A “logical” result according to Scuderia Ferrari’s Pat Fry, but there is still room for emotion in this high-tech sport, so everyone in the team was hoping, against logic, for something a bit better than the fourth and fifth places that Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa brought home at the end of the 71 lap season finale. Going into the nineteenth and final round, the Spaniard had a theoretical chance of finishing in the silver medal position in the Drivers’ Championship, but instead he is in the same place as his race finish. As for Felipe, a home race and his hundredth with the Scuderia were two good reasons to hope for a fairytale ending to his tenth season in the sport.
The Brazilian podium was eventually occupied by the inevitable Red Bull Racing duo, although with a twist, as for the first time this season, Mark Webber stood on the top step, having convincingly beaten his world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Third and therefore second in the Drivers’ championship ahead of the Australian was Jenson Button in the McLaren.
Rain tyres were ready down pit lane, but in the end they were not needed and the race started in warm conditions, with the top three getting off the line in grid order; Vettel, Webber, Button, but Fernando and Felipe both got great starts making up a place each in the early moments, so the Spaniard was fourth and the Brazilian sixth behind Hamilton. While the two Red Bulls pulled out a lead, Fernando was all over the back of Button’s McLaren, eventually passing him on lap 11 to go third, 6.6 behind Webber. Button made his first pit stop on lap 15, with Fernando and Hamilton coming in together one lap later. The front runners were all going to be three stopping, but Felipe briefly inherited the lead, only because, deprived of a set of Soft tyres through a puncture discovered on Saturday, he’d been consigned to a slower two stop strategy, making his first tyre change on lap 21. He was now sixth with Fernando still third. On lap 30, Webber got past Vettel to take a lead he would now keep to the chequered flag. Fernando made his second stop on lap 35, again running the Soft tyres and at this point the two Ferraris were running third and fourth. As had happened so many times this season, Felipe and Hamilton now began a thrilling duel that would last even through their next run of pit stops – Felipe’s on lap 45 - and ended finally when the Englishman had to retire his McLaren at the side of the track.
Alonso made his third and final stop, this time taking on the Medium tyres on lap 54 of 71 and, as expected, the 150º Italia was no longer so competitive on the harder rubber. The result was that despite the Spaniard’s best efforts, Button gradually reeled in the Ferrari, giving the crowd another exciting moment in an otherwise rather processional race. The McLaren moved into third on lap 61 and from then on the positions remained the same, with Fernando and Felipe both safe in fourth and fifth places. Behind the Ferrari duo, the rest of the points went to sixth placed Sutil, followed by Rosberg, Di Resta, Kobayashi and Petrov.
The season thus came to a close in the usual way, with Red Bull the dominant force and McLaren and Ferrari as the second and third best teams, a situation everyone in Maranello will be working hard on changing over the coming months. The aim is clear, and as local boy Felipe said, he will be asking Father Christmas for a car that is competitive from start to finish in 2012!