Stefano Domenicali and Fernando Alonso still confident Ferrari have chance in Brazil
Fernando hopes for lots of 'unknown' factors at Interlagos
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 19/11/12 3:03pm
The U.S Grand Prix had presented Vettel with his first opportunity to clinch his third successive Drivers' title and the qualifying results on Saturday appeared to increase the Red Bull driver's chances after he claimed pole while Fernando Alonso only managed eighth.
However, aided by Ferrari's tactical decision to invoke a penalty with the sister car to move him over to the clean side of the grid, a typically feisty race drive from Alonso saw him finish only one place behind Vettel in third place after the German was overhauled for the win late on by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, meaning the Spaniard left Austin only three further points worse off in the championship.
And while Vettel's advantage now stands at 13 points and means he only needs to finish fourth in Brazil this weekend to wrap up the crown, both Ferrari's management and star driver continue to stress that the battle is far from over yet.
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali said: "Sure, Fernando has lost a few points to the championship leader, but the important thing was to limit the damage so as to arrive at the last race with everything to play for and that is now the case.
"Now we go to Brazil, knowing that everything is still possible. We get there in a completely opposite situation to the one we were in on arrival in Abu Dhabi two years ago...! When you end up fighting for the title at the last race, you have already achieved something important: it has happened to Ferrari many times before - with only three exceptions - since 1997 and no other team can boast of a similar regularity at the top of Formula 1.
"Today, we congratulate Red Bull on winning the Constructors' title. Now we will try and stop them doing the double in a week's time in Interlagos!"
Alonso himself, who will be taking part in the fourth last-race title showdown of his career and the third in Brazil, agreed that while Vettel will undoubtedly again be driving the faster car in normal conditions, unknowns over the weather and concerns over Red Bull's reliability will only aid his own chances.
"Maybe on paper that chance [of the title] is not so big, maybe 25%, but deep down, I feel it's much more than that," the two-time champion said.
"Anything can happen at Interlagos and we saw again how important reliability can be, didn't we?
"Then, there's the chance of rain and a race in the wet can be very risky and we definitely have nothing to lose. Clearly, if it's dry and we have a normal race, one can expect Red Bull to be in front of everyone and us on the third or fourth row, so the more unknown factors there are, the better it is for us."
Although Ferrari have consistently failed to challenge for pole in dry conditions in qualifying all season, their struggles over a single lap at the Circuit of the Americas were particularly pronounced due to problems getting Pirelli's tyres up to operating temperature, something that also affected them after both their drivers' pit stops in the race.
Technical Director Pat Fry concedes the fact the same two compounds will be used at Interlagos means Ferrari have work to do over the coming days, even if temperatures are likely to be warmer and the track not so slippery.
"The main problem this weekend was definitely managing the tyre temperatures: once again today we suffered in the early laps after the pit stop much more than our competitors," he explained.
"We must study the data carefully to understand exactly what are the reasons for this, also because in Brazil, in less than a week, we will once again be running these compounds.
"It's true the Interlagos circuit is very different and that so too will be the ambient temperatures, but we must arrive in Sao Paolo as well prepared as possible. The Drivers' title and second place in the Constructors' classification will be fought out to the very last corner that's for sure."