F1 championship leader Fernando Alonso has admitted that he 'would have signed' for third place in the Brazilian Grand Prix after Saturday's qualifying session, knowing that it would send him to Abu Dhabi in control of the title battle.
The Spaniard fought his way from fifth on the grid - the result of a damp-but-drying final qualifying session that eventually went the way of Williams' Nico Hulkenberg - to take third, behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, at the flag, and retains an eight-point advantage over the Australian with only the twilight showdown in Abu Dhabi remaining. The result means that Alonso can afford to finish second to Webber next Sunday and still be crowned champion, after Red Bull appeared content to allow its drivers to finish with Vettel ahead.
“All things considered, I am pleased with this result," Alonso confirmed, despite four drivers still being in contention for the title, "We have only lost three points to our closest rival and, given how things turned out yesterday in qualifying, it went well. If, this morning, I had been told it would finish like this, I would have happily signed for it!"
When the lights went out, the surprising Hulkenberg was immediately passed by Vettel at the first corner and Webber just a few turns later, but recovered his composure sufficiently to keep Alonso - who had had to fight his way past Lewis Hamilton - at bay until lap seven. By then, the Red Bull duo had pulled out a lead of around ten seconds over the Spaniard and it was clear that, barring incidents, third was likely to be the best he could achieve.
"My race pace was good, as we had seen on Friday, but we were very cautious in the very first corners, because everyone was very aggressive and we did not want to risk touching anyone," he admitted, "As a result, we immediately lost too much ground to Vettel and Webber, and it took me several laps to get past Hulkenberg, while passing Hamilton is never easy."
Having made his mandatory pit-stop on lap 24, there was a glimmer of hope for Alonso when Tonio Liuzzi crashed heavily and brought out the safety car, but there were several backmarkers between the Ferrari and Webber, so the Spaniard had to be content to look after his car while keeping an eye out for the pursuing McLarens.
"When the safety car came out, we thought it might be an opportunity to attack, but there were too many backmarkers between me and Mark and it took too long to get past them," he confirmed, "It was a shame because, at that point, the car was really very competitive."
With eight points separating himself from Webber, and race winner Vettel right back in the hunt with his team-mate, Alonso knows that nothing can be taken for granted in the season finale, but is happy to go to round 19 largely in charge of his own destiny.
"Now, we go to Abu Dhabi, where we know what we have to do," he concluded, "Taking the title depends on us.”