Ferrari gatecrashed Sebastian Vettel's triple world title party by insisting that Spaniard Fernando Alonso should have been crowned champion in an acrimonious, season-finale parting shot.
Red Bull driver Vettel's sixth-placed finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday allowed him to become the youngest three-time champion in the sport's history as the 25-year-old German claimed the title by just three points.
But Ferrari insisted that Alonso, who was second at Interlagos, should have been the man celebrating a third career title, pointing to controversial races in Belgium and Japan to support their argument.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said that Alonso paid a heavy price for first lap exits in Belgium and Japan where he was shunted out of contention by Lotus duo Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen respectively.
The Italian giants had been further aggrieved when Vettel, accused of blocking Alonso in qualifying in Japan before going on to win the race, escaped with just a reprimand.
ALONSO DESERVES THE TITLE?
“We are proud of Fernando,” Domenicali told www.autosport.com. “But we are very disappointed because the one who deserved this championship was really him.
“It is a shame because, after such a long season that we really fight in all conditions, we raced 18 races and not 20 - and being second by three points is not a lot.
“Watch the facts. Zero points in two races (Belgium and Japan) so we have done what we have done with 18 races. The others had 20 - and the points were over 20 races. These are facts, not words.”
But Domenicali remained gracious in his praise of Vettel who had collided with Williams driver Bruno Senna on the opening lap and was sent spinning to the rear of the field in Sunday's rain-lashed race before recovering.
“Sometimes there is a sign of destiny where you really can appreciate what is the direction of the wind,” he said.
Alonso, who was second behind Jenson Button of McLaren in the race, also insisted his campaign had been undermined at Spa and Suzuka.
“The championship was not lost here,” said the two-time champion. “The championship was lost when (Romain) Grosjean flew over my head (at Spa) or when Vettel surprisingly only got a reprimand after qualifying in Japan.”
Vettel refused to get involved in a war of words although he did allude to his rivals' controversial decision last weekend in Texas to change the gearbox on Felipe Massa's Ferrari in order to allow Alonso to enjoy a starting advantage on the grid.
“A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks but we did not get distracted by that and kept going our way and all the guys gave a big push right to the end,” Vettel told the BBC.
VETTEL IN TEARS
The German struggled with his emotions and wept on Sunday's final lap which was completed behind the safety car.
“It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself. I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn't feel it,” he admitted.
“It was such an incredible race. When you get turned around at Turn Four for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the (British motorway) M25 it is not the most comfortable feeling.”
Vettel became only the third driver in history to win three successive titles, equalling the feats of the great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and childhood idol Michael Schumacher, who finished seventh for Mercedes in his final race before retiring.
After 21 years, seven drivers' championship triumphs and 91 victories, the 43-year-old Schumacher recovered from an early puncture to score points in his final outing.
“I think it's a nice ending,” he said. “I'm finishing off and he's (Vettel) clinching his third title. I'm very proud of him.”
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton blasted Nico Hulkenberg after the Force India driver sent the former world champion crashing out of his final race as a McLaren driver.
Hulkenburg lost control as he attempted to squeeze into the lead on lap 55 of the 71-lap race and rammed into Hamilton's McLaren.
“The dude did not even come and say sorry,” fumed Hamilton. -Sapa-AFP