13 October 2013
Japanese Grand Prix: Alonso claims record as Ferrari consolidates
Fernando Alonso salvaged something from a tough Japanese Grand Prix, surpassing Michael Schumacher as the sport's record points scorer even as Sebastian Vettel took the 2013 title further out of reach.
Fernando Alonso may only be a fifth place away from seeing another F1 world championship head in Sebastian Vettel's direction, but he left Suzuka with another personal milestone and content that Ferrari had made gains in the constructors' championship.
Having qualified eighth, to Vettel's second, the Spaniard knew that he would be facing an uphill task to make inroads into the 77-point deficit that existed between them with five races remaining, and set his pre-race aim at ensuring that the Scuderia left Suzuka with an enhanced gap to Mercedes.
When the Silver Arrows suffered something of a nightmare – with Lewis Hamilton an early DNF and Nico Rosberg hampered by a drive-thru' penalty – that goal was achieved, even though team-mate Felipe Massa, having kept Alonso behind him in the opening phase of the race, suffered his own penalty en route to tenth place.
Fighting his way through the field and taking advantage of a two-stop strategy that saw his F138 fitted with the harder Pirellis each time, Alonso eventually rose to fourth place when he picked off a stubborn Nico Hulkenberg. In doing so, he cemented a new piece of F1 history by becoming the sport's record point scorer, his 1571 points putting him two ahead of Michael Schumacher.
“I am very proud of having become the driver with the most points in the history of this sport, even if, for a few years now, with the change to the points system, you get more,” he noted, aware that the greats of the past have no means of combating today's frontrunners.
“Fourth place was the most I could do today, as the three ahead of me were really out of reach. Given our starting position, and how practice went in general, I am happy. It was an action-packed race and, even if we suffered with traffic, degradation was more normal than in Korea and we were back to having a good pace.”
Despite the upbeat nature of his comments, Alonso admitted that a hard road lay ahead if he was to do anything about Ferrari's current place in the pecking order, particularly given that Mercedes was unlikely to suffer a repeat of its Suzuka fortunes.
“Certainly, we need to find something extra if we want to finish on the podium in the next four races,” the Spaniard acknowledged, “Today, Mercedes had a few problems and we made up some important points, but we must give it our all if we want to stay second in the constructors' classification, because they are not far behind.
“For now though, I want to celebrate this record and think about the next race in India. This one is already in the past…”
With Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen taking third and fifth either side of Alonso, Lotus is also hauling itself back into the fight for a top three spot in the constructors' table, but technical chief Pat Fry believes that there is more to come from the Scuderia that Suzuka allowed it to show.
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