On face value, the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday was not a positive race for Ferrari, with the Scuderia
forced to concede defeat in the F1 2010 constructors' standings to newly-crowned world champions Red Bull Racing, and Fernando Alonso losing ground to both race-winner Sebastian Vettel and runner-up Mark Webber in the drivers' title chase – but heading to Abu Dhabi, it is the Spaniard who remains in control.
Although he tried to pile the pressure upon Webber in the closing stages following the safety car period and with the Australian grappling with engine cooling issues, there was no denying that in terms of pure out-and-out pace, Alonso was not in the same league as the two RBRs at Interlagos, and barring reliability issues or any unforeseen circumstances, third place was always the best it was going to get.
That the Spaniard achieved at the end of a gutsy afternoon's work that saw him battle his way past both pole-sitter Nico Hülkenberg and McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton early on, meaning he will arrive at Yas Marina for the eagerly-anticipated season finale eight points clear of Webber and 15 ahead of Vettel – still in the driving seat, although concerned no doubt about the likely scenario should the Red Bulls again prove to be out-of-reach.
Team-mate Felipe Massa's torrid time of things on home turf, meanwhile, continued in the race, with the Paulista suffering ill-fortune when a cross-threaded wheel nut during his pit-stop necessitated a return visit the very next lap to rectify the problem, and subsequently enduring run-ins with Scuderia Toro Rosso ace Sébastien Buemi and Renault F1 rookie Vitaly Petrov that left him a lowly and frustrated 15th at the chequered flag, in a race that he had previously dominated in his three most recent starts.
“First of all, I want to congratulate Red Bull Racing and Renault for taking the constructors' championship title, which is a very important achievement,” remarked Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali afterwards. “We said the drivers' title would go down to the final race, and we will now arrive in Abu Dhabi with Fernando heading the classification. We knew it would be a hard task to bring home the title, as our main rivals are very strong and they demonstrated that once again.
“Now we face seven crucial days. We know what we have to do, and we will prepare everything with the maximum attention to detail – each one of us knows we have to give 100 per cent at our specific tasks, and maybe even a little bit more.
“As for the race, I think Fernando did the most he could after qualifying; his opening laps were exceptional and he managed to pass first Hamilton and then Hülkenberg in decisive fashion, but without taking excessive risks. Then he had to manage his race and he did that in impeccable fashion, even after the safety car, when the situation could have turned out to be very tricky.
“Felipe was unlucky at his pit-stop, when a problem in fitting the front right meant he had to come straight back in for another tyre change. That was a shame, as he could have finished in a good position. Lastly, I would like to thank the Brazilian crowd for their continued support – going into the race, there was talk of the atmosphere being a bit tense for Ferrari. In fact, there was nothing of the sort, confirming the great passion and sporting spirit of the fans in this country.”
“We are very disappointed for Felipe, who had everything in-place to have a good race,” concurred the Maranello-based outfit's chief track engineer Chris Dyer. “Unfortunately, there was a problem at the pit-stop which meant he had to immediately come in again, which pretty much put him out-of-the-running.