Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
On 7th November 2010, Fernando Alonso finished third in the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the season. Interlagos witnessed a Red Bull one-two. However, the fact that the winner was Vettel rather than Webber, who was Fernando’s closest rival in the Drivers’ championship was seen as a positive by the Maranello crew, because the gap to the Australian was set at eight points, when it could have been just one. Unfortunately, eight days later in Abu Dhabi it became clear that the real rival was the German. It was a poor Sunday for Felipe Massa, who finished only fifteenth: it was the only time as a Ferrari driver that the Brazilian failed to finish his home race in the points.
On the grid, the Ferraris were in fifth and ninth places with Fernando and Felipe respectively. At the start, Fernando got away well, but didn’t take any risks going into the first corner and maintained position, while ahead of him, Vettel immediately got ahead of poleman Hulkenberg. Felipe made up one place passing Schumacher. Fernando immediately attacked Hamilton and managed to pass him as from lap 2, forcing him into a mistake. But in the meantime, Webber had passed the German Williams driver and the two Red Bulls soon took off in the distance. The Spaniard did not give up and hung onto Hulkenberg’s exhausts trying several times to pass until, on lap 7 he got by. At this point, the gap to Vettel was already 10.9. The race settled down with Vettel and Webber way out in front, the gap fluctuating between 2 and 3 seconds, then came Fernando followed by a train driven by Hulkenberg who was definitely running at a slower pace. On lap 14, Hamilton passed the number 10 Williams which came in at the end of the lap to change tyres. At that point, Fernando’s advantage over his former team-mate was already 10 seconds.
In the meantime, Button had already switched to the hard tyres on lap 11, copied by Felipe next time round. Unfortunately, a problem with fitting the right front wheel meant the Brazilian had to return immediately to the pits and the additional pit stop saw him drop to the back of the pack. Gradually, the other lead drivers pitted, while the first three continued to extend their lead. The major difficulty was the backmarkers who, in turn cost a lot of time to one and all indiscriminately. On lap 20, Vettel had a lead of 2.9 over Webber, 12.9 over Fernando and 31.5 over Rosberg. On lap 24, the second Ferrari stopped, followed by Webber on lap 25 and Vettel on lap 26. Other backmarkers cost Fernando a handful of seconds as he settled his pace to match that of the Red Bulls. On lap 40, Vettel led Webber by 2.9, Fernando by 17.4 and Hamilton by 28.0, while Felipe was fifteenth. On lap 51, the Safety Car came out when Liuzzi had an accident. The first three stayed out, while Hamilton and Rosberg pitted, followed by Button. At the restart on lap 56, there were too many backmarkers between Fernando and Webber, which meant the Spaniard had no chance of attacking.
The potential threat from the two McLarens on new rubber did not materialise in the closing stages and Fernando was comfortably able to maintain third place, while also trying to close on Webber: the gap to the Australian went from 5 to3.4 between laps 60 and 65, before coming down to 2.5 at the flag.
Further back, Felipe who had stopped again to change back onto the Softs when the Safety Car was out, was scrapping in the group made up of drivers on the lead lap as well as backmarkers. In the general confusion, Buemi and Petrov collided, while cars were passed and passed others and it was difficult to respect the blue flags. At the end, fifteenth place didn’t really reflect Felipe’s potential, given that Button, behind him after the first pit stop, finished in fifth place.