Fernando Alonso was particularly happy this evening, and not just because he came second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today.
As the Spaniard explains, his huge trophy collection is, for now, complete: “I am pleased with this result: finally my podium trophy collection is complete!” exclaimed the Spaniard. “I have seventy three top three finishes and I have managed to stand on the podium of all the circuits that have been on the Formula 1 calendar over the past ten years. Next year, we go to Austin and the year after to Russia, so there will always be new challenges to tackle and objectives to reach even if, obviously, the main one is always to win the title.
“Today we were fighting for the win all the way to the end. We got a good start and could match Hamilton's pace. The first pit stop went well, while I lost a couple of seconds at the second one, what with traffic on my in-lap and a problem changing the front left wheel, but I don't think that's where we lost the race, because I am convinced that, in the end, it's the quickest car that wins and so it was.
“The opening lap was exciting: at the start I squeezed round the outside of Webber at the first corner because I knew there was more grip there then, once I saw Vettel was off, I got into Button's slipstream, taking a bit of a risk but, in the end, I managed to pass him too. After that I expected to struggle more, but today was one of those where the car went much better than expected and you are kept busier fighting with those ahead of you than in looking in your mirrors.
“I hoped right to the end I could do it, because maybe Hamilton might also have had some problems with KERS like Button did. Even if we have not fought for the title it has still been a good season: we have improved a lot as a team and learned a lot.”
In contrast, Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa has not scored a single podium all season, and a spin towards the end of today’s race meant that he had to settle for fifth place.
“I cannot be happy with this fifth place,” said the Brazilian. “Things were going reasonably well while I was on the Softs, but with the Mediums I was really struggling to keep the car on track because of the lack of grip. That's why I ended up spinning on lap 49, losing any remaining hope of staying ahead of Webber.
“In the first stint I could fight with Button and the Australian, but I always had the thought in my mind that, in the final stint, I'd be in trouble. The fact I could not use the new front wing was more of a penalty when running the Medium tyres than the Softs, because with the harder compound you could feel the lack of downforce more.
“Now we go to Brazil where I will have the support of my home crowd: I am sure that will help me try and finish well this season that has definitely not been a positive one for me. Even if it's obvious, I want to state clearly that, despite everything, I am absolutely motivated for next year. Along with the team, I will work to have a more competitive car and then you will see everything will be different.”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali praised Alonso’s efforts today, and said that, as they go to Brazil, the team’s main aim is to secure the Spaniard second place in the drivers’ championship.
“We knew a podium was possible and that was confirmed this evening when, thanks to yet another extraordinary drive from Fernando, we were in the fight for the win right up until the final part of the race,” said Domenicali. “The Spaniard's first lap was exceptional, as was his race pace after that. Felipe also got off to a very good start, in contention for a podium place, but then, on the Medium tyres, he struggled and was unable to run at a pace good enough to stay ahead of Webber.
“Finally getting a driver onto the podium in this race is indeed cause for satisfaction. Now there's one race to go, in two weeks time in Brazil. Second place in the Drivers' championship is still up for grabs. That will be hard to achieve but it is definitely not impossible and we will do all we can to give Fernando the tools to achieve this.
“Interlagos is also an important weekend for Felipe, whom I am sure will want to give his always enthusiastic fans something to cheer about.”