“After the results of the last few Grands Prix, it’s really good news to be back in the top three. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a perfect lap, because I went off the track at turn 4. I lost seven or eight tenths there and I think also second place on the time sheet, which I believe was within our grasp today. We know our car is more competitive in the wet and it’s a shame that this year, it’s only rained here, but now we have to look ahead and think about getting on the podium tomorrow, as if we were fighting for the World Championship, because it would be the best way to end the season. Here at Interlagos, you never get consistent conditions and we saw that again today, when we went from an extremely wet track to an almost dry one in ten minutes. That’s why I expect a very hectic race in which we will have to pay maximum attention to not making any mistakes. It will also be necessary to have a perfect strategy and an ability to react very quickly.”
“It’s always hard to get much running when it rains here, as the level of water on track is never consistent and can affect lap times by two to three seconds. Each time you go off the racing line you then have to try and understand the track conditions at that precise moment, because there are no absolute values. But given that the forecast for the weekend is similar to today’s, we can say that, even if it was short, it was a good practice. Qualifying and the race will be very complicated from the strategy point of view and, on that front this evening we will have to come up with a good plan. To do well here, you also need a bit of luck, because in conditions like this, being in the right place at the right time is always a help.”
At this time of the year, the media’s go-to opening question is to ask for a summary of the season coming to an end. At the Scuderia Ferrari hospitality area in the antique Sao Paulo paddock, Fernando Alonso duly obliged. “This season has been more or less good for us, Obviously we start each year thinking of the world championship, so when you don’t get the title, it’s not been a good enough season. We therefore need to do things better next year. However, I am very proud to have finished second this year, because last year, even if we came second in the Constructors, I was left with a strange taste in my mouth as we came so close to winning the Drivers’. This year’s second place feels better because we clearly didn’t have the second fastest car. I think I realised we would not win the championship around Germany or Hungary as we were too far off Red Bull in terms of competitiveness and the Silverstone update didn’t work well enough. And in Germany and Hungary we were not competitive at all going into the summer break.”
The man from Oviedo didn’t have to think twice when asked for his best memory of 2013. “That was Barcelona: I won two Grands Prix this year, one in China, the other in Barcelona, in front of my home crowd and with all the support I had it was a fantastic event for me. That day has left me with the best memories.”
Fernando has never won here in Brazil, but this weekend’s venue has special significance for him. “Interlagos means a lot in my career in Formula 1,” he said. “I am used to feeling a little bit nervous each time I come here because, out of my 12 years in Formula 1, on four occasions I have fought for the world title here, which is something I had never expected. This year is a bit strange coming here without the world championship on the table, but we still have some important targets especially in the Constructors’ but it’s not the same level of stress.” As for the unique weather that has often altered the outcome of this race, the Ferrari man was not too bothered by this threat. “It’s always a bit random here and you know the rain can come at any time, but we are so used to running in the wet in Interlagos that when it rains it feels half normal. It’s a bit strange in the dry let’s say!”
The Ferrari man was pleased to say his back problems are now over, following his Abu Dhabi incident. “My back now is okay and for the last two nights I think it’s been a hundred percent with no pain and I have been able to train in the gym and do some jogging also,” he revealed. “In Austin, I never thought of letting Pedro (de la Rosa) having the car. Once you have flown there and you are there, then you race! However, if there had only been one week between Abu Dhabi and Austin, I would have been unable to race.”
For Felipe Massa, this weekend is always special, but this time the Paulista’s home race also marks the end of his time at Ferrari and his relationship with Alonso. “We have enjoyed four years of a productive relationship for Ferrari,” said Fernando. “We have worked very closely together and also built a friendly relationship outside the track, partly because of the programmes the team organises, such as the training we did in Lanzarote, as well as the time we spent together in Madonna di Campiglio. We’ve had a great time together. On the track, there have been some ups and downs, in Felipe’s case usually linked to what tyres we had, such as in 2011 when he struggled a bit more than me. But he has always been competitive and I hope that here he can do well in his home race in front of his home crowd. I am sure Ferrari, including myself, will give 120 percent for him to have a good weekend. I wish Felipe all the best for next year, even if I hope he won’t be too strong!”
“Finishing in the top five today is a very positive result when you consider how difficult this weekend has been and the fact I had to start from the dirty side of the track. We were well aware it would be very difficult to maintain position and in fact I lost it to Perez. In the first part of the race, we weren’t quick and we decided to save the tyres and then attack round the pit stop. We were more competitive on the Hards, we passed Perez and set off to get Hulkenberg, but even if our situation compared to Mercedes has improved, we were unable to beat them. I am very proud of this second place in the Drivers’ Championship, it’s a small reward for me, the same as being first of the “mortals” behind Red Bull. My back is okay, as I did a good warm-up before the race and it didn’t bother me. I feel more tired from all the tension of the race, but now I have three days to rest and arrive in Brazil feeling a hundred percent. We really must improve there, because our goal is still to finish second in the Constructor’s Championship”.
“I feel reasonably satisfied with the result of today’s qualifying, because after the problems we have had almost all weekend long and even in Q1, we had little hope of getting through to the third part. It just goes to show how much things can change with around ten degrees higher track temperature: here we have suffered a lot in getting the tyres to work, especially in the morning sessions, when the temperatures were lower. But looking at the pace we showed in the afternoon, I think that the sunshine predicted for tomorrow could help us to have a good race. It would be nice to make it to the podium, but my main aim is to help the team to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship. In order to do that, we need to beat the Mercedes, preferably right from the start, which will condition the way the race goes, even if it will not be easy, as the dirty side of the track here in Austin is one of the worst of the year”.
“I had no problem being back on track today. My back felt fine and I was able to drive the same as always. Compared to last year, the track conditions seemed better: for the first Grand Prix here, it was too new and there was a bit of oil on the track, while now there’s a lot more grip. As expected, there was very little degradation today as Pirelli’s choice of the Medium and Hard compounds here in Austin are an ultra-conservative choice. Generally, there were no major surprises and now we must wait and see how things go tomorrow and especially Sunday”.