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15 Nov 2010 08:12
For Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, their dreams of winning the Formula One Championship were lost in the pits.
Alonso led the championship ahead of Webber coming into the season-ending race but both fell out of contention after costly pit-stop strategies by their teams.
First, Webber came in on lap 11 to change from soft to hard tires. Ferrari, viewing Webber as the main threat for the title, chose to bring in Alonso four laps later to make sure he’d come back out in front of the Red Bull driver.
However, that instead put them behind a host of lesser-known drivers led by Vitaly Petrov of Renault and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, who created a permanent road block to their title chances.
Both young drivers had made the decision to pit early on when the safety car came out on the first lap following Michael Schumacher’s collision with Vitantonio Liuzzi.
With Alonso stuck behind Petrov, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel clinched the title by winning the race.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said “there was great sadness at the moment” because “to come so close to our goal and to see it slip away for just a few points really hurts”.
Domenicali laid the blame for the poor showing squarely on team strategy.
“We marked a rival with two cars, we were unduly concerned about the wear rate of the soft tires, and we did not take into consideration the difficulty of getting past other cars on the track,” he said.
Team’s pit strategy
Alonso refused to blame the team’s pit strategy for his failure to win a third championship title. He could have clinched it at the previous Brazilian Grand Prix, which Vettel also won.
“After the race, it is always very easy to see the best strategy,” Alonso said. “If we didn’t stop I think Webber probably would have overtaken us. If we stopped we cover from Webber but let Petrov and Rosberg in front so it was a very difficult call I think.”
But Alonso’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who finished 10th, was more critical of the team.
“The race was not good,” he said. “It was not a great strategy to stop very soon. The tires were in reasonable conditions. ... We were behind all the cars who stopped before on the safety car. That was the most important thing about the whole race not just for me but for Fernando and Mark Webber. It was impossible to overtake.”
Alonso, who led Webber the entire way, repeatedly tried to pass the rookie Petrov, who is the first Russian to race in F1. He almost clipped Petrov during a failed attempt on lap 24 and then twice more went off the track as his aggressive driving almost got the best of him. On the last lap, he made several desperate attempts.
As the two crossed the finish line, Alonso angrily shook his fists at Petrov. But afterward, Alonso appeared ready to move on.
“Renault was quick on the top speed. It was a frustrating race behind him,” he said. “This is a sport. This is motor racing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Congratulations to Red Bull and Sebastian. But next year, we will try again.”
Webber, too, said the key to the race was the Russian’s driving along with the performance of the Renault car.
“Petrov was difficult to overtake because he had very good top speed but not so good in the corners,” Webber said. “That was the key to the race.”
Petrov, whose sixth-place finished was his second-best showing in 2010 after a fifth at the Hungarian Grand Prix, insisted he shouldn’t be blamed for costing Alonso the title.
“I just did my job,” he said. “I had tried a move, then I didn’t want to crash with him. But it didn’t come to that. I came here to fight and race every other driver. And I think I showed today that I can fight.”
Alonso and Webber tried to put a positive spin on what has been an otherwise stellar season for them. Alonso won five races and led going into Brazil, while Webber won four times and held the championship lead until crashing out at the rain-soaked Korean GP.
“If you’re in with a chance to win the championship in the last race, you must be doing something right. A lot of positives,” Webber said. “I’ve driven very well most of the season. In the end, I’m not the world champion but I’ll get another crack.”
Alonso said 2010 would be remembered as one of his best - even if he didn’t win the championship.
“For me, coming back to winning races and fighting for the championship in the last race,” Alonso said. “I overtook Niki Lauda, Juan Fangio in race wins, big names in Formula One, and for me this is something amazing.
“I’m sure that with this team it is very possible to fight for championships in the future, so I am very happy and very confident.”—Sapa-AP
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