Alonso closes the gap but Vettel stays strong

German champion shows his class in chaotic race

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso emphasised the positives on Sunday after Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel dashed the Spaniard's hopes of seizing back the lead in the Formula One championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel had started from the pit lane and in last place but still managed to finish third, just behind Alonso who is now 10 points adrift of the German with two races remaining in Texas and Brazil.

"Tonight I will go to sleep thinking the glass is half full rather than half empty," said Alonso after finishing runner-up to 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus at the Yas Marina circuit.

Vettel had been sent to the back of the grid on Saturday when it was discovered that his car had too little fuel in it to satisfy post-qualifying tests.

The German would have qualified third, ahead of Alonso who was promoted from seventh to sixth on the grid with every chance of a big points haul.

"It's true that with Sebastian last there was an opportunity to reduce the gap more significantly," said Alonso. "But it's equally true that our performance and our grid position could have seen us lose points in this Grand Prix. I repeat, they have the quicker car, we have the better team."

Alonso recognised Ferrari had no quick fix for their performance gap with the champions who look sure to wrap up the constructors' title in Austin in two weeks' time.

Mental strength

Vettel, meanwhile, showed the mark of a true champion in charging from pit lane to podium, leaving the German in a position to seal his third title in Texas in two weeks' time.

“He’s mentally incredibly strong," team principal Christian Horner told reporters as mechanics packed up around the paddock. "Before the race I went to see him in his room to wish him good luck and he was in there playing a drum kit with his trainer and he said, 'I'll see you on the podium'.

"He was the one guy in the briefing room last night, while the rest of us were ready to slit our wrists, who was saying 'It's not an issue. We can still do this'.  "It's that mental strength that he has that is one of his biggest assets."

On Saturday evening Horner had addressed reporters at the same place outside the Red Bull hospitality building to outline why his driver had been stripped of his qualifying times and sent to the back of the grid. He had explained that Red Bull would take Vettel's car out of the sealed 'parc ferme' to work on it, hoping that a points finish might be possible with a more aggressive set-up including different gear ratios and suspension.

Vettel had merely quoted Finnish Olympic ski jumping great Matti Nykanen’s observation that 'Every chance is an opportunity'. On Sunday, such was Vettel's speed - coupled with a helping hand from two safety car interludes - that he looked like he might become the first driver to win after starting in last position. "I said to myself 'Either we go full attack or nothing'," he said. “I think we can be very proud today. We got the maximum. We lost only a very little bit, I think we have the momentum still and the car is bloody quick."

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