Fernando Alonso

Brazilian GP – The year ends on the podium

Interlagos, 24 November – Fernando Alonso and Ferrari finished the 2013 season on the podium, as the Spaniard came third at the Carlos Pace circuit, behind the all-conquering Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. In the early stages, it looked as though Felipe Mass would finish right behind his team-mate, but a drive-through penalty cost him dear and the Brazilian ended his final race in a Prancing Horse car in seventh position. The goal of finishing second in the Constructors’ classification eluded the Scuderia by just a handful of points.

As the cars left the pit lane to form up on the grid, it was the first time anyone had used dry weather tyres all weekend. Starting from third and ninth, Fernando and Felipe were on the Medium compound, as was the entire field with the exception of Button and Gutierrez, who went for the Hard Pirellis.

Fernando first tried to go between pole man Vettel and the wall then dived the other way and got blocked so he dropped a place to fourth behind Hamilton. Felipe did better, making up three places to be sixth first time across the line. At the front there was a lap long battle between Rosberg who got his Mercedes ahead of pole man Vettel when the lights went out, but the superiority of the Red Bull paid off and Vettel led the opening lap. Fernando was back in third by now, as he pushed past Hamilton, with Webber fourth.

On lap 3, Grosjean parked the Lotus at the side of the track, covered in white smoke from a blown engine. On lap 4, a great move saw Fernando go second, passing Rosberg, although two laps later, he was trailing Vettel by almost 5 seconds. The two Mercedes seemed to be struggling at this point, which meant, still in sixth, Felipe was only 0.7 behind Hamilton. By lap 10, Fernando had his friend Webber right on his tail, in the clearly quicker Red Bull. As they crossed the line to start lap 13, the Australian demoted Fernando to third. Further back, Button was charging up from 15th, passing Bottas in the Williams to go eleventh behind his McLaren team-mate Perez in tenth. By this stage, the two Toro Rossos of Vergne and Ricciardo were the only drivers to have come in to switch to the Hard compound. Felipe was in fighting mood and charged past Rosberg at the end of the back straight, so the Brazilian was now fifth. Bottas in the Williams and Sutil in the Force India pitted on lap 18 from the mid-field.

Felipe took on another set of Mediums on lap 19. Next time round, Button, Hulkenberg and Di Resta all pitted, Button still out of sync with the majority, now on the Medium. Fernando and Hamilton came in on 21, the Spaniard dropping to fourth, while taking on Hards, with Rosberg coming in from third next time round. This promoted Fernando and Felipe to third and fourth respectively behind the two Red Bulls. Webber had a slow stop for another set of Mediums, which allowed Fernando to slip by into second behind the race leader who in turn stopped without losing the lead on lap 24, at about the time a few drops of rain began to fall. Fernando was powerless to prevent Webber retaking second at the start of lap 26 In fourth, Felipe now found Hamilton in very close attendance on his gearbox. Both men locked their wheels almost side by side going into Turn 1 on lap 32, but unfortunately the Stewards indicated that Felipe had to take a drive-through penalty for having all four wheels across the white line at the pit lane entrance. He came in at the end of lap 34 and rejoined eighth behind Perez in the McLaren. The order at roughly the halfway mark was Vettel, Webber, Fernando third 4.2 behind the Australian, then Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Perez, Felipe eighth, with Hulkenberg in the Sauber and Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso completing the top ten.

The few drops were changing into drizzle by around lap 39, but still not enough for anything but slicks. Felipe and Button both pitted on lap 44, the Ferrari man taking on his first set of Hards, rejoining tenth. Next time round it was Rosberg and Perez making the trip down pit lane. With the clouds gathering, clearly the lead quartet – Vettel, Webber, Fernando and Hamilton – were hoping their next stop might coincide with the need for rain rubber. Felipe was back to ninth after passing Di Resta on lap 46 and eighth when Hulkenberg pitted. As Bottas brought out the yellows, having been hit by Hamilton, the leading trio also pitted, with the Red Bulls pulling a double pit stop, followed by Hamilton’s Mercedes a few moments later. The pit stops had reduced the gaps, mainly because of confusion delaying the leader’s tyre change: Vettel led Webber by 6.3, with Fernando only 0.6 behind the Australian, the Spaniard putting in a fastest race lap on lap 49. Felipe was now seventh, still behind Perez, after Hamilton had pitted. The Englishman would have to come in again for a penalty, having caused the incident that put Bottas’ Williams out of the race. Light rain had returned, only in the vicinity of Turn 4. Three seconds ahead of Felipe battle raged as Perez tried to get his McLaren past Rosberg’s Mercedes.

With ten laps of the 71 remaining, Fernando was 2.4 behind Webber, with a comfortable 21.5 in hand over Button, who had steadily moved his way up to fourth in the McLaren. From then, the gaps expanded but the order remained unchanged, so that Fernando was able to salute the crowd from the season’s last podium, with the Ferrari crew cheering him, already wearing special Massa commemorative T-shirts.

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