Fernando Alonso maintained his status as the highest-scoring driver of the second half of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship in São Paulo, after a gamble to switch over to slick tyres before the majority of his rivals proved the catalyst for a podium charge in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Following a desultory start to the campaign, Renault has improved almost beyond recognition in recent months, with Alonso similarly returning to his magnificent best to sensationally triumph in Singapore and Japan.
Having held station from where he had qualified in sixth position at the start of the race in Interlagos – losing a spot to Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel but conversely gaining one at the expense of McLaren-Mercedes successor Heikki Kovalainen – the Spaniard was, in company with Vettel, one of the earliest front-runners to pit for dry-weather rubber on lap nine.
An audacious risk it may have been, but it was one that paid off richly as the former double F1 World Champion vaulted Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton to gain three positions to third – a net second given STR's decision to keep Vettel on a two-stopper, whilst Renault fuelled Alonso long enough so that he would only have to come in once more before the end.
Though unable to threaten runaway race-winner Felipe Massa, the man from Oviedo at least seemed comfortable in P2, until a late-race charge from Kimi Raikkonen in the sister Ferrari threatened to steal the position away. To his immense credit, however, Alonso held on to the chequered flag – thereby also just pipping BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld to fifth spot in the final drivers' standings, and marking himself out as a genuine contender to recreate his title glories in 2009.
“I am very happy with this second place,” the 27-year-old enthused afterwards. “The conditions were difficult, but we were able to take advantage of them.
“We did our maximum, the team made the right decisions at the right times and I managed to keep Raikkonen behind me until the finish. It's a fantastic result for the team and a great way to end the season.”
Indeed, such has been Renault's renaissance in the second part of the campaign that over the final nine races the French concern notched up more than four times as many points as it did during the first half – a fact far from lost on managing director Flavio Briatore, who clearly has one eye on a championship challenge in F1's brave new era in 2009.
“It's a super result and a great way to end the season,” the Italian underlined, “so a big thanks to the whole team. Our second half of the year has been superb, and in the last eight races Fernando has scored the most points of anyone.
“It was important to show to Renault that we could fight back, and I'm proud of the efforts of the team this year. Congratulations also to Fernando and Nelson [Piquet Jnr] for the job they have done this season.”
“What a fantastic way to finish the season, not just for the team but for Formula 1,” added the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. “Our result today reinforces the fabulous job our staff have done over the year. We now really look forward Australia 2009. Congratulations to Ferrari and Lewis [Hamilton].”