|Circuit||Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Sao Paulo
|Distance||305,909 km / 190,124 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||3.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||7.|
Maranello, 25 November – In Formula 1 you never stop. The 2013 season only finished 24 hours ago but heads have already turned towards the next one: indeed in little more than two months we will return to the track at Jerez de la Frontera for the first of three pre-season tests.
So there’s not a moment to lose because at Ferrari we know that every bit of energy must be focused on the new car and preparation for the next championship. It’s true that the fundamental choices have already been computed and that there is a huge amount of work to do to be ready at the start. Never before have so many rule changes led to such a technical reset and, consequently, the chance to start again from more or less the same level. Now the programme of updates to the wind tunnel has been completed it has returned to working full-time and the technical department has been boosted by the arrival of James Allison and other engineers, all the elements are in place to compete at the highest level in the knowledge that only one result can be enough: victory. The team owes it to itself, to its drivers and to its outstanding tifosi who, even in a difficult season, have always been very close, proving themselves yet again to be the best in the world.
The moment has also arrived to take stock of a championship, the one that finished yesterday, which has brought more disappointment than joy. Among the former the biggest was not managing to adapt the F138 to the changes to the tyres that were introduced during the course of the year. We should say that the first target requested of his team by Domenicali a year ago – to start straightaway with a car that was capable of winning – was achieved: two wins and a podium in the first five races and two more podiums that slipped through our fingers through particular incidents bear witness to that. Summer didn’t lead to the change of gear in development that would have been necessary to battle with the strength of the Vettel-Red Bull partnership, which absolutely dominated the second part of the season: given why this jump in quality didn’t happen, the engineers will have to work hard in order to avoid a repeat of certain errors that have been very costly this year.
Looking at the balance sheet there are still two victories (China and Spain) and two Champions League places, to borrow a term from football: Fernando Alonso’s second place in the drivers’ championship and the team’s third place in the constructors’ championship. Fernando has again been exceptional: the fact that he has finished in this position three times in his last four seasons with the Scuderia is down above all to his talent as well as the skill of a team that has worked hard and well at the track. We don’t believe we are being presumptuous if we claim that our overall reliability, race strategy and pit stop work have been the best of anyone during 2013, a sign that, even when things aren’t going in the right direction, it’s always best to make sure you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The team’s third place nonetheless represents a sign of continuity at the top that has no equal. No one, not just in Formula 1 but also in the other most important sporting disciplines, can say that they have stayed in the world championship top three from 1994 to today – with the sole exception of 2009 when the Scuderia was fourth by one point. There remains a bit of bitterness for the penalty, which was excessive to say the least, inflicted yesterday on Felipe Massa, which deprived him of a top four finish. Without the drive-through the Brazilian would have finished in fourth place and the team would have collected 27 points, 17 more than Mercedes (who would have ended up with ten points: eight from Rosberg’s sixth place and two from Hamilton’s ninth place) and would thus have been two points clear of the Anglo-German team in the final standings: a slap in the face, this penalty, which we could have definitely done without.
Interlagos signalled not just the end of the 2013 season but also the end of a relationship between the Scuderia and Felipe which began a full 12 years ago. It was a weekend that was emotionally very intense for everyone at the track but also for those at Maranello who have worked alongside the Brazilian driver for many years. “He said goodbye with a very good performance and it’s really a shame that he couldn’t have done the same from the very podium where, five years ago, he gave a lesson in dignity and sportsmanship to the whole world,” said Stefano Domenicali, one of those who has always stood by Felipe through the highs and lows. “Many emotions have come in quick succession through these last few days, one after another. On the slowing down lap I told Felipe over the radio that he would always stay in our hearts and, above all, that he is a world champion to us.” Now Felipe is ready for a new adventure but there will still be a time and a chance to say goodbye to him here at Maranello at the company’s Pre-Christmas events. From January 1 he will be wearing the colours of another team but he will always stay a friend of Ferrari: obrigado Felipe!
Stefano Domenicali: “We have ended a difficult season with our heads held high, once again front runners in a Grand Prix that had a bittersweet outcome. Today, we witnessed a very aggressive Ferrari, in a wonderful race for Fernando, while for Felipe it was over when he was handed a penalty, which honestly, I find a bit extreme and forced. Because I don’t think Felipe’s move gave him any advantage. With the points he could have scored the outcome of the Constructors’ championship could have been different. However, I was very happy to see the team react and work well here in all conditions. This has to be the impetus to prepare for next season as well as possible and our engineers are aware of the results we want to obtain. The assessment of this season just ended cannot be positive, because after a competitive start, we had a second half that did not live up to our standards, as I have said many times before. Now words count for nothing, but only the work we must do back home: on this topic, I think all the decisions we have taken and the changes we made are taking us in the right direction to tackle next season in the best way possible.”
Fernando Alonso: “A podium is the best way to end this long season and finishing behind two Red Bulls almost tastes like a victory, as well as being the maximum we could have done today. It’s a real shame that the much awaited rain didn’t arrive in the end, because in the wet, we would definitely have been more competitive. I did not get away well at the start and I found myself blocked on the outside and then the inside. However, after catching Hamilton and Rosberg, I began to push and my race was all on the attack. Even if we cannot be fully satisfied with this result, because our aim is always to win, I would view the season in a positive light: we did win and get podiums, as well as finishing second in the Drivers’ Championship and these are figures we can be proud of, both myself and Felipe. He’s been a fantastic team-mate and even if we continue to see one another in the paddock, I will miss the relationship we have had. I wish him all the best for the future.”
Felipe Massa: “My race began perfectly, with a great start and then a strong pace that allowed me to immediately pull of some nice passing moves and I was having a really great race up until the moment I was given a penalty for crossing the white line. I don’t think I deserved a drive-through and I believe it was very unfair. I am very disappointed because today I could have finished fourth or third. I am sure that if I had found myself behind Fernando, he’d have let me pass. However, I don’t want this incident to ruin such a special weekend for me and all my team. In their eyes, I am a world champion and I will never forget them, nor anything about my time with Ferrari. I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity and maximum support all the time, including President Montezemolo, Stefano Domenicali and all the mechanics and engineers who work at the track and back home, as well as all the Ferrari fans who, over the years, have rejoiced with me and also suffered with me during the most difficult moments. Thank you!”
Pat Fry “Today’s was a very uncertain race, for which it was difficult to make predictions because of unknowns relating to the weather and tyre behaviour. In the end, it didn’t rain and the tyres displayed linear degradation, thanks also to the skillful management of both drivers. The car was well suited to the characteristics of this circuit also in the dry and, but for Felipe’s penalty, we could have finished third and fourth. It would have been absolutely deserved because without a doubt today we were the second best team in the field. The team worked impeccably all weekend and I want to congratulate everyone for having tackled such a difficult season with maximum dedication. I am pleased the pit stop guys set the fastest times of the year and that our engineers were able to yet again deliver amazing reliability on the engine front, the systems and all car components, which is a key element when it comes to preparing for next year, for a new season when we want to return to being front runners again.”
Interlagos, 24 November – Fernando Alonso and Ferrari finished the 2013 season on the podium, as the Spaniard came third at the Carlos Pace circuit, behind the all-conquering Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. In the early stages, it looked as though Felipe Mass would finish right behind his team-mate, but a drive-through penalty cost him dear and the Brazilian ended his final race in a Prancing Horse car in seventh position. The goal of finishing second in the Constructors’ classification eluded the Scuderia by just a handful of points.
As the cars left the pit lane to form up on the grid, it was the first time anyone had used dry weather tyres all weekend. Starting from third and ninth, Fernando and Felipe were on the Medium compound, as was the entire field with the exception of Button and Gutierrez, who went for the Hard Pirellis.
Fernando first tried to go between pole man Vettel and the wall then dived the other way and got blocked so he dropped a place to fourth behind Hamilton. Felipe did better, making up three places to be sixth first time across the line. At the front there was a lap long battle between Rosberg who got his Mercedes ahead of pole man Vettel when the lights went out, but the superiority of the Red Bull paid off and Vettel led the opening lap. Fernando was back in third by now, as he pushed past Hamilton, with Webber fourth.
On lap 3, Grosjean parked the Lotus at the side of the track, covered in white smoke from a blown engine. On lap 4, a great move saw Fernando go second, passing Rosberg, although two laps later, he was trailing Vettel by almost 5 seconds. The two Mercedes seemed to be struggling at this point, which meant, still in sixth, Felipe was only 0.7 behind Hamilton. By lap 10, Fernando had his friend Webber right on his tail, in the clearly quicker Red Bull. As they crossed the line to start lap 13, the Australian demoted Fernando to third. Further back, Button was charging up from 15th, passing Bottas in the Williams to go eleventh behind his McLaren team-mate Perez in tenth. By this stage, the two Toro Rossos of Vergne and Ricciardo were the only drivers to have come in to switch to the Hard compound. Felipe was in fighting mood and charged past Rosberg at the end of the back straight, so the Brazilian was now fifth. Bottas in the Williams and Sutil in the Force India pitted on lap 18 from the mid-field.
Felipe took on another set of Mediums on lap 19. Next time round, Button, Hulkenberg and Di Resta all pitted, Button still out of sync with the majority, now on the Medium. Fernando and Hamilton came in on 21, the Spaniard dropping to fourth, while taking on Hards, with Rosberg coming in from third next time round. This promoted Fernando and Felipe to third and fourth respectively behind the two Red Bulls. Webber had a slow stop for another set of Mediums, which allowed Fernando to slip by into second behind the race leader who in turn stopped without losing the lead on lap 24, at about the time a few drops of rain began to fall. Fernando was powerless to prevent Webber retaking second at the start of lap 26 In fourth, Felipe now found Hamilton in very close attendance on his gearbox. Both men locked their wheels almost side by side going into Turn 1 on lap 32, but unfortunately the Stewards indicated that Felipe had to take a drive-through penalty for having all four wheels across the white line at the pit lane entrance. He came in at the end of lap 34 and rejoined eighth behind Perez in the McLaren. The order at roughly the halfway mark was Vettel, Webber, Fernando third 4.2 behind the Australian, then Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Perez, Felipe eighth, with Hulkenberg in the Sauber and Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso completing the top ten.
The few drops were changing into drizzle by around lap 39, but still not enough for anything but slicks. Felipe and Button both pitted on lap 44, the Ferrari man taking on his first set of Hards, rejoining tenth. Next time round it was Rosberg and Perez making the trip down pit lane. With the clouds gathering, clearly the lead quartet – Vettel, Webber, Fernando and Hamilton – were hoping their next stop might coincide with the need for rain rubber. Felipe was back to ninth after passing Di Resta on lap 46 and eighth when Hulkenberg pitted. As Bottas brought out the yellows, having been hit by Hamilton, the leading trio also pitted, with the Red Bulls pulling a double pit stop, followed by Hamilton’s Mercedes a few moments later. The pit stops had reduced the gaps, mainly because of confusion delaying the leader’s tyre change: Vettel led Webber by 6.3, with Fernando only 0.6 behind the Australian, the Spaniard putting in a fastest race lap on lap 49. Felipe was now seventh, still behind Perez, after Hamilton had pitted. The Englishman would have to come in again for a penalty, having caused the incident that put Bottas’ Williams out of the race. Light rain had returned, only in the vicinity of Turn 4. Three seconds ahead of Felipe battle raged as Perez tried to get his McLaren past Rosberg’s Mercedes.
With ten laps of the 71 remaining, Fernando was 2.4 behind Webber, with a comfortable 21.5 in hand over Button, who had steadily moved his way up to fourth in the McLaren. From then, the gaps expanded but the order remained unchanged, so that Fernando was able to salute the crowd from the season’s last podium, with the Ferrari crew cheering him, already wearing special Massa commemorative T-shirts.
11 wins: three in Turkey, two in Bahrain and Brazil and once in the Grands Prix in France, Spain, Europe and Belgium.
14 fastest race laps: twice in Spain, Europe and Hungary, one each in the Grands Prix in Bahrain, France, Belgium, China, Japan, Brazil, Monaco and Australia.
15 pole positions: three in Turkey and Brazil, two in Malaysia, one each in the races in Japan, Bahrain, Spain, France, Monaco, Europe and Singapore.
36 podium finishes. Apart from his eleven wins, Felipe has twelve second places and thirteen thirds to his name.
102 points finishes.
139 Grands Prix starts.
885 laps in the lead of a Grand Prix.
7,928 Grand Prix laps completed.
4.268,844 kilometres covered in the lead of a Grand Prix.
39,705,012 Grand Prix kilometres.
9 the number of podium finishes for Fernando Alonso in 19 races this season. The Spaniard has ended the championship with two wins, five seconds and two thirds. Fernando has finished in the top ten on a further eight occasions, with only two races, in Malaysia and India, out of the points.
15 the number of points finishes for Felipe Massa this season. The Brazilian has only been on the podium once with a third place in the Spanish Grand Prix and there have been four no-scores, in Bahrain, Monaco, Germany and the United States.
22 seconds and 342 thousandths: the time spent by Felipe Massa in pit lane at his first stop. The Brazilian had the quickest stop of the day, which confirms the good work carried out in the pits by the Ferrari mechanics, who on average, have been the quickest this season.
32 points finishes for Scuderia Ferrari this season, ten of them on the podium. Fernando Alonso’s third place today at Interlagos interrupts a drought dating back six races: his was also the previous podium finish for a Ferrari, when he finished second in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Interlagos, 24 November – Fernando Alonso finished the Brazilian Grand Prix in third place and Felipe Massa was seventh. Scuderia Ferrari thus ends the season in third place in the Constructors’ classification with 354 points. Alonso secured the runner-up spot in the Drivers’ championship last week in the USA GP and Massa ended his time at Ferrari in eighth place in the classification.
Both drivers started on the Medium tyre and as the lights went out, the Spaniard dropped a place while the Brazilian passed three cars to go sixth. On lap 1, Fernando charged past Hamilton and three laps later he also dealt with Rosberg in the Mercedes to go second. On lap 13 Alonso had to give best to Webber and on lap 15, Massa got by Rosberg to go fifth.
Massa stayed on Mediums at his first stop on lap 19 and two laps later Alonso switched to the Hards. With the run of stops, Alonso got past Webber’s Red Bull to go second again and Massa made up a place on Hamilton. Lap 26 saw Webber pass Alonso again. Lap 31 saw Massa get a drive-through penalty for a white line infringement, which dropped the Brazilian from fourth to eighth.
Massa’s second stop came on lap 43 to take on Hards and on lap 47 Alonso made his final stop of the year taking on Mediums. When all the stops were completed, Alonso was again third and Massa had moved up to seventh. The final laps saw the threat of rain but it never materialised to influence the result. The race was run by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso: “After the results of the last few Grands Prix, it’s really good news to be back in the top three. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a perfect lap, because I went off the track at turn 4. I lost seven or eight tenths there and I think also second place on the time sheet, which I believe was within our grasp today. We know our car is more competitive in the wet and it’s a shame that this year, it’s only rained here, but now we have to look ahead and think about getting on the podium tomorrow, as if we were fighting for the World Championship, because it would be the best way to end the season. Here at Interlagos, you never get consistent conditions and we saw that again today, when we went from an extremely wet track to an almost dry one in ten minutes. That’s why I expect a very hectic race in which we will have to pay maximum attention to not making any mistakes. It will also be necessary to have a perfect strategy and an ability to react very quickly.”
Felipe Massa: “This qualifying session was made particularly complicated by the changing weather, because in the space of a few moments, it went from strong rain to suddenly stopping and everything in between happened! I am not happy with my lap, because believe me, I expected something better, but I lost time in the second and third sectors and on some parts of the track, I was aquaplaning and losing grip. I am disappointed to have lost a lot of places because of that, as I was aiming to start from further up the order, but now all we can do is think about having a good race. For tomorrow, they are predicting rain, but we must be ready for whatever conditions we get, because here you never know and we haven’t done so much as a single lap on a dry track. Without a doubt it will be a very exciting race for us drivers and for the fans too: all the energy they exude will be an extra motivation for me to do well on what is a very important day.”
Pat Fry “That was a rather odd day, with most of the work concentrated into the afternoon. Because of rain in the morning free practice session, we decided to only do a double installation lap with the idea of saving as many sets of new tyres as possible for qualifying and the race. In such changeable weather and with so much water on the track, the best choice seemed to be not to take any risks, which turned out to be the right one, given the prolonged rain in the afternoon. In qualifying the main difficulty was interpreting the track conditions: in Q1, we immediately managed to set a good time on a set of intermediates, while in Q2 we used two sets of new intermediates. The worsening weather conditions delayed the start of Q3, where before going out on the last set of intermediates, we had to go out on the Extreme wets. I am pleased with the way the team worked in the pits, as regards delaying our drivers going out on track so that they ended up being the last to cross the line. Fernando got a good lap and I think tomorrow we can aim to finish on the podium. However, it was a shame for Felipe as he was unable to improve in the second and third sectors, but I am sure that in his final race with Ferrari, he will try and make up for it tomorrow in front of his home crowd. In the race it will be important to adapt as quickly as possible to the track conditions, which according to the forecast will be similar to today’s, with a 30% chance of rain.”
Interlagos, 23 November – There are so many emotions swirling around the charismatic Carlos Pace circuit and an “end of school” feel to this weekend, as teams tackled qualifying for the final time today and prepared for the nineteenth and last race of the year. In pure racing terms, Scuderia Ferrari is aiming to add second place in the Constructors’ classification to the one Fernando Alonso secured a week ago in Austin in the Drivers’. But in all honesty, it’s more a matter of team pride and an obligation to do its utmost for the “tifosi” tuning in and trackside, than any need to take satisfaction from a second place. Then there comes the human emotion linked to Felipe Massa’s final Ferrari farewell, heightened by the fact it is taking place at his home track.
As far as the Constructors’ is concerned, Fernando Alonso produced another epic performance to make it into the top three, his wet weather skills boosted by the fact the F138 seems to enjoy the puddles. However, the Spanish perfectionist was a bit disappointed because, but for an off-track moment on his final quick lap, the front row looked a distinct possibility for the first time this year: maybe not pole, as yet again Sebastian Vettel ensured his Red Bull will occupy the top spot with a lap that was over half a second ahead of the rest of the pack. Whereas Lotus has recently taken on the role of “best of the rest” behind Red Bull, this weekend that position has clearly been adopted by Mercedes, or at least Nico Rosberg, as Lewis Hamilton seems to have struggled a bit here. The German is second, but at least Fernando will have him in his sights, as well as starting from the better side – one can hardly call it the clean side after two days of rain – of the grid. As for the threat from the second Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton is fifth, with Fernando sharing his row with his old friend, Mark Webber for whom this race marks the end of his Formula 1 career.
As for Felipe, he definitely hoped for something better than his ninth place on the inside of the fifth row, but the Paulista struggled rather too much in the last two sectors of the track. Nevertheless, he is not the sort to give up without a fight. And he will be able to rely on the very real boost that will come from his home crowd.
Anyone lucky enough to have ever stood on the grid at the Carlos Pace circuit will have experienced what it’s like to be just a few metres away from the most vocal crowd of the year. The start-line grandstand is very near the trackside and you can be sure that tomorrow, the noise of the Paulistas cheering on their own Felipe Massa will be drowning out the sound of the engines as they go through their warm-up procedure.
Interlagos 23 November – Like all sessions so far, qualifying was also rain affected, with the showers coming at various intensities throughout the afternoon, making for difficult strategic and technical choices for everyone. Fernando Alonso ended up third for Scuderia Ferrari with team-mate Felipe Massa ninth to give him a fifth row start in his home race tomorrow.
In Q1, everyone went out immediately in case the rain got heavier, as indeed it did. On Intermediates, Massa and Alonso were thirteenth and ninth respectively. When the rain got heavier after 8 minutes the F138s returned to the pits. Alonso then did 6 laps with a best of 1.26.656, while Massa did 4 with a best of 1.26.817.
Again, once the light went green for Q2, all 16 cars took to the track and with five minutes remaining the Ferrari duo fitted a new set of intermediates for the final run. Alonso was third in 1.26.590 and Massa was sevnth with a 1.27.049.
Q3 was delayed by 40 minutes because the rain was so heavy. At the light, everyone went out on the full wet tyres, but after 3 laps, the conditions improved enough for Alonso and Massa to switch to the intermediates and with these, Alonso set the third best time of 1.27.539, while Massa was ninth in 1.28.109. Pole went to Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull with a lap of 1.26.479.
Fernando Alonso “It’s always hard to get much running when it rains here, as the level of water on track is never consistent and can affect lap times by two to three seconds. Each time you go off the racing line you then have to try and understand the track conditions at that precise moment, because there are no absolute values. But given that the forecast for the weekend is similar to today’s, we can say that, even if it was short, it was a good practice. Qualifying and the race will be very complicated from the strategy point of view and, on that front this evening we will have to come up with a good plan. To do well here, you also need a bit of luck, because in conditions like this, being in the right place at the right time is always a help.”
Felipe Massa: “Today was a difficult day, complicated by the rain in both the morning and afternoon. With the track wet throughout, we chose to do not much running and what we did was on Intermediates. That way we managed to save the sets of Extreme Wets, in expectation of very variable weather over the weekend. It’s hard to establish how the weekend will go, because even if we weren’t quick today in the rain, it’s too early to say what conditions will best suit our car. It will definitely be important to use the tyres well and to get confident with the track. For me, this is a very special weekend, my last race with Ferrari on my home track. I am racing here with an all-red helmet and a fantastic race suit, given me as a sign of affection by my team, with whom I hope to end the season in the best way possible.”
Pat Fry: “On Friday, it’s always difficult to work out the hierarchy in the pit lane, especially in mixed conditions like today’s. In the morning we carried out some practice starts, as well as pit stops and constant speed runs, which will provide useful data when it comes to working out the best set-up for the wet. As it is also expected to be wet tomorrow, in the second session, we opted to save the tyres, only going out for the final half hour. Even if the total number of laps over the two sessions is not enough to give an accurate picture of where we stand in terms of our competitiveness with other teams, I don’t expect anything very much different from the last few Grands Prix. This evening we will try and evaluate our performance as well as possible compared to the opposition and will prepare to get everything out of the car both in qualifying and the race.”
Interlagos, 22November – While some on-line weather sites were still showing glorious sunshine for Interlagos today, the more experienced hands in its cramped and crowded paddock all made sure they went home with their rain jackets last night.
Sure enough, Friday dawned damp and cooler than the past couple of days and the track surface never dried enough for any slick tyre work at all. Just as in Spa-Francorchamps, the rain is almost an essential ingredient of the Brazilian GP weekend and all the teams know how to deal with it. The only difficulty is that there is not an endless supply of rain tyres to play with and each driver gets just three sets of the Extreme Wets, for use in heavy rain, to last the entire weekend. With more wet weather almost inevitable, the need to do plenty of laps, to gather data for the engineers and confidence in the track for the drivers has to be tempered with the need to save the Extremes, if they are needed for the critical qualifying session tomorrow afternoon and of course the final race of the season.
That’s why Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa completed a mere 47 laps, 23 for the former and one more for the latter, of the tiny track, which although not the shortest, that honour going to Monaco, does produce the fastest lap of the season in dry conditions. Even in the rain, there was a decent crowd today and they no doubt enjoyed seeing Felipe sporting a special red helmet decorated with all the landmark numbers from his Ferrari career, as well as a race suit the design of which reflected his time with the team as well as his nationality. The Brazilian ended the day seventh fastest, four places ahead of his Spanish team-mate on the time sheet.
Nico Rosberg was quickest for Mercedes – in both sessions in fact – while Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber were second and third in the afternoon.
Interlagos, 22 November – The Sao Paulo weather was true to form, providing a wet track again for all of the afternoon session of the final round of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship. This limited track activity, as the teams were keen to save the full wet tyres for the rest of the weekend, including qualifying and especially Sunday’s race.
The two F138s went out with 22 minutes remaining, running Intermediate tyres. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both did 5 laps before pitting. They then did one final run on the same tyres to do some aero testing. Massa was seventh in 1.28.540, with Alonso eleventh with a time of 1.28.928. Quickest this afternoon was Nico Rosberg who lapped in 1.27.306 in the Mercedes.
Interlagos, 21 November – As the only Brazilian driver in Formula 1, it was a safe bet that Felipe Massa would be summoned to this morning’s FIA press conference at the Carlos Pace circuit. While the real farewells were for his fellow panellist, Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who is heading off to the World Endurance Championship next year, the theme of the questions aimed at Felipe all concerned the fact this is his last race for Scuderia Ferrari. “I hope to enjoy my last race with Ferrari and want to thank everyone, including Stefano as well, as he is big friend who did a lot for me,” began Felipe. “I want to have a lot of fun this weekend, ending with a good result that would make it even more emotional,” said the Paulista, reprising much of what he’d said earlier in the week. He revealed his affection for the Prancing Horse went back to a time long before serious racing. “My first go kart was red and my first overall was red!” he recalled. “I’m getting older, but now I come to another re-start to my career and I’m really looking forward to a change and going to Williams. I think I still have a lot to do in Formula 1. I am happy and motivated to drive for them and to help them be competitive again.”
Apart from the personal importance of Massa staying in F1, there is also the matter of national pride, ensuring there will still be a Brazilian on the grid next year. “That’s very important,” agreed Felipe. “The country has such a history in this sport,” he affirmed: “so many drivers, so many victories, so many championships. For Brazil, Formula 1 is very important and we have motor racing in the blood. In the junior categories, things are not going so well in Brazil, so it is also important to give it a push to help for the future of this country in motor sport. I have been trying to help and to give ideas to the Brazilian federation.”
Asked if he thought Ferrari would miss him, Felipe laughed and replied, “I hope so! That’s not something I think about really. I just hope Ferrari can also have a good future. I have nothing to complain about, because we had a very good time together. I hope I can have a fantastic future in a different team and I hope the same for Ferrari. I really have zero frustration in my life and that’s the way it is.”
Interlagos, 21 November – At this time of the year, the media’s go-to opening question is to ask for a summary of the season coming to an end. At the Scuderia Ferrari hospitality area in the antique Sao Paulo paddock, Fernando Alonso duly obliged. “This season has been more or less good for us,” he began. “Obviously we start each year thinking of the world championship, so when you don’t get the title, it’s not been a good enough season. We therefore need to do things better next year. However, I am very proud to have finished second this year, because last year, even if we came second in the Constructors, I was left with a strange taste in my mouth as we came so close to winning the Drivers’. This year’s second place feels better because we clearly didn’t have the second fastest car. I think I realised we would not win the championship around Germany or Hungary as we were too far off Red Bull in terms of competitiveness and the Silverstone update didn’t work well enough. And in Germany and Hungary we were not competitive at all going into the summer break.”
The man from Oviedo didn’t have to think twice when asked for his best memory of 2013. “That was Barcelona: I won two Grands Prix this year, one in China, the other in Barcelona, in front of my home crowd and with all the support I had it was a fantastic event for me. That day has left me with the best memories.”
Fernando has never won here in Brazil, but this weekend’s venue has special significance for him. “Interlagos means a lot in my career in Formula 1,” he said. “I am used to feeling a little bit nervous each time I come here because, out of my 12 years in Formula 1, on four occasions I have fought for the world title here, which is something I had never expected. This year is a bit strange coming here without the world championship on the table, but we still have some important targets especially in the Constructors’ but it’s not the same level of stress.” As for the unique weather that has often altered the outcome of this race, the Ferrari man was not too bothered by this threat. “It’s always a bit random here and you know the rain can come at any time, but we are so used to running in the wet in Interlagos that when it rains it feels half normal. It’s a bit strange in the dry let’s say!”
The Ferrari man was pleased to say his back problems are now over, following his Abu Dhabi incident. “My back now is okay and for the last two nights I think it’s been a hundred percent with no pain and I have been able to train in the gym and do some jogging also,” he revealed. “In Austin, I never thought of letting Pedro (de la Rosa) having the car. Once you have flown there and you are there, then you race! However, if there had only been one week between Abu Dhabi and Austin, I would have been unable to race.”
For Felipe Massa, this weekend is always special, but this time the Paulista’s home race also marks the end of his time at Ferrari and his relationship with Alonso. “We have enjoyed four years of a productive relationship for Ferrari,” said Fernando. “We have worked very closely together and also built a friendly relationship outside the track, partly because of the programmes the team organises, such as the training we did in Lanzarote, as well as the time we spent together in Madonna di Campiglio. We’ve had a great time together. On the track, there have been some ups and downs, in Felipe’s case usually linked to what tyres we had, such as in 2011 when he struggled a bit more than me. But he has always been competitive and I hope that here he can do well in his home race in front of his home crowd. I am sure Ferrari, including myself, will give 120 percent for him to have a good weekend. I wish Felipe all the best for next year, even if I hope he won’t be too strong!”
After the race in Austin, Formula 1 stays in the Americas, albeit having to make the long trip from Texas to Sao Paulo for the nineteenth round of the championship, this Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix. It marks the end of the 2013 season, but it is also a very special landmark for one driver in particular, as this will be the last time that Felipe Massa takes to the track with the Prancing Horse emblem on his race suit. This part of the Paulista’s career, which makes him the second longest serving driver of all time after Michael Schumacher is coming to an end. And the good news in his native Brazil and for all his fans around the world, is that the long tradition of having a Brazilian driver competing in the highest level of motorsport continues, because Felipe’s move to the Williams team for 2014 was confirmed not long ago. Can the boisterous Brazilian crowd make even more noise than usual? We will find out in a few days’ time.
“Just competing in the Brazilian GP is a dream for all Brazilian racing drivers,” says Felipe. “My racing career started in Interlagos, my local go-kart track and I also raced in other junior categories here. Before then, I remember sitting in the grandstands when I was a kid, watching Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and even Rubens Barrichello. After that, to race there in Formula 1 is a feeling that is hard to explain. There is all that energy you get from the crowd, from being at the track you love the most, hearing the music in the stands, feeling all that support.”
In fact, Felipe has experienced the even greater thrill of winning his home race, joining the great names of Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Pace, after whom the Interlagos circuit is named, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. “Winning there is a feeling that is hard to describe,” continues the Ferrari man. “Winning here in 2006, in my first year with Ferrari was definitely the most incredible race of my life. I had a special race suit featuring the yellow and green colours of our national flag and standing on the top step of the podium was more than I had ever expected from my life. For a Brazilian to win this race, it’s like winning the world title. It was the most emotional race of my life and I remember it as though it was yesterday. It really was the realisation of a dream.” Felipe’s mention of the world title has to bring us to the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, when for a few seconds it seemed that the name Massa was to be engraved on the World Championship trophy, until an overtaking move, after the Ferrari driver had taken the chequered flag, handed that year’s crown to Lewis Hamilton. “I didn’t win the title, but I did win the race and also took pole position and set the fastest lap of the race,” recalls Felipe. “So I did everything perfectly that weekend, which made it very special as well.” Everyone who was there at the circuit, or who watched the events unfold on television, remembers the dignified way Felipe behaved on the podium and the way he handled himself in the aftermath of the most bitter-sweet victory: it marked the Brazilian out as a truly great sportsman.
“I’d like to be remembered as an important component of the Ferrari team,” is Felipe’s view of his time in red. “We had great times together, winning races and championships and we also lived through some difficult moments. I am proud to be part of Ferrari’s history. It was always my dream to drive for Ferrari and I did it for ten years, eight of them as a race driver. Actually, I had a contract with Ferrari even before then, when I was just a kid really. It’s been a long time during which I always gave my all for the team. For my final race with them, I also need to say thanks to all the fans who have supported me throughout this time with Ferrari. They really feel part of the Ferrari world and the Ferrari family. With those fans I have celebrated many great moments and, on the other hand, when I was going through tough times, they gave me so much energy and support. It will be very emotional racing at Interlagos for Ferrari for the final time.”
If Felipe’s farewell represents the emotional side of Ferrari’s Brazilian weekend, then the cold hard racing necessity is to try and secure second place in the Constructor’s Championship. The task was made harder on Sunday, when second placed Mercedes edged further ahead in Austin, but there are still plenty of points up for grabs and it is doable. There are some circuits on the calendar where car performance, although still an essential component, is less vital than at others and Interlagos is definitely one of those: the tiny left handed track with its insidious corners and camber changes and its bumpy surface has often produced some incredible racing with equally incredible and unexpected winners. If ever there was a need for that to play in the Scuderia’s favour, it’s this Sunday.
It’s become something of a home race for Scuderia Ferrari. From 2000 to today, with the exception of 2009, the Brazilian Grand Prix has featured a Brazilian driver at the wheel of a Prancing Horse car. From 2000 to 2005, it was Rubens Barrichello who faced the task of defending Ferrari colours and from the following year onwards the honour and duty has been in the hands of Felipe Massa. The latter has definitely enjoyed more success here than his predecessor and friend: twice, in 2006 and 2008, Felipe triumphed in Interlagos, as well as making two further trips to the podium in 2007 and 2013, while being fastest on Saturday afternoon three times. Rubens’ results were very different, as he only saw the chequered flag twice, making it to the third step of the podium just the once in 2004, when he took a second consecutive pole position at his home track. The Brazilian suffered an incredible series of technical failures in the race that meant the most to him: the most resounding one was the problem with the fuel metre which saw him run out of fuel in the F2003-GA when he was leading the race by a comfortable margin.
Interlagos was also the scene of one the nicest and most exciting wins in the history of the Scuderia. In 2007, the one-two finish from Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa saw the Finn take the world title, which just two races earlier looked almost impossible, given that Hamilton had a 17 point lead over him. That day there were mighty celebrations in the Red garage for what is currently its last win in the Drivers’ Championship.
Seven Ferrari drivers have won this Grand Prix. Apart from the previously mentioned Massa and Raikkonen, in reverse chronological order they are Michael Schumacher (2000 and 2002), Alain Prost (1990), Nigel Mansell (1989), Carlos Reutemann (1977 and 1978) and Niki Lauda (1976.) There have been a total of 26 podium finishes: along with the ten wins there have been seven seconds and nine third places. Seven is also the number of poles, of which five go to the Maranello Brazilians – three for Massa, two for Barrichello – with the other two being down to Schumacher in 2000 and Alboreto in 1985.
The Brazilian Grand Prix is one of the few races in which victory has eluded Fernando Alonso. The man from Oviedo has however been on the podium seven times, with three second places and four thirds, from eleven starts in this race, but more importantly, he clinched both his title crowns here. In 2005, Fernando finished third right behind Raikkonen’s McLaren, his rival for that year’s title, thus becoming champion with two races in hand. The following year, he had to wait for the final race to get the better of Schumacher. In Interlagos, the Spaniard was second behind Felipe, controlling Michael’s spectacular climb back up the order, as he went from last to fourth in the race that marked his first farewell to Formula 1.
We are now preparing for another farewell, that of Felipe Massa who leaves Ferrari after this race. This weekend sees the Brazilian take part in his 139th and final race of his romance in red: only Michael Schumacher has taken part in more. The wins are fixed at eleven for now, the last one coming right at Interlagos back in 2008: it would be the realisation of a dream to turn that into a twelve this weekend. Almost impossible according to this season’s statistics, in which Vettel’s Red Bull seems to have become unbeatable and Ferrari seems to be struggling more and more. However, Formula 1 is a sport and, as such, open to surprises, even the most unimaginable ones. Why not dream of such a beautiful finale for a driver who, without a doubt, is part of the Prancing Horse’s history.
Maranello, 18 November –It’s a question of seconds, in the sense of positions in the championships: of course that’s not what Scuderia Ferrari would normally aspire to, but that’s the way it’s been this year. The USA Grand Prix finished with a less than enthralling outcome for the Maranello squad: ten points for a fifth place from Fernando Alonso is hardly satisfactory, especially as the gap to Mercedes in the fight for second place in the Constructors’ championship has grown to 15 points.
However, second place is now in the bag for our man from Oviedo in the Drivers’ championship, as he now has sufficient points to be uncatchable. It’s an important achievement, even if it’s not a fulfilling one for him or for the team. “It’s an important result, especially when one thinks of the problems we had this year,” said Stefano Domenicali. Fernando was amazing in Austin, as he has been so many times this year. We owe him a lot and next year, we must do all we can to provide him and Kimi with what they need to win. For our part, we definitely cannot be happy with how things have gone. I am the first to feel that way and my engineers are well aware of that.”
Getting second place at the final Grand Prix certainly won’t be easy, but it is still possible, as Domenicali points out. “In Interlagos, we often witness incredible races and we will have to be ready to exploit every opportunity. I am asking everyone working at the track for an extra effort, aiming to deliver 101% to end this difficult season in the best way we can. In the coming days leading up to the Brazilian weekend, we will have to analyse all the data to try and understand what didn’t work well in Austin, especially in terms of the difference in performance between the two cars, a problem which actually seemed to affect almost all the teams.”
Another key element of the Interlagos weekend could be Felipe Massa. The Brazilian will be bowing out of his time in Red at his home circuit, where he secured what were probably the most significant wins of his career, in 2006, when he wore a race suit bearing his national colours and then in 2008, when he was world champion for a handful of seconds. “I am sure that Felipe will do his utmost to end his time with Ferrari in style and that he will find something extra from within himself in terms of performance,” said Domenicali. “In fact, he has always gone well at this track where the warmth of the fans will be an amazing motivation for him.”
The team left Texas this morning on a charter flight direct to Sao Paulo and will land tonight. As from tomorrow morning, they will be back at work, preparing the garages and the work areas at the Carlos Pace circuit, home of one of the most historic events on the calendar. At the moment the weather forecast seems settled: no rain and temperatures predicted to be over 30 °C, but we are well aware that things can change rapidly in the Paulista megalopolis.