marina, 2 November – Saturday’s final free practice session saw another Red Bull one-two at the top of the time sheet, as the Formula 1 circus prepares to tackle the seventeenth round of season. Sebastian Vettel was fastest round the ultra-modern track with a time of 1.41.349, ahead of Mark Webber (1.41.571.) Lewis Hamilton was third in the Mercedes in 1.41.580. The two Ferraris are quite a way back, with Fernando Alonso (1.42.516) and Felipe Massa (1.42.702) eleventh and fourteenth respectively. The Spaniard did 15 laps in his F138, one more than the Brazilian. Both men tested both the Medium and the Soft Pirellis, while making final set up changes in preparation for the all-important qualifying session.
Fernando Alonso: “Compared to other Fridays, today we were a bit less competitive than usual and now we need to work out if that is down to the fact that the track characteristics do not suit our car, or if it’s a question of set-up. The tyres work better here than in India, where they suffered a lot from blistering in the fast corners, while here they are better, especially at night when the temperature drops. Unfortunately, in performance terms, we are behind our rivals for second place in the Constructors’ classification. Compared to the start of the year, they have improved and will be difficult to beat, but tomorrow we will make some changes and will do our utmost because we absolutely don’t want to give up the fight”.
Felipe Massa: “Today we got through the entire programme we had planned for this day, concentrating on set-up and the behaviour of the two Pirelli compounds. At the moment, I am not very pleased with the car’s behaviour, as we are not as competitive as I’d expected to be. On this track, we found ourselves running in daytime in the sunshine, with very high temperatures, with the conditions changing completely in the evening and in this situation, it’s not easy to understand which direction to go in. Now we will try and work out how to improve the car’s performance for tomorrow’s qualifying, which we know won’t be easy, but we’ll give it our best shot”.
Pat Fry: “As far as the work programme was concerned, this was a Friday like any other, but when it comes to the results it was rather complicated. We had a few small aerodynamic components to try and the analysis crossed over the performance of both cars, which provided enough data to choose the best configuration for the race. Here, in order to establish the best set-up, you have to take into consideration the changing track conditions between the first and second sessions. In both of them, we struggled to find the right grip level, especially on the Medium compound. In the late afternoon, the situation got better and we worked on the balance of the cars, but the results were not that satisfactory. The performance difference between the two compounds is very high and some cars, including ours, made up almost two seconds a lap. This unusual difference in performance from the Medium tyres clearly shows what a margin for improvement there is and that’s why tonight, we will evaluate solutions better suited to giving our drivers a more competitive car”.
Yas Marina, 1 November – In 2008 we first saw the night lights of Singapore, so obviously when the UAE decided it wanted a slice of the Formula 1 pie it had to come up with something different and so the “twilight” race was born. Just as the first race under the Marina Bay Ferris Wheel attracted speculation that this new idea of electric lighting might be dangerous to race under, so too the thought of drivers adapting from daylight to night time in Yas Marina was seen as potentially tricky. Of course, that has not proved to be the case so far and again today, F1 fans at the track and at home were treated to the sight of daylight retreating and the night settling in very quickly. All it requires is for the drivers to switch to a less tinted visor.
The showbiz setting and timings did little to alter the hard technical realities on track, with the champion elect, Sebastian Vettel certainly not taking it easy five days after securing the Drivers’ crown in India. He was fastest this evening, ahead of Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, the only non-world champion in the top four on the time sheet, as in third and fourth places respectively were Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.
One has to skip past the two McLarens to find Fernando Alonso in eighth place, two ahead of his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa. Both men had a trouble free time, but neither of them was happy with the performance level of the F138. Although conditions are the same for all 22 cars on track, it’s true that the unusual effect of a track temperature that drops as the session progresses, when usually the opposite is true, certainly complicates the task of finding those precious fractions of a second needed to propel the Prancing Horse up the order when it comes to tomorrow’s Qualifying session.
Like today’s final practice, the grid deciding hour also begins under the sun and ends under floodlights. At the moment, there is little doubt that the Soft Pirelli will provide the quicker lap time, by well over a second for most runners. However, unlike a week ago in Greater Noida, there should be no tactical qualifying on the slower Medium, so as to start the race on it, as even the stickiest of the two compounds here should manage a decent first stint length on the marble smooth Abu Dhabi track surface.
Yas Marina, 1 November – The second free practice session ended as the Yas Marina circuit changed into its brilliant night time attire. The spectacle did not distract Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa as they posted the eighth and tenth fastest times respectively.
At the end of a long afternoon in Abu Dhabi, the two F138s got through their programme without a hitch, with Fernando covering 31 laps and Felipe 36. Both men started the session with a run of 9 laps on the Medium tyre, before pitting for Softs on which they ran a qualifying simulation. Their best times were 1.42.171 for Alonso and 1.42.440 for Massa.
In the final 40 minutes the work switched to race simulation as the track temperature gradually dropped, just as it will do in Sunday’s race. Quickest today were the two Red Bulls; Sebastian Vettel posting a 1.41.335, beating team-mate Mark Webber by 0.155 seconds.
Yas Marina, 1 November – Romain Grosjean was quickest in the first free practice session at the futuristic Yas Marina circuit, which this weekend hosts the fifth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This event takes place just a few days after the Indian Grand Prix which saw the world titles assigned to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. The young Frenchman’s best lap in the Lotus was a 1.44.241 and he was followed on the time sheet by Lewis Hamilton (1.44.433) in the Mercedes and the aforementioned Vettel (1.44.499.) The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were twelfth and eighteenth in this session, the Spaniard lapping in 1.45.440 and the Brazilian in 1.46.124. As usual on a Friday, they focussed on set-up work. Both of them completed 18 laps, using one set of Medium tyres each.
Yas Island, 31 October – A ritual that has taken place now for many years is slowing approaching a finale, as Felipe Massa took part in his usual Thursday meeting with the F1 media in the Scuderia Ferrari hospitality. And it followed the usual pattern: questions about the last and current race, rumours about the future, a look back at the past and laughter to end the show. “We had a good race in India and I hope we can have another good one here in Abu Dhabi,” began the Brazilian. “But it’s too early to say until we see how our cars and the others go here, not really Red Bull, but particularly Mercedes and Lotus, as it won’t be an easy fight with these two, who have a quicker car. But we are not giving up and to finish second would be fantastic.
I am pretty confident we can be competitive here and fight for the podium and I feel there is a chance we can make it to the podium in one of the three races left. But, we recognise we don’t have a quick enough car to guarantee that, so we need to do everything perfectly, from a perfect lap in qualifying to a perfect strategy and perfect pace in the race. And, at the moment, I feel we can put together a perfect performance if we work hard.”
Felipe refused to comment directly on the rumours regarding which team he might drive for next year, but admitting that the top teams were all spoken for, he added: “The fact that next year sees the biggest change in rules means that anything can happen and that gives me more motivation about going to a team that is not winning now. It’s not impossible that it could be competitive next year.”
Asked about the role played by drivers who buy their seats in F1 by bringing in big sponsors, the Ferrari man had clear views on the topic. “In Formula 1 I always operated as a professional driver, paid to race and I never brought money to pay for my drive and that is something that will not change now,” he said. Bringing a sponsor has never been part of my career. It doesn’t mean I can’t help the team to find a sponsor, but not as a condition for my getting the drive. The pay-driver scenario is a big worry for Formula 1. Formula 1 is a top world sport up against other sports at this level. It’s a shame to imagine a young driver who has the talent, the ability to be in F1 and maybe be world champion but not get a chance to race. Or that a driver already in F1 can lose his place to another with a lot less talent but he has the money. But it’s been like that for a while now.” He also felt that his country need to be represented on the grid. “It’s very important for Brazil to have a driver, a successful driver in Formula 1. Now, I’m the only one and I still don’t have a contract for next year. If I’m not racing next year, or if there is no other Brazilian on the grid, it would be a big loss for the country.”
And finally, would he encourage his young son to one day be a Grand Prix driver? “I won’t push my son to be a racing driver, all the decision must come from him. It’s better if he does football, I can go to the stadium to watch him and eat French Fries. Much better than all this noise!”
Yas Marina, 31 October – Once in a while it’s good to put yourself in other people’s shoes, those who exploits you have to write about on a daily basis, telling tales of highs and lows, victories and defeats. That was the case this morning for a dozen brave Italian journalists, who chose to compete against Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in karts. The setting for this unusual challenge was the new electric kart track at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the very latest attraction at the first theme park dedicated to the Prancing Horse.
The media guys first took to the 290 metre long track for some training so as to be ready for the race, which started with the two Scuderia men right at the back of the grid, as a sign of deference towards their unlikely adversaries. Right from the first lap the competition was in overdrive and there were plenty of duels with some contact being made. Hard to say who should take the laurels for impropriety: one thing’s for sure, if Charlie Whiting had been present, the stewards would have been kept busy with reports of impeding, ignoring yellow flags and various other incidents. Furthermore, Fernando and Felipe could also be included in the list of offenders: given that they never like to be beaten, you can imagine what it was like when they were up against journalists!
“You’re all disqualified,” joked Fernando having crossed the line in first place. “The track is very slippery so it’s easy to end up wheel to wheel… I’m sure those that come to the fantastic park will have a lot of fun on this track: it’s good to have some real action alongside so many simulators!”
However, the unusual racing event did not distract Fernando from the real objective of this weekend. “It’s true that there is no longer the tension of the fight for the world title, but motivation is still 100%. There is second place in the Constructors’ to win back, which is something very important for the team and we neeed to get back to winning, because it’s never nice to watch the others celebrate. We know it will be difficult: we need three perfect races – me, Felipe the whole team – to bring home a big points haul.”
“We will try and finish the championship in the best way possible,” echoed Felipe. “For me, it would be especially nice to do so in Brazil to end my time with the Reds in style. A score for the journalists on track? A low one I’d say: they do better with the pen and the microphone!”
At the end of the morning, Felipe was given a special send off by all the staff and the general public who were at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi today: even if the next time he returns it will not be as a Scuderia driver, he will always be dear to all his fans.
Yas Island, 31 October – The sumptuous Yas Marina Circuit media centre hosted the first FIA press conference of the weekend this afternoon and Fernando Alonso was one of the six drivers called to attend. Also on the panel was the world champion elect, Sebastian Vettel who spoke of having had a couple of days back home, to get over his Indian hangover. In fact, it seemed that the media were also somewhat exhausted after the New Delhi weekend, with hardly any questions asked. The Scuderia Ferrari driver was asked to sum up his views on the two titles now being out of his and the Prancing Horse’s grasp. “We have to be realistic and accept we did not have a good enough chance to fight for the title,” admitted the Spaniard. “It was a bit of a closer contest at the beginning of the year, but after that, it was not close enough. Of course, finishing second in both championships was not our target this year, but to do so would still be something good for the team. So, we will stay focussed and do our best for the next three races, but by now we have half a mind on 2014. We are competitive people at Ferrari, so we can’t wait to start all over again.”
Apart from that, the panel was asked for its views on Kimi Raikkonen. “I can’t talk about him on a personal level,” said Fernando of his next year’s team-mate. “But as a racing driver, he is a great champion, a great talent, he is very fast and loves what he does.”
Maranello, 29 October – They will both be there in the Yas Marina Paddock, smartly turned out in Scuderia Ferrari team kit, taking part in technical meetings with the race team, talking to guests and giving interviews to the press. No, it’s not Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, but Marc Gene and Pedro de la Rosa. It’s a similar job description to the race drivers, except that, unless something prevented Fernando or Felipe from competing, they will never get to drive. However, Marc Gene and Pedro de la Rosa are an integral part of the team and rather like an iceberg, the part of them you see is the smallest one, as their work for the Scuderia goes way beyond their duties at the track. “I am a test driver, as is Pedro, albeit with slightly different roles,” explains Marc. “I work with the team and attend all the meetings and Grands Prix, but I also do work with other Ferrari departments, such as Corse Clienti and have a role as an expert with Italian TV. I also do most of the show runs with the F1 car and I work with the Ferrari markets around the world.”
“I am also a test driver and I travel to all the Grands Prix,” adds Pedro, taking up the narrative. “If anything should happen to one of the race drivers I have to be ready to jump into a car to replace them. However the biggest contribution I make is back in Maranello, where I am part of the development programme in the simulator, together with Andrea Bertolini and Davide Rigon. Together we work on developing not only the simulator, but also the F138 and next year’s car as well.”
This week, they will be working alongside the rest of the team in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina circuit and Pedro especially is well placed to talk about the track, as he has raced around the 5.554 kilometre track in Formula 1. “I love the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina track,” enthuses the Spaniard, who competed in 107 Grands Prix. “It’s beautiful with no bumps and very flat, so you can run the car as low as you want at the front. The asphalt is very smooth and it’s very easy on the tyres, so sometimes you can struggle to get them up to temperature. The two first sectors are very similar, with top speed, hard braking and chicanes and the F138 will be quite competitive at this point on the track. Then, for the third sector with more low speed turns, you need a very high downforce set up. With the 5pm start, you begin the race in daylight and then gradually during the race it starts to get night, so you set your visor tear-offs to have different tones to adapt to the changing light conditions.”
Gene, who drove in 36 Grands Prix and has won the Le Mans 24 Hours also finds this an interesting track. “Yas Marina is a typical standard Hermann Tilke track, which means it has a bit of everything,” reckons the Spaniard. “It has a first sector with some quite high speed corners that actually suit our car quite well as does the second sector, where there are the two longest straights. The last sector is probably the most difficult for us where traction is very important. That’s the part of the circuit people remember, as the track goes under the hotel, which is not something you do so often as a Formula 1 driver and you are aware that the noise level at that point in the car is very high.”
Gene and De la Rosa have worked together for a while now and are something of a double act when it comes to interviews, bouncing off one another. Asked what they recall about the first time they drove a Prancing Horse F1 car, Marc is the first to jump in. “I drove one much earlier than Pedro, even though I am much younger than him. I drove it at the end of 2004. That year we had a great car, maybe the best Formula 1 car in history. The drive was in Barcelona so I was driving at home, which meant it couldn’t have been better than driving a World Championship winning car in my home town. I will never forget it.” As Marc said, I had my first drive much later, but the important thing is not your age, it’s how you look! jokes Pedro. “My first ever test with Ferrari was in Jerez this year in February and obviously it’s something you never forget. It was not an easy test as, on the installation lap the car caught fire, and we lost half the day. The mechanics did a fantastic job to rebuild the car and we managed over 50 laps by the end of the day. My baptism with Ferrari was really one of fire! But it was still an unbelievable experience and I can remember being impressed by the grip level of the car. Prior to that I had been driving a much less competitive F1 car so it was a bit of a shock for me. I also began to realise what it means to drive for Ferrari as there was a lot of pressure on me at that test, even though it was only a test, but it was a good experience. With Ferrari you just have to win.” Despite what De La Rosa says, this year, we know Ferrari will not win the championships, but taking second place in the Constructors’ category, in which it currently trails Mercedes by just a handful of points, is now the prime target for this season. “Behind Red Bull I expect it to be quite close in Abu Dhabi and I think Ferrari can fight for the podium here,” believes Marc. “Qualifying is our weak point and if we can manage to get on the second row, that would feel like pole to us! If we could do that then I feel we can get to the podium and therefore be in front of our main competitors Mercedes and Lotus which would be good for our chances to finish second in the Constructors’.”
A lot will depend on tyres and the same compounds used in India are again the choice for this Sunday. “I think Medium and Soft is quite a safe bet for Pirelli,” states Gene. “It’s probably the combination we have seen the most this year even if, at some circuits, most recently India, the Soft can suffer if it’s under stress.” “At Yas Marina it will be quite easy on strategy, but you have to take into account how the track will evolve over the course of the weekend, not just in terms of rubbering in but also the temperature drop of the surface is quite big from daytime to night,” interjects Pedro. “It means that track temperature can influence your choice of compound. Funnily enough the Medium has a low working range and the Soft a high working range, so it could be that at night with low track temperature the harder compound could work better.”
The Yas Marina circuit holds a special place in Ferrari’s recent history. On the one hand, there’s pride in being able to race alongside the first theme park dedicated exclusively to the Maranello mark: whoever arrives on the artificial island gets the impression of being close to the world of Ferrari. The park, which opened in 2010, pays homage to the passion, excellence, style, racing spirit and technical innovation, which are all part of Ferrari’s DNA. Covering an area of around 200,000 square metres and under a roof boasting the biggest Scuderia emblem ever seen, it is home to over twenty attractions, including the biggest roller coaster in the world and allows adults and kids to try a complete multi-senses experience of the world of the Prancing Horse.
On the other hand, the outcome of the races has never smiled on the Scuderia. Out of the eight available there have only been two podium finishes in the four races held to date, second place for Fernando Alonso in 2011 and 2012. Both of them carry a hint of bitterness with them. In 2011, that was because a year earlier that result would have been good enough to give Fernando the title, but this time, it did nothing, given that Vettel had already been crowned in Suzuka. And the 2012 one for two reasons: victory probably escaped the Oviedo driver by a few kilometres – one more lap would have brought him up behind Raikkonen and into the DRS zone, which would have given him an excellent chance of overtaking – and then there were only three points made up on Vettel, who had to start from the back of the grid, because of a penalty in qualifying, the same gap that separated the two men at the chequered flag in Sao Paolo a few weeks later.
The biggest disappointment came in 2010 and it still pulls on the heartstrings of many guys in the red team kit and so many fans. That year Fernando arrived in Abu Dhabi leading the Championship and he seemed the clear favourite, having qualified third ahead of main rival Webber. However, the race played out an incredible script, which bears repeating, even if it opens up old wounds. With Fernando on the aforementioned third place and Felipe sixth on the grid, the Spaniard was passed at the start by Button, but still had the edge over his closest rival in the title fight, Webber, while Felipe maintained position. It was on the opening lap that a key incident occurred as Schumacher lost control of his car at Turn 6 ad spun, to be hit broadsides by Liuzzi. That brought out the Safety Car until lap 5: some drivers took the opportunity to put to switch from soft to hard tyres.
At the restart, there were no significant changes, so the race began to get into a pattern, with Vettel leading, from Hamilton, then Button Alonso, Webber and Massa. The Australian was beginning to struggle on the soft tyres and came in early on la 11, rejoining behind Alguersuari, who had already pitted The Toro Rosso driver’s “resistence” lasted little over a lap, before he let the Red Bull by. In the meantime the Ferrari pit wall decided to bring Felipe in on lap 13, to try and get ahead of Webber, but the gamble didn’t work and the Brazilian found himself behind Alguersuari. Two laps later, Alonso stopped when he was fourth, 6.5 down on Vettel. It did get him out before Webber, thus covering the Australian, but he found himself behind two cars that had stopped in the Safety Car period, Petrov’s Renault and Rosberg’s Mercedes. Fernando’s race to the title was therefore an uphill struggle and it got even more complicated when the driver and team realised it would take a miracle or a mistake to get ahead of Petrov, despite the performance difference between the two cars. From then, nothing much changed for the two Ferraris, who made a few places only thanks to planned pit stops from others. The lead trio, on tyres that were degrading much less than expected, were split on lap 23 when Hamilton pitted, followed next time round by Vettel.
Button now led, staying out until lap 39. In the middle of the trio, Kubica was fighting hard, before dropping to fifth when he changed tyres. After Sutil’s stop on lap 47, Fernando found himself seventh, but could do no better: at this point he would have had to pass three cars to get the fourth place needed to keep his lead over Vettel, who was comfortably in the lead. Fernando tried his utmost to the very end, taking risks, but there was no way past the Russian, driving in obstinate yet precise fashion that had not been seen from him all year. The race thus ended with a win for the German Red Bull driver, ahead of Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Kubica, Petrov, Fernando, Webber, Alguersuari and Felipe. The drivers’ title went to Vettel who had a four point lead over the Ferrari man. It was a very bitter end, to what had nevertheless been a great season, especially the second part. It’s not worth going back over the whys and wherefores of a strategy that seemed right at the time – as Webber was the main rival to mark – but did not with hindsight, as it did not take into account the tyre degradation effect and the real potential of the car in overtaking, even if back then the simulation tools for predicting these variables were not available. It’s also not worth thinking how the last four years might have turned out if things had gone differently that day. Once in a while it comes to mind and sparks regret, but in sport one needs to be able to look ahead, learning lessons and improving day after day.
Having dealt with 2010, one can look at 2009, the inaugural edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Kimi Raikkonen’s twelfth place, as he bid farewell to his first chapter in red and a sixteenth for Giancarlo Fisichella is why there is little to say about that weekend and we are sure that you readers share that view.
And finally, a consideration: two podium finishes and six points finishes are a poor result for a race run alongside the Prancing Horse theme park. The hope is that this weekend, we can finally witness a Grand Prix that will give the Ferrari fans who pack the grandstands, maybe even celebrating afterwards at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi!