|Distance||308,052 km / 191,456 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||2.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||298||Scuderia Ferrari||7.|
Stefano Domenicali: “After qualifying hadn’t really given a true picture of the hierarchy down pit lane, today’s result showed just how competitive is our car. This second place wasn’t easy to come by and follows on from a difficult month and comes after plenty of speculation, which we prefer to reply to with results on track. Certainly this result alone is not enough, because we cannot claim to be satisfied until we manage to reduce the gap to Red Bull and be able to fight for first place. In the coming races, we will try to improve the car to give Fernando a chance of fighting for the Championship title and for Felipe to deliver performances which can help the team: those are our goals, the rest doesn’t matter”.
Fernando Alonso: “Today’s result shows that the outcome of qualifying bears little relation to the result on Sunday, although I think that even if I’d started from pole I would still have finished second, because Vettel was quicker. At the start we immediately made up some places and all in a rush, first passing Button, then Rosberg and Hamilton, so I found myself six seconds behind Vettel, but if one looks at the final gap of 16 seconds, we can but congratulate him and his team. The car worked well in all conditions, with a full fuel load at first and then with a lighter one at the end and, on top of that, the extra speed we had on the straight meant I could overtake without taking too many laps to do so. We know we have made a step forward and that we have recovered some of the competitiveness we had lost in recent races. In Monza and Singapore we will see the next steps in this process. The updates used in this race worked well and, even if they were aimed at this particular circuit, they are the results of work that goes on twenty four hours a day, at home and at the track. That makes us optimistic for the coming races, because our goal still remains the same, namely to fight for the title right to the end”.
Felipe Massa: “That was a difficult race for me right from the early stages, because after managing a good passing move at the start, I then had to slow and drop back four or five places, to avoid a collision with Grosjean at the exit of the first corner. From then on, things got complicated because for a few laps I had a problem on the steering wheel linked to the KERS operation and I wasn’t able to communicate well with the team. When everything was back to normal again, it wasn’t easy to catch up, because even if the decision to bring forward the first pit stop allowed me to get past several cars, the pace wasn’t good. In the final stint on the Hard tyres, the car was very competitive and I managed to gain some important places, with a nice passing move on Grosjean. I definitely can’t be pleased with seventh place, because today, our car deserved better, but the fact we’re more competitive than at the last few races makes me think we are working in the right direction and so we can hope to make progress throughout the second half of the season”.
Pat Fry: “The performance level we saw in today’s race is what we were unable to demonstrate yesterday in qualifying and it was certainly worthy of a front row. We knew that with a competitive car on this track, we would be in the game, even if moving up from ninth and tenth places and coming out of La Source in one piece is no easy task. Fernando got a great start, being both aggressive and steady at the same time, even if unfortunately, it was not enough to get past Vettel. In the middle stint of the race, their pace was very similar and it was only in the closing stages that the gap grew. Felipe had a harder time, especially at the start when he got caught up in traffic. We tried bringing forward his first pit stop to make up some places, but in the end, the time lost at the start prevented him from getting into the top five. Now we will tackle two very important races and only by improving the car will we be able to fight for the lead in the Championship”.
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 13||Old Medium|
|2nd stop||Lap 28||New Hard|
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 9||Old Medium|
|2nd stop||Lap 26||New Hard|
|Weather: air 20/21 °C, track 26/27 °C. Cloudy|
Spa-Francorchamps, 25 August – Not since the last day of June had Fernando Alonso been able to wave to the crowd from the podium. That was at Silverstone when he was third in the British Grand Prix and today, he went one better with a fine second place. The ever confident Ferrari man had said he could win this race, even after qualifying only ninth yesterday and given that the winning Vettel-Red Bull combination looked unbeatable today, this was a fantastic result. Felipe Massa had a more difficult afternoon, but still made up three places by the flag to bring home some more valuable points for seventh place. Scuderia Ferrari is still third in the Constructors’ classification, 17 points behind Mercedes. Fernando has now moved back up to second in the Drivers’ standings, 46 points behind today’s race winner, while Felipe remains seventh. Joining Vettel and Fernando on the Belgian podium was third placed Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.
It was perfectly dry for the start and it stayed that way to the chequered flag. By the first part of the opening lap, Vettel had passed pole man Hamilton, with Rosberg, Button and Alonso all getting past Webber so the Spanish Ferrari man had already made up four places to lie fifth, while Felipe in the other F138 had dropped two spots to twelfth. The majority of the field, including the two Prancing Horse cars, had started on the Medium, softer Pirellis.
On lap 4, Fernando passed Button on the uphill section after Raidillon to take fourth place, behind Rosberg. At the front, Vettel’s Red Bull was 3.5s ahead of Hamilton in the Mercedes, while the Englishman had 1.9 in hand over his team-mate. Fernando was flying and pulled another move, this time on Rosberg on lap 5 to get to the bottom step of the podium positions and at this point, he was 7.4 behind the leader.
Lap 8 saw Felipe make up one place to eleventh, when Grosjean ran wide off the track in the Lotus. The Brazilian was one of the first to change tyres, coming in for another set of Mediums on lap 9, dropping to seventeenth. Di Resta in the Force India and Vergne in the Toro Rosso pitted on the next lap. Hamilton pitted from second on lap 11, promoting Fernando to second, exactly 7 seconds behind Vettel. Rosberg came in on lap 12 from fifth and like everyone, took on another set of Mediums. Felipe was now twelfth having set the fastest race lap at this point. Fernando and Webber changed tyres on lap 13.
The race leader came in on lap 14, which dropped him to second place, behind Button’s McLaren which had yet to stop, while Hamilton was third and Fernando fourth, but on the next lap, the Spaniard squeezed inside the Englishman coming out of the La Source hairpin to be back in third, with Button now second behind Vettel who had got his Red Bull back in front, having passed the McLaren at the Bus Stop. Felipe had moved up to eighth.
Coming out of the Bus Stop on lap 17, Button dived for pit lane, fitting Hards, possibly looking at a one-stop, which put Alonso second again, still 7 seconds behind Vettel. On lap 22, half-distance, the gap between Vettel and the Spaniard had grown to 8.7, with Fernando leading Hamilton by 4.1. Grosjean was the last driver to change tyres on this lap, clearly on a one stop. Felipe was up to seventh, but he had the slightly faster Raikkonen on his tail in the Lotus. However, the pressure was soon off Felipe, as Raikkonen went off the track at the final corner on lap 25, pitted and retired.
Hamilton came in from third for his second stop, taking on Hards to run to the flag, with Felipe and Sutil in the Force India also changing tyres at this point, the Ferrari man going to the end from here and now lying ninth. As the yellow flags came out because of a collision between Maldonado and Di Resta, Fernando came in for his final stop on lap 28. He rejoined in third place behind the Red Bull of Webber, who had yet to make a second stop. But the Australian came in next time round, so Fernando was again second, a massive 26.4 seconds behind Vettel who had only pitted once so far. In eighth, Felipe set another race fastest lap. On lap 30 the leader made his final visit to pit lane, just as Fernando emulated his team-mate with a fastest lap. Lap 31 saw the gap between Vettel and Fernando sit at 6.8, as the German’s engineer came on the radio to tell him to extend the gap, as there was a threat of rain. Button clearly couldn’t manage a one stop and pitted again on lap 34.
From then on, the order settled down at the front until Fernando took the chequered flag in second place, almost 17 seconds off the leader. However, the action wasn’t over for Felipe and with just four laps to go, he managed to get past Grosjean to secure seventh place.
Only two weeks to go until the excitement and emotion of Scuderia Ferrari’s home race at the temple of speed that is Monza. Apart from a hiccough in yesterday’s qualifying, it’s clear the F138 appears to have found some more pace over the summer break and that will be a key factor down the long straights in the Royal Park.
1 the number of podium finishes for Fernando Alonso in the Belgian Grand Prix, since he joined Ferrari. The Spaniard has equalled his best result in this race, which came in 2005. In the last three years, Fernando had only made it to the finish line in 2011 when he was fourth, while he had to retire in 2010 and last year.
8 top ten finishes for Felipe Massa in nine Belgian Grand Prix participations. The Brazilian won in 2008 and came second in 2007 and he can add today’s seventh place to two fourths, a fifth, an eighth and a tenth.
39 the number of podium finishes out of 62 Grands Prix in the points for Fernando Alonso from 69 starts at the wheel of a Ferrari. Today’s 18 points bring his tally while at Ferrari to 938. His total has now gone past the 1500 mark: with 1515 points to his name, Fernando is only 51 points off the leader of this classification, Michael Schumacher.
45 podium finishes for Scuderia Ferrari in the Belgian Grand Prix. Today’s, courtesy of Fernando Alonso, is the 17th second place, which goes with 12 thirds and 16 wins. Not since 2009 has a Ferrari driver made it to the podium: on that occasion it was Kimi Raikkonen who took the win.
Spa-Francorchamps, 25 August – Scuderia Ferrari finished the Belgian Grand Prix with a second place for Fernando Alonso and a seventh for Felipe Massa. The Spaniard is back to second in the Drivers’ classification on 151 points and after eleven races the Brazilian lies seventh. The team has consolidated its third place in the Constructors’ championship, with 218 points.
Both F138s started on the Medium tyres and Alonso managed a great getaway, taking the inside line up to La Source to go fifth and then pushed hard to be second before his first pit stop on lap 13, when he again fitted Mediums. He kept the gap to leader Vettel under 10 seconds before his second and final pit stop which was on lap 28, after which he ensured the runner-up slot, crossing the finish line with a comfortable lead over third placed Lewis Hamilton.
Massa was also on a two-stop strategy, gradually moving up the order and with just 4 laps remaining, he managed to pass Grosjean to take seventh place, while out in front Sebastian Vettel won the race for Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso: “When you end up ninth and tenth, clearly something has gone wrong and only analysing the data will be able to tell you what exactly, especially as the car was more competitive than in recent races. That’s partly down to the updates introduced here, which we had been working on since mid-July, when it was clear we had problems. Bad luck definitely played its part, because if the cloud that appeared in Q3 had not moved just before the end of the session, then maybe those who were last at that time would not have improved. In the final part, I spun on my first lap, a mistake which definitely cost me, even if by my next lap at the same point, at Turn 14, I had already made up three seconds. I feel reasonably confident for the race, especially as the variable weather conditions mean anything can happen and it’s not a given that one finishes where one starts. Of course, we must make up a lot of places, but at least we have the knowledge that we have closed the gap to the favourites and that we can be competitive in the dry. We saw that in Q2 and in the mixed conditions in Q1. Only the rain is the big question mark, because so far this weekend, we have never run on a track that is wet for its entire length”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very disappointed with the result of this qualifying, even if I am well aware how difficult it is to make the right decision at the right time when the weather is very changeable. On my first run in Q3, I went out on the Mediums and, at the moment it began to rain, I had two options: return to the pits to refuel and fit a new set of intermediates, or try and only change tyres. I went for the second of these choices, hoping to benefit from the track being at its best, knowing I would only have one lap left to try and do a good time. Unfortunately, this choice did not pay off, because just then the rain eased off and the other cars encountered better track conditions at the end of the session. A real shame, as the car’s been very competitive all weekend, but definitely today, we were a bit out of luck. Even if we are not starting from a good position tomorrow, the race is long and anything can happen. My pace is good and I hope to pull off some nice passing moves to bring home a good number of points”.
Pat Fry: “The result of this qualifying is certainly no reward for the efforts of the team and drivers, but rather it leaves a great sense of regret, especially due to the fact that today, everything was in place for us to aim for a front row slot. Yesterday’s and today’s practice produced encouraging signs; the car was quick in all conditions and on all the compounds we used, proving to be very competitive. An analysis of the data overlaying Fernando’s and Felipe’s performance had allowed us to find the right aerodynamic compromise for this track, both in the dry and the wet and for that reason, we were aspiring to a result we didn’t get, which was also partly down to bad luck. Now however, we must only turn the page and get ready to tackle a long and demanding race, when once again the weather will play a big part”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 298|
|Q1||P1||2:00.190||New Intermediate – 7 lapsNew Intermediate – 3 laps||P7||2:01.462||New Intermediate – 7 lapsNew Intermediate – 3 laps|
|Q2||P2||1:48.309||New Hard – 3 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps||P9||1:49.020||New Hard – 4 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps|
|Q3||P9||2:03.482||New Medium – 1 lapNew Intermediate – 4 laps||P10||2:04.059||New Medium – 1 lapNew Intermediate – 3 laps|
|Weather:air 20/21 °C, track 24 °C. Light rain|
Spa-Francorchamps, 24 August – Both Prancing Horse drivers had good reason to be disappointed at the outcome of qualifying. In the case of Fernando, despite his two world championship crowns, he has never won a Formula 1 race in Belgium and was therefore hoping to do better this year and for Felipe, the opposite is true, as the Brazilian has often shone in the Ardennes, even winning once and so he could have aspired to another good performance. However, the weather, the usual source of consternation at this venue again played its part and, for a variety of circumstances, Fernando and Felipe ended up securing the bottom two places in the top ten shoot-out this afternoon. They will thus start the Belgian Grand Prix, the eleventh race of the year, alongside one another on row 5.
From Friday morning onwards, the F138 had looked more competitive than it had done immediately prior to the summer break and in fact, right up to the start of Q3, there was every reason to be optimistic about grid positions for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. Updates the team have been working on, particularly relating to the aero package of the car, seemed to have cut the performance gap to those who were the front runners leading up to the summer break. The gaps in free practice were smaller than before and gave cause for optimism. However, having got through the first two sections of qualifying with relative ease, Q3 was a different matter. A damp Q1 was followed by a dry Q2, but then, as if an unseen hand was directing the show, trying to add to the spectacle, some clouds reappeared with their cargo of rain, before yet again leaving the stage for the track to start drying. This turned the session into a case of last person to cross the line takes the pole. Fernando and Felipe took the chequered flag when the track was still quite wet, but as it improved yet again, those who came across the stripe later finished ahead of them.
At the top of the time sheet, Lewis Hamilton timed everything to perfection in the Mercedes to secure his fourth consecutive pole position, knocking first Mark Webber and then the other Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel off the top spot. The German starts alongside the Englishman, while the Australian starts on the inside of the second row, with the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg alongside him in fourth spot.
What can the Ferrari duo expect tomorrow? Much will depend on the weather, but if one assumes that some of the cars ahead of them on the grid do not have quite the pace of the F138 in “normal” conditions, then that fact combined with Fernando and Felipe’s usual aggressive approach to race starts, could see them move up the order to secure a good result, come the end of the 44 laps.
Light rain started to fall ten minutes before the start of Q1 and everyone went out on Intermediate tyres. The track dried gradually, making for two very hectic final laps. Both Ferrari men fitted a fresh set of Intermediates with Fernando setting the fastest time of 2.00.190. Massa was seventh with a 2.01.462.
For Q2, the racing line was completely dry and both F138s were fitted with Hard slicks, with everyone switching to the Mediums in the final three minutes. Alonso was second in this session, lapping in 1.48.309, while Massa, doing just a single flying lap on the Mediums was ninth in 1.49.020.
In the ten minutes of Q3, the rain returned to the third sector of the track to complicate matters. After just one run on the Mediums, all the drivers pitted for Intermediates. The rain increased and then backed off again in the last two minutes, by which time Alonso and Massa had already taken the chequered flag. Fernando thus had to settle for ninth place with a 2.03.482, just ahead of Felipe who did a 2.04.059. Pole went to Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.
Fernando Alonso: “This was a good day, even if in the morning we, and in fact everyone, lost time because of the rain and so in the afternoon we found ourselves facing double the workload. Before drawing any conclusions, we need to wait for the analysis of the data acquired this afternoon from both cars. Felipe and I tried different aero configurations, with more and less downforce, which will be the real key to this race, along with the weather. In terms of today’s times, we have got closer to the favourites, but I’m not sure which weather forecast I would prefer. It’s true that in the rain, the cards on the table can be shuffled up, but in the wet there are as many chances to benefit as there are to lose. It will be important to have a good understanding of how the tyres are behaving in the dry, as well as finding out what happened to the Caterham, to Vettel and also to me on my in-lap. I don’t think it’s a similar problem to what we saw in Silverstone, maybe more of a random set of circumstances, but all the same, it needs careful analysis”.
Felipe Massa: “Today, the changeable weather had a big effect on the way free practice was run, with minimal running in the first session. But if we want to look at things in terms of a glass half full, then at least the few laps we managed in the morning were important, to give us an idea of the behaviour of the car in the wet, which is always useful here in Spa. In the afternoon, in the dry, we managed to get through our programme, testing some new parts and both types of Pirelli tyre. The outcome of the race simulation tells us that we have what we need to be on the pace and we will definitely do all we can to fight with the leaders of the classification”.
Pat Fry: “The race at Spa has always been a great challenge for the drivers and also for us engineers and this year, that seems to be very much the case, partly because of the uncertainty of the weather, which today was inclement enough to affect the running of our programme. Having a track that is only partially wet is the worst possible condition to start working on car set-up, because it limits the time available to test the balance and driveability with different aerodynamic loads. In the afternoon, we only partly made up for the time lost because of the rain as we evaluated all the possible scenarios on a track that requires an aerodynamic compromise that is one of a kind. Here, the rain is the big unknown and it certainly won’t help anyone”.
|ALONSO – chassis 299||MASSA – chassis 298|
|First Session||P1||1:55.198||11 laps||P11||1:56.863||10 laps|
|Weather: air 17/18 °C, track 18/19 °C. Cloudy, light rain|
|Second Session||P7||1:50.510||21 laps||P4||1:50.164||27 laps|
|Weather: air 24 °C, track 29/34 °C. Sunny|
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August – A sunny afternoon in Spa-Francorchamps highlighted the beautiful colours of the surrounding Ardennes forest. But the teams had no time to admire the scenery, while enjoying a completely dry session with stable track conditions. Air temperature was 20 with the track reaching 32, double the morning figure.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso got through the planned programme, setting the fourth and seventh times respectively in 1.50.164 and 1.50.510. They both did two runs on the Hard compound, working on set-up with different aerodynamic configurations. Then they worked through the usual qualifying simulation, using the Medium, but Alonso did not get the best out of the new tyres, because of traffic.
They ended the first day doing a race simulation with Felipe completing a total of 27 laps, six more than Alonso. Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the Red Bull in 1.49.331.
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August – “It’s the same for everyone” is the usual mantra trotted out over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend whenever the rain arrives. The famous saying therefore made an extremely early appearance in the Ardennes, as rain was a feature of the very first free practice session of the weekend. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even a useful sort of rain, which gives drivers time to collect data on both the Extreme rain tyres and the Intermediates. Instead, the track was only really damp in parts, meaning that running the Intermediates for too long meant risking damage to tyres that might be needed again over the next two days, while, naturally enough, the Dry Pirellis didn’t get up to temperature, or provide enough grip.
However, with more rain bound to appear at some point over the next two days, both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ventured out in the damp this morning, to get a feel for the greasy track. The real work had to wait for the afternoon, when it was actually hot and sunny. Therefore, over the course of the three hours, the Spaniard and the Brazilian completed a total of 69 laps and if that doesn’t sound like much of a day’s work, remember that each lap of this fantastic rollercoaster of a track is just over seven kilometres in length, the longest by far on the calendar.
Having been fastest in the morning, the Spanish Ferrari driver did not get the best out of his flying lap on the softer Medium compound and was classified seventh, while his Brazilian team-mate showed that the F138 is looking quite competitive compared to the front runners, with a fourth fastest time, eight tenths slower than the “Friday pole” time. Again, taking the lap length into consideration, that is not a big gap here. That fastest time came courtesy of the car and driver that lead both classifications at the moment, namely Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. His team-mate Mark Webber was second, while Romain Grosjean was third for Lotus. Behind Felipe, Jean-Eric Vergne was fifth in the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, with Kimi Raikkonen, one of the undoubted Spa maestros, completing the top six.
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August – There was quite a wait for the eleventh round of the Formula 1 World Championship to get underway this morning in the Ardennes. The typical Spa-Francorchamps weather did not disappoint and intermittent rain fell throughout much of the first Free Practice session. Fernando Alonso was fastest overall in 1.55.198, only completing 11 laps, while in the other F138, Felipe Massa was eleventh, doing 10 laps with a best time of 1.56.863. When conditions allowed, much of the session was dedicated to evaluating different aerodynamic configurations. The two Ferrari men ran Intermediates, then Hards and then Intermediates again, also trying some practice starts before the end of the session. Behind the Spaniard, it was Force India that completed the top three: Paul di Resta second in 1.55.224, ahead of Adrian Sutil who did a 1.55.373.
Spa- Francorchamps, 22 August – The Twittersphere can sometimes seem to have taken over as the main form of media communication and so, after Fernando recently tweeted about a true warrior not drawing a sword when insulted, the press went into a frenzy of speculation regarding whom this verbal sword was aimed at. Turns out it was no one: “I read a lot, sometimes novels, sometimes books about the Samurai and when I see a phrase that might be relevant to everyday life, I sometimes tweet it,” was Fernando’s explanation to the assembled press at this afternoon’s conference in the Spa paddock.” “But it was not a comment about anyone!”
On to the more serious matters and the Spanish double champion admitted that the Belgian circuit had not so far delivered much for him. “After many years in Formula 1 I have never had a great Sunday here and I would like to finally get a good result,” he said. “I think our expectations can be good ones as this circuit requires different levels of aero downforce and a very specific set-up and our preparation for this race has been excellent. Physically right now, I’d give myself a 10, motivation 10, determination 10, the team has also worked well on our weak points that we saw mainly in Silverstone, so everything is in place for us to do well here. Whether or not we can win the championship, we will have to wait and see until Brazil, but if we don’t it won’t be for the lack of trying. The current situation is that we must find the parts that give us those missing three or four tenths, as we, Felipe and I and Domenicali, have said before. I believe one hundred percent that sooner or later we will manage it. July was not the best for us, but this situation can change immediately if we find something that makes the car work in a better way. We will try right to the very end, just as we have done in the past, fighting for the championship to the very last lap of the last race. I don’t see why we cannot do that again this year.”
Asked if he feared that the rumours regarding Raikkonen returning to Maranello would make for a difficult situation within the team with two “number one drivers” as the journalist put it, the Spaniard explained the concept did not exist in the Scuderia. “When me and Felipe go to Australia for the first race, we are both equal, both with the same car,” he said. “Only towards the very end of the year, if new parts are available for just one car, then they go to the driver who has the most points. I have been fortunate that in recent years it has been me.” Alonso also pointed out that when Felipe was teamed with the Finn, it was the Brazilian who had the upper hand going into the final part of the 2008 season. “So, whoever drives for Ferrari next year, above all, we need to improve the car, because the two drivers who have the fastest car have the best chances and I have no fear about who is in the team as long as they work as hard as possible to get Ferrari into the number one position.
“The summer break is a time when the rumours start and I don’t like it when there is talk of possible future team-mates, first and foremost because it shows a lack of respect for Felipe if I comment on this,” continued Fernando. “We have done four years together, with great teamwork. With all my team-mates, there has been this sense of good teamwork, even at McLaren, there wasn’t a problem with my team-mate, but with the way the situation was managed. So what happens next year, whether it be with Felipe or without Felipe, we will do our best to all work together.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August – A succinct two word answer was Felipe’s opening comment in today’s regular meeting with the press, as the F1 world reassembled after the break in a warm and sunny Spa paddock, when he was asked if he could look forward to a good second half of the year. “Why not?” he fired back. “Last year’s second part was good and this year, in the first half, the pace wasn’t bad, much better than last year in general. However, in some races, I didn’t get the points I should have done, but I’m confident for what is to come.”
The Brazilian was next asked if all the gossip about his future after the end of this year was unsettling, the question itself adding to the gossip! “It goes in here and goes out here,” he replied, pointing first at one ear and then at the next. “My situation last year was worse than this year and much more complicated,” he elaborated. “Whereas this year, the performance was there in almost all races, even if, for various reasons – exploding tyres, spinning in qualifying and starting last – the expected final result didn’t come. Without those incidents and others, the championship situation would be different now. Now I just need to put everything together and be more consistent and not have any of these problems. If I do that, then I think I have a good chance of staying here at Ferrari.” However, ever the realist, the Brazilian did not hide the fact that his desire to stay with the Prancing Horse did not rule out looking at other options. “You always have to be aware of what is going on and what might happen in the future. I have always said that I would be happy to race for a team that wants me to be part of it and I will always do my best to find a team that wants me. In the end though, it’s always the results that count.”
As for the more immediate future and the Belgian Grand Prix, Felipe was keen for the track action to get underway. “I am confident for this weekend, because for me and I think for many drivers, Spa is a favourite track,” he concluded. “I have had good races here, almost always in fact and so I hope I can have another competitive weekend, with the car working well at this track.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August – The first day at work at Spa-Francorchamps ended with a Fifties-style evening. On the eve of one of the most eagerly anticipated rounds of the Formula 1 championship, following on from the long summer break, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa took part in a Shell event aimed at the media, which took the Ferrari men and others back in time, to the early days of the sport, thanks to a perfect evocation of the period. The main part of the event was a screening of a restored Shell film which the long-time Scuderia technical partner organised in an old cinema in Malmedy. The town gives its name to one of the corners of the circuit, which first saw the light of day in the Twenties, when it used public roads linking Malmedy, Stavelot and Francorchamps. The subject of the film was the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix: driving for Ferrari were the Italian Giuseppe Farina, Belgium’s Paul Frere and the Frenchman Maurice Trintignant.
Maranello, 20 august – Going back to school after the summer holiday was always easier to deal with if the first day featured a popular topic and the same can be said of the Formula 1 mid-season break, because there can’t be many people who don’t look forward to the weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Many tracks have been purpose built to provide thrills and excitement for drivers and spectators alike, but none of those manage it with the easy grace of Spa, which was originally put together using public roads that had to be closed for racing. In 1979, the massive 15 kilometre track was shortened approximately by half, but it still retains a certain special something appreciated by all the drivers. In fact it’s a great example of Mother Nature knowing best, because what really makes Spa special is the way the track dips, dives and climbs through the Ardennes forest.
Both Scuderia Ferrari drivers are fans. “It is a very special circuit that always gets your adrenalin pumping, what with the way the track rises and falls and the very quick corners, which all go to make it a really fantastic experience for a driver,” reckons Fernando Alonso, who split the break between home in Spain and some beach time. “One lap of Spa is like twenty at any other track, in terms of the excitement and adrenalin it generates.” As for Felipe Massa, he made the rather longer trip to his home in Brazil, but is now back in Europe, batteries fully charged, ready to tackle the Belgian Grand Prix. “Spa is fantastic, something of a dream for all drivers to race there, especially in a Formula 1 car,” says Felipe. “There’s so much history there and it’s a wonderful challenge with all the climbs and drops and changes of direction, which all add up to make driving there a true pleasure.” As to which part is the most exciting, the Spaniard plumps for the famous Eau Rouge. “It’s an uphill corner taken in seventh gear at over 300 km/h. Even if you take it flat out these days in a modern Formula 1 car, your body still experiences more compression than at any other corner in the whole championship and that’s what makes it special.” Felipe is a fan of the rollercoaster corner too, but it’s not his favourite. “In a modern F1 car, with all the technology and the aerodynamics and the downforce, although Eau Rouge looks like a corner, you actually drive it as though it was a straight, taking it flat out every lap,” explained the Brazilian. “So actually, the part I think is the most fun is towards the end of the second sector and the start of the last one, where there are so many fast corners and changes of direction. The most demanding section comes after the climb from Eau Rouge, when you get a straight followed by all those downhill chicanes because the slightest mistake here costs you a lot of time over the lap.
There are many other challenges at this circuit and Fernando reckons one of the most important comes near the end of circuit. “The most demanding corner is definitely the final chicane before the finish line, because you approach it at around 330 km/h but then you have to tackle this very, very slow chicane with very little grip, because at Spa you set up the car with very little downforce. It’s here that positions change a lot during the race and it’s also important as it marks the entrance to the pit lane, which is very narrow. For the best set-up at Spa you need to make a significant aerodynamic compromise, because the first and third sectors are made up entirely of long straights, where you want the minimum downforce, in order to have as much speed as possible and then there’s the middle sector which has plenty of corners where you want the maximum aerodynamic downforce. So finding the right balance is always very complex at Spa, which means this is the aspect that we will prioritise in free practice.”
Of the current Scuderia Ferrari driver line-up, only Felipe has won here before, back in 2008. “Everyone wants to win here,” maintains the Brazilian. “I love the circuit and I hope there are more Spa wins to come in my career. It means a lot because of its history.” His team-mate agrees that a win in Belgium is special. “Spa is considered to be a very complete circuit which provides a real challenge for both the driver and the team,” says Fernando. “Therefore, it’s one of those races, along with Monaco and Monza and the other famous tracks with a great reputation, which gives them some added worth, as all the big names have won here in the past, so hopefully this year, we can put our name there. But at the end of the day, it’s still 25 points for the win, just like any other round.” Surprisingly, given he is a double world champion, the Scuderia’s Spanish driver has never held the winner’s trophy in Belgium. “I did well in 2005 when I came second and also back in Formula 3000 So far, I’ve never been in with a real chance of fighting for the win and I’ve often retired at Spa, usually for reasons of plain bad luck or with technical problems or down to my own mistakes. So it would be great to make up for that this year, picking up all those lost points.”
Maranello, 20 August – The return leg of the Formula 1 World Championship is about to get underway and, as the time comes to head for Spa, Stefano Domenicali called together all the men and women who work for the Scuderia, in the logistics pavillion to give an added boost of motivation to a group that is in any case set on pursuing success.
“There is still everything to play for and we have gone through this before, as recently as last year,” said Domenicali. “Nine races means that a total of 225 driver points are available and rest assured that the goals we set ourselves at the start of the season are still perfectly attainable. It’s true we’ve gone through a difficult period, especially in July and now is the time to react in the way that Ferrari people know well.
“Our task is very simple: namely to give Fernando and Felipe the quickest car possible. Now, their contribution will be even more essential than ever,” he continued. “We have spelt it out many times before: the driver topic is definitely not a priority. What counts is to give them the best possible chance of finishing ahead of everyone and, in order to succeed, each and every one of us must do our job to the best of our ability on all levels. If they have a winning car in their hands, then I am convinced they will know how to win with it. If we all believe, then we can do it!”
Domenicali spent considerable time talking about the right mental approach. “I don’t want to see any of you not believing in our fightback: each one of you must be the link in a chain of positivity that must drive the team along in what is a key moment in the season. We are Ferrari and history teaches us that we must never accept we are beaten. There is much talk outside the company regarding the future, but we must concentrate only on the present, on the fight for the championship. The words of our President before the summer break must serve as a stimulus, because they were meant as the words of a good family father, who, first and foremost really roots for our team: keep those words in mind and let’s all pull together, starting in Spa.”
The first group of team members has already arrived in Belgium, while the trucks with the F138s available for the eleventh round of the 2013 Championship will leave Maranello this evening. The final charter flight of the European season, with the rest of the eighty or so personnel that will attend the race, will leave from Bologna airport tomorrow afternoon.
It’s true that all wins come with the same number of points, from 8 in the Fifties to 25 today, but they don’t all produce the same level of satisfaction. It depends when the win came, but also where and there can be no denying that to be first past the flag on the greatest circuit in the world – which is what the vast majority of drivers reckon and they should know better than anyone – is something special, while doing so in a Ferrari is the icing on the cake.
There have been seven drivers who have won at Spa in red, racking up a total of 12 victories. In chronological order they are, Alberto Ascari (twice,) Peter Collins, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Michael Schumacher (four times,) Kimi Raikkonen (twice) and Felipe Massa. To these names, one can add those of Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter and Michele Alboreto, who together won four times – two for the Austrian – at the Zolder circuit, bringing the Scuderia’s total of Belgian Grand Prix wins to sixteen.
The quartet of Schumacher Prancing Horse wins in 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002 are very dear to Ferrari fans, but there are possibly two other performances from the German in this race that put a smile on the faces of those who love the Reds. In 1995, Michael won having started from sixteenth on the grid, showing off all his talents, especially in the wet, as well as demonstrating his aggressive nature on track: it was the first race following the news that the German would be joining the Scuderia and, if any Ferraristi had any doubts about him, that victory wiped them away.
In 2004, Michael didn’t win, but even coming second had a good feeling to it for a man who never grew tired of winning: the eight points he picked up on that 29th August assured him of his seventh world title, his fifth in a row for Ferrari. That day, it was Kimi Raikkonen in the McLaren who was first past the chequered flag in a symbolic passing of the baton between two of the three gods of Spa, the third being without a doubt Ayrton Senna, who was triumphant five times on the hills of the Ardennes.
The Finn has won the Belgian Grand Prix four times (2004 2005, 2007and 2009) while a fifth victory, in 2008, slipped from his grasp in the closing stages when he was caught out by a torrent of water which saw him end up in the barriers with two laps to go. Particularly significant was the 2009 win, at the wheel of the F60, which was not the most successful car to come out of Maranello, to be polite about it: Kimi was majestic in the use of KERS, first on the offensive in the opening laps and then, once in the lead, on the defensive, managing to make the best of it to fend off a hard charging Fisichella, who from the next race on would become his last team-mate at Ferrari.
In 2008 the win was decided in the Stewards room in favour of his team-mate Felipe Massa, after Hamilton was given a 25 second penalty for cutting the final chicane as he was trying to pass the aforementioned Raikkonen. At Spa, the Brazilian has finished seven times in the top ten from eight starts, only failing to see the chequered flag on his debut year with Sauber in 2002. Fernando Alonso has just four points finishes, two of them on the podium, from nine Belgian Grand Prix starts, a race that seems to be cursed for the champion from Oviedo, at least in Formula 1.
However, Fernando has experienced the taste of victory at Spa-Francorchamps back in 2000, when he was racing in Formula 3000 and he did it in style, taking pole, the win and the fastest race lap. Since he has raced in red, luck has certainly not come the Spaniard’s way on the rollercoaster ride that is Spa: in 2010 he was caught out by the rain and last year he didn’t even get as far as the first corner, given that Grosjean’s Lotus flew over him just seconds after the lights went out. A fourth place in 2011 is not enough to please Fernando and therefore, on behalf of all Ferrari fans, he has our best wishes in the hope of banishing the photo that is set in time from that Formula 3000 weekend thirteen years ago.