Fernando Alonso claimed fifth place in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix today in Interlagos – a grid position he has now occupied for nine of the nineteen races this season.
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa will start his home race from seventh place, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg splitting the two scarlet cars.
“My subscription to fifth place has been extended for one more Saturday!” exclaimed Alonso. “This time however, getting to my classic starting place on the grid was a bit more of a struggle than usual. We are not very pleased with the balance of the car and we were expecting a very competitive Mercedes.
“However, in Q3, we got much closer to the McLarens than we could have expected, while the first of the Mercedes was left a few tenths back. What this means is that we managed to get a little bit more out of it than our potential would indicate. I certainly can't say the way qualifying went was much of a surprise.
“If it really rains tomorrow, it will be a very exciting and open race: no one really knows how competitive they can be in the wet and then it requires next to nothing – one lap more or less out on track at a time when the conditions change – to turn around a situation that looks set in stone.”
Massa was disappointed with his performance today: “I was expecting more from this final qualifying of the year and I definitely cannot be happy with this seventh place,” said the Brazilian. “Unfortunately, we were unable to find the right balance throughout the weekend. In some corners I was locking up the front and in the slower ones I suffered with understeer, in others I lacked traction: all in all, the car was rather difficult to drive.”
Ferrari team prinicpal Stefano Domenicali said that this result was hardly unexpected but pointed out that, with rain tomorrow, anything could happen.
“If the numbers and the equation are always the same, there is no reason for them to deliver a different sum!” he said rather cryptically. “We ended development on this car several months ago and everything we are doing now is aimed at next year. In the meantime, we are trying to squeeze out the maximum from what we have got, in order to finish this season in the best way we can. The outcome of that therefore is that today it was difficult to expect anything more than a fifth place, don't you think?
“Fernando gave it his all on his final lap, getting very close to the McLarens. Felipe probably paid the price for having only one set of new tyres left to run in Q3: if he'd had one more, he would have also managed to make it onto the third row.
“We go into this final race of a very long championship in the same way in which we have tackled the others: with concentration and determination aimed at getting the best possible result. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for a high chance of rain: in that case, anything can happen and it will be crucial to react properly to any eventualities that might arise.”