ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso gestured angrily at Russian racer Vitaly Petrov but he might as well have shaken a fist at his own Ferrari bosses after being denied a third Formula One title by a strategic error on Sunday.
The Spaniard was far too much of a team player to do that and Petrov -- a rookie with an uncertain future at Renault -- was a much easier, if unfair, target for merely doing what he was paid to do.
On an evening that started so promisingly for Alonso, but then turned to dust in the desert, Ferrari let the championship slip through their fingers and be picked up instead by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso had been 15 points clear of 23-year-old Vettel going into the season-ending Abu Dhabi grand prix and ended up seventh, overall runner-up and four points behind Formula One’s youngest champion.
The Spaniard, winner of five races this year, sat hunched and sweating in silence at the back of the Ferrari garage as team mates commiserated.
“After the race it is always very easy to see the best strategy. If we didn’t stop, Webber would probably overtake us, if we stop, we let Rosberg and Petrov overtake us, very difficult call,” he said.
Alonso had been fourth, which would have been enough to take the title even with Vettel winning, but came in for fresh tyres at the end of lap 15 after his closest championship rival Mark Webber pitted in the other Red Bull.
The pitstops put both men back out on track behind several drivers including Renault’s Petrov, who had pitted earlier when the safety car was deployed.
On a track where overtaking is difficult, Alonso was unable to get past Petrov.
“Afterwards it was really clear it was a mistake,” said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, without saying who had made the call.
“In the good and the bad moments the team has to stay together.
“What I feel inside is a lot of pain...for sure it was the worst race of the year for us and that’s why it hits you very hard in the head,” said Domenicali.
The team principal said he had not seen Alonso’s gesture because he had been talking to the team at that point, trying to raise their spirits.
“There is a great sadness at the moment,” he said. “We are Ferrari, which means we are condemned to having to win, so a second place is a defeat. But this is also a part of the sport and we have to accept it.”
Petrov said he could understand Alonso’s frustration and had not spoken to the Spaniard or Vettel, who might have thanked him for services rendered.
“I think I have nothing to say. I did my race, I can’t just let one car pass me. We are racing,” he told reporters. “I think he is angry so there is no reason to speak to him right now. I think in his situation I would also be angry.
“I didn’t do this for Vettel or want to disturb Fernando’s race,” he added.
“Of course I could have asked on the radio: ‘Please ask my team how much Vettel wants to pay me’ and then go to Ferrari and ask the same if I let him through and then we see who offers most money,” he joked.
Editing by Clare Fallon
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