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Alonso fears wet German GP would be all about 'survival'

23 July 2011

Fernando Alonso has expressed his concerns that a wet German Grand Prix on Sunday – as has been forecast – could end up being all about 'survival', fearing that should the heavens indeed open, it would reduce Ferrari's chances of victory at the Nürburgring.

Having been tipped to be the Red Bulls' closest challenger following his superb Silverstone success and his pace throughout practice in Germany, Alonso ultimately had to give best not only to pole-sitter Mark Webber and team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Q3 at the Nürburgring, but also an inspired effort from former nemesis Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren-Mercedes.

That left the Spaniard just fourth on the grid, but he insists he is not disappointed, and that the third-of-a-second deficit to Webber is roughly what he was anticipating. Ferrari is in the ballpark, he feels; the only possible fly in the ointment now might be the elements...

“We are neither surprised nor disappointed, quite the contrary in fact,” the 29-year-old reflected. “This grid is more-or-less what we could have expected, from what we had seen in free practice yesterday. We thought the Red Bulls would be three or four tenths faster than us, and that was the case and then even Hamilton went very well, especially in the first sector and got in-between us. Yesterday, McLaren were testing their new parts and they were not so good in the times at the end, but they are very competitive and today they showed it.

“We're still improving the car; the new parts we brought here are also very positive – the car feels better-and-better every time. It's not that our competitors are looking at the TV in the 15 days between the two races, though – everyone is improving. We know McLaren brought a big aero package here, Red Bull as well. It's a competition also outside the races [as to] which team is quicker in developing the car as well.

“No surprises, I think. I am happy with my lap and with the result and anyway, this year we have seen that we have always gone better in the race than in qualifying – so be fourth is a very good position for us, and in the race tomorrow maybe with rain forecast, anything can happen, so we will attack for sure.

“Let's see what the weather will do tomorrow. If it turns out to be dry, then we can claim to have a 25 per cent chance of winning, and a bit less if it rains, but only because so far, in the wet others have been better than us. [If it rains, though], I think the race is very open – you never know what can happen in a wet race; maybe the situation could turn around.

“Tyre temperature will be an issue, because already we have problems with dry tyres, and if it's wet, with 11ºC ambient temperature, I don't know how we will put heat in the tyres. It's the same for everybody, though – it's a race to survive tomorrow.

“I am still aiming for the podium, but if the chance of a win comes along, I won't need to be asked twice. Also, at this track, we have seen the updates we have introduced helping to improve our performance, race-after-race. Clearly, we must take a further step forward if we want to be up there with the best.”

Those sentiments were broadly shared by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, right behind Alonso in fifth spot on the starting grid – albeit almost half-a-second adrift. The Brazilian curiously felt the need to bolt on a new set of 'Option' tyres in Q1, although he compensated for that by using the same set of rubber to set his best time in Q2, ensuring himself of two sets of new 'Options' for Q3.

“I can't claim to be completely happy with this qualifying, because some cars were faster than ours,” the 30-year-old rued. “That might not be surprising in the case of the Red Bulls, but it definitely is in the case of Hamilton's McLaren. Tomorrow, we will aim to make our usual step forward in the race, but we know it won't be easy.

“Sure, if it had been ten degrees warmer, I would not have complained! Especially with the medium tyre, we struggled a bit and that's why I used my first set of softs right from Q1. At this track, tyre wear is very low, therefore it was not much of a penalty, not even in terms of the race. The big unknown for the race will be the weather; we have the maximum aerodynamic downforce possible, which should be a help if it does rain. In any case, in the wet, it will be vital to make the most of any opportunities that come our way.”

After paying tribute and his and Ferrari's respects to the victims of the tragic incidents in Norway on Friday, the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali went on to assess the outcome of qualifying as being in-line with expectations, musing that 'there is still a gap to the quickest, but it is definitely smaller than it was a few races ago, which confirms we are working in the right direction'. Chassis director Pat Fry agreed with that evaluation.

“No surprises at the end of the day,” remarked the Englishman. “We knew the Red Bulls would be quicker and clearly McLaren – at least with Lewis – has made a significant step forward compared to Silverstone, be it because of a return to the Valencia situation in terms of engine-mapping or because of the updates introduced here.

“For our part, we are where we expected to be – the gap to the quickest is more-or-less the same as in Valencia, on a different track with different temperatures. If we had been given the choice, we would definitely have raised the temperature by ten degrees or so, but that's not within our capabilities – just as it won't be possible for us to control the weather tomorrow, which looks like being very unsettled.

“Rain is predicted, but it's not clear at the moment how heavy it will be or when it will fall. That means we need to be ready to manage every eventuality in the best way possible. However, if it does not rain, from a strategy point-of-view, one has to consider there is a big performance difference between the two types of tyre; therefore, even if wear is much lower, it's not a given that it might not be a good plan to do one more stop and reduce the number of laps on the 'Prime' to a minimum.”


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