Ferrari finds loophole to help Fernando Alonso\'s F1 title chase

Agencies Posted: Nov 19, 2012 at 1208 hrs
Austin Ferrari promised to pull out all stops on Sunday to help Fernando Alonso claim the Formula One drivers title and with the help of a rulebook loophole they head to the season finale still in the fight.

Bending the rules to their advantage, Brazilian Felipe Massa took a five-place grid penalty at the U.S. Grand Prix to help team mate Alonso stay in the title chase with Red Bull\'s Sebastian Vettel.

Just prior to Sunday\'s race, Ferrari said they had broken a seal on Massa\'s gearbox, incurring the mandatory penalty, for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximizing Alonso\'s start potential.

The penalty meant Alonso started in seventh place and, crucially, on the clean side of the grid.

Alonso seized the opportunity to finish third behind Vettel and race winner Lewis Hamilton to trail Red Bull\'s championship leader by 13 points and everything to play for in Sao Paulo next Sunday.

We know our championship keeps alive maybe thanks to the first laps, Alonso told reporters. We always qualify around seventh or eighth and we finish the first lap in the first three or four positions normally and then after that the race becomes a little easier.

I think this podium, after all the difficulties we went through this weekend, is like a victory for us.

Losing three points maybe was in no-one\'s thoughts I think yesterday night or Friday night after seeing the practice, so we are really happy again to have a very good Sunday and score again good points.

While the decision to take a penalty to gain an advantage may hint at a lack of sportsmanship, the move fell within the rules, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali offering no apologies and making no attempt to hide his plan.

I didn\'t want to lie. I just wanted to say the truth. It would have been easy to (lie) but that is not our style, my style, he said.

I think because of the situation that is very clear in Ferrari, there is just the team that is the most important thing in this situation.

The data we had we knew the left side of the grid was very bad. I wanted to be totally honest.

If in my shoes other team principals would say a different thing, they are lying.

Once again the more we think about it, the more it was the right thing to try to keep the championships open until the last moment.

If Ferrari\'s gamesmanship rubbed Red Bull the wrong way they offered no hint at being angry, dismissing the move as part of the price of doing business in F1.

It was within the regulations, it was a technical move, they obviously made that decision to get Fernando onto the right side of the grid and it worked well for him, said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner with a shrug. It\'s within the rules, obviously hard on Felipe but their priority is Fernando.

Motor racing-Team by team analysis of U.S. Grand Prix

Team by team analysis of Sundays U.S. Formula One Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. (Round 19 of 20. Listed in championship order):

RED BULL (Sebastian Vettel 2, Mark Webber retired)

Red Bull clinched the constructors' title for the third year in a row. They are only the fourth team to do that hat-trick. Vettel led from pole but was hunted down by Hamilton, who passed on lap 42. The team blamed backmarker Narain Karthikeyan for holding up Vettel. Webber retired with an alternator problem on lap 18 after starting third.

FERRARI (Fernando Alonso 3, Felipe Massa 4)

Alonso racked up his 12th podium finish of the season and is now 13 points behind Vettel with one race left. Massa took a five place penalty on the grid to help his team mate, the move switching Alonso to the clean side. The Brazilian started 11th but had one of his best races of the year and called it like a win afterwards. Ferrari's lead over McLaren is just 14 points.

MCLAREN (Lewis Hamilton 1, Jenson Button 5)

Hamilton's fourth win of the season and McLaren's sixth. Hamilton, winner of the last U.S. race in 2007, now has 21 career wins. The Briton started in second place. Button was 12th on the grid and 15th after the first lap but fought back with some great overtaking.

LOTUS (Kimi Raikkonen 6, Romain Grosjean 7)

Raikkonen stayed third overall with his 16th successive points finish. He lost a few places at the start after contact with a Force India car at the second corner. Grosjean, who had a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change, spun on lap seven and flat-spotted his tyres.

MERCEDES (Nico Rosberg 13, Michael Schumacher 16)

Rosberg started 17th and did a one-stop strategy, pitting on lap 34. Schumacher, fifth on the grid, struggled with his first set of tyres and changed from one stop to two. Mercedes have not scored a point in the last five races.

SAUBER (Sergio Perez 11, Kamui Kobayashi 14)

Both did a one-stop strategy. Perez struggled with a brake problem from lap 10 and has still not scored a point in the five races since his move to McLaren was announced. Kobayashi was unable to get grip from the tyres.

FORCE INDIA (Nico Hulkenberg 8, Paul Di Resta 15)

The team have scored points in their last eight races. Hulkenberg said his tyres began to fade after lap 10. Di Resta struggled with oversteer.

WILLIAMS (Pastor Maldonado 9, Bruno Senna 10)

Another double points finish for Williams, with both men on a one-stop strategy and finishing where they started. Maldonado lost out at the start and fell to 15th before fighting back and overtaking Senna, who was held up by Hulkenberg.

TORO ROSSO (Daniel Ricciardo 12, Jean-Eric Vergne retired)

Ricciardo started 18th and on the dirty side of the track and damaged his front wing in a touch with a Marussia. He still managed to do plenty of overtaking. Vergne retired with a broken suspension.

MARUSSIA (Timo Glock 19, Charles Pic 20)

Marussia maintained 10th place overall. Pic damaged his front wing at the start.

CATERHAM (Vitaly Petrov 17, Heikki Kovalainen 18)

A straightforward race for both drivers after a lively few opening laps.

HRT (Pedro De la Rosa 21, Narain Karthikeyan 22)

Part of De la Rosa's seat broke five laps from the finish but he adopted a new driving position to get to the chequered flag. Karthikeyan was blamed by Red Bull for holding up Vettel, which allowed Hamilton to take the lead.