Fernando Alonso issued a rallying cry to Ferrari to produce a much better car next season after seeing his faint world title hopes finally extinguished by Sebastian Vettel in yesterday’s Indian Grand Prix.
Alonso needed to win the race at the Buddh International Circuit and hope Vettel finished lower than fifth to keep the fight alive heading to Abu Dhabi next week, but a scrappy first lap ended the Spaniard’s hopes as Vettel cantered to victory.
“It’s not a surprise,” Alonso said. “We knew that Sebastian was becoming champion three or four races ago. It was something you just put inside and the day arrived today. This is sport. Someone did better than us this year... next year we will try to do better and keep fighting until the end.
“Today is a day to congratulate him [Vettel] and for him to enjoy the championship. It’s a day for us to start working even harder because we have a very strong challenge in front of us. We will start immediately and next year we want to win.”
Alonso’s slender title hopes were as good as severed within yards of the start as he tagged the back of the second Red Bull of Mark Webber in the first corner before hitting Jenson Button’s McLaren further round the lap. The double contact forced a trip to the pits for a new nose and left his car handling poorly for the rest of the race, which he completed in 11th place. “After the contact with Webber the race for sure was uphill for us,” said Alonso. “It was more difficult with one extra stop and we didn’t have the time or the pace to recover the positions. The steering was very heavy to the right and light to the left. It was a little bit sad that we lost important points but there was nothing we could do.”
That first-lap clash also left Button, who started 10th on the grid, frustrated as it forced the Briton into the pits with a puncture. He eventually finished 14th. “It was just one of those days,” said Button. “Exiting turn four I got hit quite hard on the right-hand side by Fernando. I don’t quite know why he couldn’t make it to the apex, as I’d given him loads of room, but he hit me in the side pretty hard.
“The contact damaged the car and damaged the wheel rim, which also gave me a puncture, although it didn’t cause me an issue until about three laps later. It was an extra shame that I was running on the medium tyre when I had the puncture, as that was the one you wanted to run long around here. So that incident destroyed my strategy for the rest of the afternoon.”
Sergio Perez’s charge to fifth – made possible by a superb overtake on both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton late in the race – came at just the right time for the Mexican, with McLaren still to be convinced he deserves a seat for next season.
“Fifth place is a great result for me,” Perez said. “Without question I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but it’s always sweeter when you perform well while under pressure. I’m extremely satisfied. In the closing laps, it was a fantastic feeling to get past Kimi and Lewis in a single move. I just braked as late as I could for turn four to try and keep Lewis behind – and I managed to do it.”
But the day belonged to Vettel and Hamilton, who finished sixth, said: “Congratulations to Sebastian: a four-times world champion – that’s pretty awesome. To do it at such a young age  is phenomenal.”