|Circuit||Bahrain International Circuit – Manama
|Distance||308,238 km / 191,571 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||8.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||300||Scuderia Ferrari||15.|
Maranello, 23 April –Two days on from the Bahrain Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari’s technical team is back in Maranello, just a bit later than Stefano Domenicali and Pat Fry. The busy work programme leaves no room for either celebration or moments of disappointment, given the relentless schedule of the Formula 1 World Championship. From 10 to 12 May, the action continues with the Spanish Grand Prix at the Catalunya circuit, which means there is no time for a break.
The day after the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Scuderia Ferrari engineers concluded the investigation into the failure of the DRS unit which badly affected Fernando Alonso’s race. Analysis revealed that the problem was caused by the breakage of a mechanical component within the system. It’s the first problem of its kind on this system seen in the three years during which it has been used.
The failure is not something that causes concern for the long term, however, paying great attention to reliability must always remain at the highest level. It has often been the case that it takes only a small problem to prevent the car’s full potential from being exploited. The disappointment at what happened is even greater when one looks at the usual analysis of performance over the race weekend, which shows that Alonso could definitely have been fighting with Sebastian Vettel for the win.
“It’s hard to recall a race where so many things went wrong,” commented Stefano Domenicali on his return to Maranello. “The DRS failure prevented Fernando, who yet again produced a great performance, from fighting Vettel for the win. Then for Felipe, there were the two tyre related problems that pushed him out of the points and prevented from getting the top five finish that was within his grasp. We had the potential to get these results, but we were unable to do so, partly because of external influences.”
Responsibility therefore lies with reliability, from the smallest to the biggest components, to ensure the level of perfection that has to be the standard for Ferrari. “We must work with renewed attention on this front,” continued Domenicali. “We must also continue to develop the car and increase our understanding of the tyres, which is more crucial than ever this year. In these first four races of the season, we have not managed, for various reasons, to bring home the points that were within our grasp. That’s why the gap to the top in both classifications seems quite large, but we must not be discouraged by this, quite the contrary, because we have seen so often, both in our favour and against, how things can change in a hurry. We believe in our ability to be in the fight for the titles right to the end and this time, we have been in that fight since the start, which has not been the case for a while. At the same time, we must be aware that in order to achieve our objectives, we have to be perfect in every area.”
In just over a month, Formula 1 has dealt with the first long run of flyaways, with four races that have begun to shape the look of the 2013 championship. Without some unlucky incidents, our points total would be bigger, but within the team, calm reigns, because we know that we can count on a driver-car-team package that’s capable of fighting for the titles right to the end.
Stefano Domenicali: “This is definitely not the outcome we expected after showing all weekend long that we were capable of fighting for the top places. Today’s result needs to be put behind us in a hurry, although there is a feeling of great disappointment that we were unable to bring home the hoped for result. Despite his problem with the DRS, Fernando produced a blistering drive, pulling off overtaking moves and setting lap times that were absolutely incredible. Felipe’s race was also very complicated: first of all he was involved in a collision at the start of the race, which damaged the front wing on his F138, then he had tyre problems which compromised his race still further. An initial analysis after the first four races indicates that we did not pick up as many points as we should have done. In just over three weeks, we will be back on track in Europe and it will be important to turn this trend around immediately. Until then, we will knuckle down and continue with the development of a car that still has plenty of potential to offer”.
Fernando Alonso: “We definitely didn’t have much luck today and that’s a real shame, at the end of what had been such a positive weekend for me and Felipe up until this afternoon. We had been competitive in free practice and qualifying and we were both expecting to have a good race. After the opening laps, when I thought the rear tyres had gone off, the pit wall informed that the DRS was stuck. It wasn’t fixed properly at the first stop and so I had to come in for another one. From then on, the clear instruction from the pit wall not to use it affected my race. I tried to recover but it was really difficult finding places to overtake without DRS. When you are far back, in the middle of a group, tyre degradation is even harder to manage. I am sure that without the problems me and Felipe had, we would have finished higher up, because the car responds very well and it is definitely our best of the last four years. But having a good race involves a lot of factors, including a bit of luck. Let’s hope it balances out very soon, maybe even starting in Barcelona, my home race. There, it will be even more important to have a good qualifying, because it’s not easy to overtake on that track and so starting from the front is vital”.
Felipe Massa: “I was really unlucky in this race and even if it’s true that many things can happen in this sport, I can’t find an explanation for why so many of them have to be negative. At the start, I lost ground after the collision with Sutil and then I lost even more time coming back to the pits to change tyres and that wiped out any chance of having a good race. At the start, I suffered a bit with understeer, but I don’t believe that was the cause of my problems, while we still need to check what happened to my tyres that failed in this way. In the first instance it was probably delamination on the right rear and in the second it might have been due to a puncture. Now we must try and understand exactly what happened and immediately turn our attention to the next race”.
Pat Fry: “This was a very complicated Sunday for both drivers. On lap 6, a problem occurred with the DRS on Fernando’s car which forced us to bring forward his first stop to try and fix the rear wing which literally turned upside down. The first attempt from the mechanics was not enough to fix the problem and a second stop to try and fix it further cost valuable time. It’s a real shame because even with a damaged car, his race pace was among the best and it should have been enough to see us finish second or even fight for the win. Massa didn’t have an easy time either and after the collision immediately after the start came problems with his tyres: it’s not yet clear what provoked the first incident, while the second was almost certainly a puncture. It’s very probable that in part, this can be attributed to debris on the track. Even though we missed out on a good result we leave Bahrain in the knowledge that we can fight at the front and so we are even more motivated to keep improving”.
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 7||New Hard|
|2nd stop||Lap 8||–|
|3rd stop||Lap 24||Old Hard|
|4th stop||Lap 39||New Hard|
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 10||New Hard|
|2nd stop||Lap 17||New Medium|
|3rd stop||Lap 28||Old Hard|
|4th stop||Lap 36||Old Medium|
|Weather: air 29/33 °C, track 37/44°C. Sunny|
Sakhir, 21 April – After winning in China just one week ago, and a grid here in Bahrain that featured an all-Ferrari second row, to finish the fourth round of the world championship taking home just 4 points courtesy of Fernando Alonso finishing eighth, is as surprising as it is disappointing for Scuderia Ferrari. Felipe Massa took the flag, out of the points zone in fifteenth place. Luck certainly wasn’t on the Brazilian’s side as he was involved in a collision at the start and then twice had tyre troubles in the course of the 57 lap race. As for Fernando, a problem with the DRS could not be fixed at the first pit stops and he had to drive almost the entire race without this device, which is so vital to overtaking. Sebastian Vettel became the first driver to win two races this season. On the podium, the Red Bull man was flanked by the two Lotus drivers, Kimi Raikkonen second and Romain Grosjean third. Today’s result means that while the Prancing Horse is still third in the Constructors’ standings, on 77 points, the gap to Lotus, now on 93 and Red Bull, 109, has grown.
For racing fans who don’t have an allegiance to any particular team, the Bahrain Grand Prix was another thrilling motor race, once again partly down to different tyre strategies. Three stops looked like being the most obvious choice, but some cars that had seen less degradation and wear over the first two days of the Bahraini weekend were prepared to gamble on just two. Vettel attacked pole man Rosberg in the Mercedes right off the line and this allowed Fernando to squeeze into second, but Vettel retook the position a few corners later and took a couple more laps to deal with Rosberg and go into the lead. On the dirty side of the track in fourth, Massa dropped a place to Di Resta, while lap 3 saw Fernando pass the Mercedes. However, on lap 7, the Spaniard had to pit, as his DRS flap was stuck in the open (low downforce) position. He had to come in a second time as it was still not working, but from then on he had to complete the race without it and had dropped to 19th on lap 9.
Having started on the Hard tyre, Felipe made his first stop on lap 10, as did Vettel, Perez, Hamilton and Maldonado and then, the Brazilian had to come in again on lap 17 because of a problem on the right rear tyre. On lap 11, the race was led by those who were planning to do just two stops; Di Resta, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Bottas, with Felipe ninth and Fernando down in fourteenth, respectively 9 and 33 seconds down on the leader. Having worked his way up to seventh, the Spaniard brought his F138 in for a third stop on lap 24, with Felipe doing the same four laps later but what appears to have been a puncture on lap 36, meant that his efforts to climb into the points would come to nothing.
There were some great battles, as McLaren team-mates Button and Perez showed no mercy going wheel to wheel for several laps, in a fight that also involved Rosberg. In fact there were times when four or five cars were all scrapping together, some of these involving Fernando, but the Spaniard was always hampered by the lack of DRS, which meant he wasn’t able to fight on equal terms when battling for eighth with Hamilton and Perez and later when this trio became a quartet as Button also got involved. Fernando passed Button to go seventh on lap 46 and set about chasing Perez, with more wheel to wheel action between the Spaniard and the Mexican as the Ferrari grabbed a place off the McLaren. With a handful of laps remaining Fernando then had Webber ahead of him, but Perez was back to trouble him pushing the Ferrari into the dust and off the track, with Fernando immediately trying to find a way to re-pass the McLaren, but it was not to be.
Vettel took the flag for a relatively comfortable win, with all the excitement taking place behind him. In second spot, Kimi Raikkonen was the most successful of the two stoppers, with his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean making three visits to the pits on his way to third. Paul di Resta nearly took the two stop route to the podium, but his Force India’s tyres faded in the end and he came home fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Sergio Perez just got the better of Mark Webber in the closing stages so that they crossed the line in sixth and seventh just ahead of Fernando. Felipe meanwhile ended a very difficult day in fifteenth spot.
We now have two weekends without any action, before embarking on the European leg of the championship in Barcelona. They used to say the Championship only really started when it got to the Old Continent but the current points positions tell a different story.
Fernando Alonso: “It’s really good news that once again we managed to do well in qualifying, which is our Achilles Heel! This is now the third time this year that we end up in the top three and, even if usually Sunday goes better thanks to our race pace, I am really pleased to see our potential already maximized on Saturday. The data seen from Friday’s long runs means we can be optimistic about a race in which our main adversaries are represented by Vettel and the Red Bull in front and the Lotuses which might be behind us on the grid, but they will definitely be in the game. Because of the penalties for Hamilton and Webber, Felipe will start from fourth: I think it’s much better that I find myself alongside my team-mate’s Ferrari than Lewis’ Mercedes! We won’t discover which is the best strategy until tomorrow and it’s impossible to make predictions. But I think the best tyre for the race will be the hard and that could work in our favour, given it’s the one we have been most comfortable on all weekend”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very pleased with the outcome of this qualifying, because in the end, the decision to take a risk in Q3, going in a different direction to the one we had originally planned, turned out to be the best one. On the Medium compound, I didn’t feel able to fight for the top places, the car had little grip and suffered a lot at the back. Even with the Hard tyres, the chances of ending up further down the order was extremely high, but I still opted to stay with the tyres I felt most comfortable on. The penalties for two of the drivers ahead of me – Webber and Hamilton – mean I now move up the grid to fourth place, a point from where I can race with the leaders. Starting on the Medium will definitely be an advantage, but to have a good race it will be vital to find the best strategy and ensure everything runs perfectly”.
Pat Fry: “It was reasonably straightforward to interpret this qualifying session and the good start positions we now have mean we are optimistic for tomorrow’s race and they also reward the entire team for all their efforts in improving our performance during qualifying. Of the updates brought here to Bahrain, we have decided to use only the most significant ones, while we will introduce the others in the upcoming races. We are not yet where we want to be, but the gaps seen today tell us that our work is going in the right direction and we must continue like this. Tomorrow, for the third consecutive time, Fernando will start from third place, which is on the clean side of the track here and we hope that could be an advantage at the start. Felipe’s fourth place is a great basis from which to build a race that he will run on a different strategy to his team-mate, having opted to use the Hard tyres in Q3. Once again, we can expect a Sunday on which drivers will have to pay close attention to tyre degradation, while the pit wall will have to make the right calls”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 300|
|Q1||P1||1:32.878||New Hard – 3 laps||P7||1:33.780||New Hard – 4 laps|
|Q2||P5||1:33.316||New Medium – 3 laps||P8||1:33.358||New Medium – 3 lapsNew Medium – 3 laps|
|Q3||P3||1:32.667||New Medium – 3 lapsNew Medium – 2 laps||P6||1:33.207||New Hard – 3 laps|
|Weather: air 36 °C, track 45 °C. Covered skies|
Sakhir, 20 April – If you don’t have time to read a full qualifying report, then the short story is that Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will share the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix. However, it didn’t quite happen in the normal way.
For the entire weekend, both Ferrari men declared themselves more comfortable on the Hard Pirelli than the Medium, but despite this, the Spaniard used the softer of the two to set a time good enough for third place on the final Q3 time sheet this afternoon. Fernando was delighted, as he pointed out that the one-lap performance was the team’s Achilles Heel. Clearly the Scuderia is making slow but steady progress in this area and might hope to eventually fix the problem that was beyond the ability of writers of the Greek Classics!
As for Felipe, he and his engineers decided to go for a brave gamble: as the Brazilian was not convinced about the worth of the Medium, feeling that, come what may, he would not be in the fight for the front rows, he tackled Q3 on the Hards, on which he set the sixth fastest time. This is where some good fortune came his way, because while in life, it’s considered in poor taste to benefit from the misfortunes of others, sometimes in sport, it can be out of one’s control. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber were faster than Felipe in fourth and fifth places respectively, however the English Mercedes driver had to take a five place gearbox penalty, while the Australian in the Red Bull had to drop three places for being deemed to have caused an accident in China last week. This promptly promotes Felipe to fourth, so that the two F138s now line up side by side.
There were other surprises today: even if Lewis Hamilton had taken his Mercedes to pole in Shanghai, the silver cars did not look so dominant in practice here and yet, his team-mate Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time of the day to claim the top spot. He shares the front row with Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. The penalties have turned the third row into an all-Force India Affair, with Paul di Resta fifth and Adrian Sutil sixth. Another title contender – if you can have such a thing after just four races – Kimi Raikkonen, will start from eighth alongside Webber.
The opening stages of tomorrow’s fourth round of the World Championship should produce plenty of excitement, while in general fewer pit stops are expected than in China last week. Felipe’s decision to do Q3 on the Hard tyre and therefore have to start the race on this compound, points to an intriguing first stint, as the Brazilian will be the only top ten driver to go for this choice.
Manama, 20 April – At the end of yet another very closely contested qualifying, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa set the third and sixth fastest times. However, they will start alongside one another on the second row tomorrow, as Felipe gets promoted to fourth because of penalties for the two drivers directly ahead of him, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. It was yet another boiling hot afternoon at the Sakhir circuit, as the ten drivers took to the track for Q3. The Spanish Ferrari man made a slight mistake, giving up on his final run, thus saving tyres for the race.
Felipe’s sixth place was better than it looked given that he was on the harder of the two Pirelli compounds, which could be to his advantage tomorrow, as all the other drivers that got to Q3 will be starting the race on the Medium tyre.
Alonso was fastest in Q1, with Massa a comfortable seventh, with both cars behaving very well on the Hards. In Q2, everyone switched to Mediums, with Alonso doing just a single run to take a solid fifth place. Massa was eighth having done two runs.
In the end, pole position went to Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes in a time of 1.33.364.
Sakhir, 20 April – Fernando Alonso ended the third and final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the top of the time sheet. The Spaniard took his F138 round in 1.33.247, after taking a harmless trip through the gravel earlier, on his second run on Hards. Second and third respectively were the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel (1.33.348) and Mark Webber (1.33.380.) In the other Ferrari, Felipe Massa set the eleventh fastest time of 1.33.949, on the dusty Sakhir circuit, which is constantly under attack from sand and wind. Both Ferrari men did a final run on the Medium tyre at the end of a session given over mainly to checking updates introduced yesterday, looking for the best possible set up for qualifying and the race.
Fernando Alonso: “It was a positive day and we are reasonably pleased with how the car behaved. We had no major problems and more importantly, we didn’t have to make any radical changes to the F138 to adapt it to this track and its long straights and slow corners, characteristics which I like a lot and usually produce a great show in the race. Unfortunately, the wind and sand make everything a bit more complicated here, because the track surface never gets completely clean. However, the initial feelings are good and I think we can be up in the leading group tomorrow, a group that is all within the same two, maximum three tenths. We have not yet decided if we will use the aero updates we tried in the morning. It is not yet completely clear how they worked and in the afternoon, we concentrated on comparing the two tyre compounds we have for this race. Ahead of us is another long evening of studying data to choose the best strategy and set-up for qualifying and the race”.
Felipe Massa: “Everything went well today, even if it’s not easy to say at the moment where we will be on Sunday. Car balance was good and it behaved well in all conditions, even if we suffered a bit with tyre wear, especially at the rear. It’s pretty normal to have significant degradation in such high temperatures and on this front, we have a lot of work to do to prepare for the race. On the Medium tyres, the F138 worked really well, even over a long run, but the key on Sunday will be managing the degradation of both compounds, as well as deciding on whether or not to use the updates we tried here this morning”.
Pat Fry: “Of the aerodynamic updates we tried this morning, some worked well, while with others we have yet to decide if we will use them this weekend, because it is still too early to say what real advantage they bring. There was not enough time to test them fully, but I’m still pleased at how we managed to get through the work programme planned for both cars. In the afternoon session, we had a good balance on the Hard tyre, while we found it a little bit more difficult with the Medium. On this compound, Fernando was unable to improve his time, partly down to traffic, but I’m sure that tomorrow he will find a way to go better. Race pace seems good here and now we face a careful analysis of all the data we gathered to see where we are compared to our main rivals”.
|ALONSO – chassis 299||MASSA – chassis 300|
|First Session||P2||1:34.564||19 laps||P1||1:34.487||11 laps|
|Weather: air 34/36 °C, track 44/47 °C. Sunny|
|Second Session||P4||1:34.310||29 laps||P6||1:34.552||34 laps|
|Weather: air 33/36 °C, track 42/45 °C. Sunny|
Sakhir, 19 April – A fourth race of the year, a fourth circuit and a fourth set of questions for the eleven teams in the World Championship, because the Sakhir circuit in the sands of Bahrain definitely presents challenges we have not yet encountered this season. It is therefore encouraging to note that, despite a very long list on the engineers’ job sheet, the two F138 seemed to sail calmly through the first three hours of free practice today, with no real problems emerging and a general feeling within the team that, although there is still work to do, the car is again well adapted to yet another type of track and should be competitive over the rest of the weekend.
In the hands of Chinese Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa they ended the day fourth and sixth on the time sheet, having taken the virtual front row in the morning, when the Brazilian pipped the Spaniard to the fastest time. On a Friday, laps are more important than times and the Scuderia Ferrari duo amassed 93 between them. What today’s times do tell us is that the field is very close and only 8 tenths of a second separate the fastest, Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus and the tenth man on the FP2 time sheet, Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren. Behind the Finn comes the Red Bull duo with Mark Webber, taking part in his two hundredth Grand Prix this weekend, in second place ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Splitting the two Prancing Horse cars in fifth place is Paul di Resta for Force India.
Tyres and tyre wear look set to be less of a talking point than in China, although inevitably in this heat, there are signs of degradation both on the Prime choice, the Hard Pirelli and the Option, Medium. In addition, even after the cars produce a relatively rubbered-in line around the track, the wind is constantly blowing a fine layer of sand back onto its surface. Clearly the softer of the two will be the choice for qualifying, as already today the differences in lap time between Hard and Medium ranged from around 0.4 to 1.0 seconds. However, unlike Shanghai, there will not be a mad rush to do as few laps as possible on the softer of the two come Sunday afternoon. Before then, we can look forward to what should be another thrilling and closely contested qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
Sakhir, 19 April – The tenth Bahrain Grand Prix looks like being very closely contested as, at the end of the second free practice session, the top 6 cars were all in the same four tenths of a second.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the day fourth and sixth, with the Spaniard doing a best lap of 1.34.310 on the Hard tyres. Massa posted a 1.34.552 on the Mediums. Quickest was Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus in 1.34.154. The Scuderia Ferrari men completed a total of 63 trouble-free laps.
The main tasks on the engineers’ job sheets centred on looking at various updates introduced this weekend, as well as some that had made their debut in Shanghai last week. In the second part of the session, Fernando and Felipe carried out the usual long runs, acquiring plenty of data in order to check the performance of the F138 in the same conditions in which the race will be run.
As usual at this event, it’s hot: 33 degrees the ambient temperature and 41 on the track surface, however, like yesterday another light rain shower hit the circuit, lasting just a couple of minutes, which is hardly usual in these parts.
Sakhir, 19 April – The tenth edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend started off with a one-two for Ferrari. After winning in Shanghai, Fernando Alonso set the second fastest time of 1.34.564 in the first free practice session, behind his team-mate Felipe Massa, fastest in the other F138 in a time of 1.34.487. Third, at this the fourth round of the season was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg (1.34.621.) Both Ferrari men used just one set of Hard tyres each, for their two runs on the dusty Bahraini track. The Scuderia worked on the usual programme of acquiring data, paying particular attention to the aerodynamic behaviour of the car, looking at new parts introduced here and re-evaluating some that were already tried out last weekend in China.
Sakhir, 18 April – Amazingly, around the time of Fernando Alonso’s regular Thursday afternoon meeting with the media, it started to rain on the desert circuit of Sakhir, not heavily but rain all the same. It’s as if even the weather feels obliged to produce something unusual and interesting to match the start of this year’s Formula 1 season.
First question for the Scuderia Ferrari driver concerned his thoughts on the fact that currently, the Drivers’ classification is headed by a quartet of world champions, Fernando himself, Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton. “I don’t know if I am surprised, because I didn’t have any plan in my head as to what the championship order would be after the first three races,” admitted the Spaniard. “Last year, we saw many surprises in the early part of the season and this is the time when we look at everyone’s potential and increase our own learning of the new rules and other new elements: this year the tyres are probably the main learning process we are all tackling right now. At the moment, championship positions are not really important, but at the same time, it’s not a big surprise to see Lewis where he is: he is one of the best drivers on the grid right now and last year he put McLaren in a competitive position and this year he is doing it with Mercedes. We know the Red Bull is probably the strongest car and Kimi is having a fantastic start to the season and driving maybe better than anyone.”
Looking back at standing on the top step of the Shanghai podium, Fernando was naturally very satisfied with his performance, although cautious when assessing it’s importance. “I was very happy, as not winning for a while is a very difficult matter to deal with,” he said. “It was eleven or twelve races that we had not won, even if we were consistently on the podium, but there are many other drivers with super cars who have not won a race in the last 50 or 60 races. However, we need to be consistently on the podium if we want to fight for the championship.” The press clearly consider the reigning world champion, Sebastian Vettel as the Ferrari man’s main rival. “Not having Sebastian on the podium in China is good news at the moment only because he is currently leading the championship and I would feel the same if it was Lewis or Webber for example in the lead. It’s not because it’s Sebastian the person, it’s because he’s leading!”
Alonso was equally circumspect in assessing the current level of performance of the F138. “I don’t think we are the car to beat at the moment, just because we have this one victory,” he insisted. “In Australia we were clearly not the quickest and in Malaysia we struggled a bit. In China, on race pace, Sebastian was quickest in all the stints, but had chosen a strange strategy for qualifying. We need to keep improving and to be a little bit faster. There are some new pieces for this race and new components coming to Barcelona and Monaco. So hopefully in the next month and a half, we can be at the level of the best cars.”
Sakhir, 18 April – Felipe Massa was one of the panellists in this afternoon’s FIA press conference. Much of the press interrogation dealt with the media’s current obsession with tyre behaviour in China last Sunday, but the first question the Ferrari man was asked, stemmed from the fact he has won twice before in Bahrain. “What is the secret of going well here?” asked the moderator and Felipe’s answer prompted amused laughter all round, as he replied, “secret is secret!” He then went on to give a fuller answer. “I have always liked driving this circuit, since the first time I came here with Sauber in 2004. It’s a nice track, with long straights and hard braking, where traction is also important.”
The Brazilian was then asked what it was like to haves spent his entire Ferrari career partnering world champions, some of them multiple ones. “I have always had strong team-mates and many people have said that’s not a good thing, but for me it’s a positive. It motivates you to always do the best you can, because if you don’t do a perfect job, it shows, as your team-mate is always there. I have learned a lot from partnering what people all over the world have usually considered the best drivers of all. You are always under pressure to be perfect every day and I like that.”
Finally, the Ferrari man delivered an analysis of his tyre problems in Shanghai and what could be expected on the rubber front at the very different Sakhir track. “I had a big problem with graining on the Medium tyres at the last race, already in Friday practice,” he revealed. “As the track got better over the weekend, I found a lot more rear grip and so, in the race, I at first concentrated on saving the front tyres, but then the graining started and that cost me the second stint. In the third stint, I decided to push and that cleaned the graining off the tyres, so maybe it was completely wrong for me to have tried to look after the fronts. I am not concerned about having the Hard tyres here, because I had no problem with them in Malaysia: there was graining but it was the same for everyone. I think here the time difference will be big between the two tyre types, which means most people will try and use the Medium as much as possible in the race. Therefore, once again, it will be vital to work out a good strategy. In general, I think Pirelli is doing a good job and the races have been entertaining for the fans.”
Maranello, 17 April – Famous Italian pop singer Lucio Battisti might have settled for ten girls in his 1969 song, but there’s no way Fernando Alonso is going to settle for his ten wins to date as a Ferrari man. However, it is an important round number, good enough to put him in fifth place on the list of the drivers who have won the most for the Scuderia in Formula 1. It might be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to reach Michael Schumacher’s total of 72 wins, but the other three ahead of him are within his grasp. However, one has to bear in mind that one of those three is Felipe Massa, who is in fourth place and he is still perfectly capable of improving on his current tally of 11 wins. Ahead of the Brazilian we find Alberto Ascari on 13 and Niki Lauda on 15.Fernando is already in Bahrain, which this weekend hosts the fourth round of the World Championship. It was on this very track, albeit with a modified layout, that the Spaniard secured his first win in red. On 14 March 2010, Alonso crossed the line ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa at the end of a race in which his only true rival, Vettel, did not have a car as reliable as the Spaniard’s F10. At the time, Ferrari fans around the world thought this signalled the start of a series of wins, but in Maranello, everyone was perfectly aware that the car was not yet competitive enough. It was more so later, on 25 July at Hockenheim, where the Alonso-Massa duo took its second and, to date, last one-two of their time together. That race went down in history because of the overtaking move the Spaniard pulled on his team-mate, even when they were already both ahead of Vettel, proving how very competitive was the F10 on the German circuit.The best win that year was yet to come. On 12 September at Monza, Alonso started from pole and crushed Button’s resistance in the McLaren at the end of an extremely close race on the fastest track of the season. It was celebration time both on and underneath the amazing Monza podium, which provided unforgettable emotions for everyone there that day. Two weeks later came pole and a win again, this time on one of the slowest tracks of the year, Singapore. It was a heart stopping race, in which Fernando led from start to finish, but with his mirrors constantly filled with Vettel’s Red Bull. Fernando delivered a flawless performance to bring home another amazing win.A bit less than a month later came the fifth win of 2010, in an epic race. On the new Yeongam track a dramatic Grand Prix took place, with rain right from the start, with interruptions and long Safety Car periods, packed with incidents until the race ended in the gloaming. Once again, Fernando was impeccable and he was working his way up the order when the engine in Vettel’s Red Bull let go on the pit straight: come the end, the Spaniard was masterful in managing the tyres, thus taking the win which propelled him to the lead in the championship. After that, everyone knows how it ended a few weeks later in Abu Dhabi, but that’s one page in the history of Alonso’s time at Ferrari that has definitely been filed away.2011 did not produce as many wins. The F2011 was not up to the standards of its predecessor and it faced the all-conquering duo of Vettel and a Red Bull. However, Fernando’s only win came at a time and at a circuit which held great significance for the Scuderia. It was on the same Silverstone track, where sixty years before, Jose Froilan Gonzalez had secured the first of Ferrari’s 220 Formula 1 wins and it came just a few hours after Fernando had driven the very same 375 F1 used by the Argentinian driver. The Spaniard just managed it, overtaking the Red Bull that had seemed uncatchable at the time.In 2012, Alonso took three wins and the first was definitely the least expected. It came at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit at a time when the F2012 was anything other than quick in that first part of the season. But the rain gods intervened, producing a tropical downpour at the start. Alonso produced a fantastic drive and made the most of his talent to exceed the technical abilities of his car. Three months later, in Valencia, the Spaniard took a win that ranked as highly with him as that at Monza, at least on the emotional front. To be back in the winner’s circle in front of his home crowd was an amazing feeling, as amazing as his race performance, when he fought his way through the field in the first half, before controlling it in the second. Fernando’s tears on the podium will always be one of the most touching moments of his career in red. The third win last year, at Hockenheim, was the only one in which the Spaniard did not have to pull off a miracle, but had “only” to be perfect. Just like the F10 from two years earlier, the F2012 seemed to like the German track, confirmed not just by the fact it took pole in the wet, but also in the way it won the race, run almost entirely in the lead, without ever offering any hope to rivals of the calibre of Button and Vettel. That was the final competitive moment for the Maranello car, in a season which, for the second time since the arrival of the man from Oviedo at the Scuderia, would end in disappointment.
The tenth pearl on the necklace is recent history. The amazing win in Shanghai can be compared in some ways to the 2010 wins in Monza and Hockenheim, in terms of car performance, a perfect job from the driver, the management from the pit wall and the teamwork in the pits. It was a win produced by a strong and determined group and an Alonso who like never before this year wants to live up to the unanimous views of the fans and experts, that he is the best driver in the fight for the championship. There’s still a long way to go to achieve this and to get there, it will be necessary to add to that necklace. One thing’s for sure, there’s definitely room on the chain for some more pearls. They just need to be threaded on.