Fernando Alonso reckons he was 'very unlucky' to have to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix after early contact with Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso made a strong start and was up to second in his Ferrari F138 when he tagged the back of Vettel's Red Bull into turn 2. Although the Spaniard could continue and only lost a few places, the incident damaged his front wing.
However, rather than pit after the first lap, Ferrari opted to gamble and leave him out, a decision that backfired almost immediately, when the wing collapsed on the start-finish straight on the second lap, sending the two-time world champion out of the race and into retirement. It was a bitter blow, but Alonso insisted that the decision to stay out did seem like the right one at the time.
“Today, unfortunately, we were very unlucky. After making a good start, I touched with Vettel at the second corner: it was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don't know what speed he was doing,” Alonso remarked.
“Despite the fact the car was damaged, it didn't seem to be too bad and, together with the team, we decided to keep going, because if we'd stopped immediately and then again on lap 3 or 4 to fit dry tyres, we would have dropped too far back and definitely lost the chance to finish up the front. It's easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one.
“It was certainly a shame, because here we could have fought with the Red Bulls, but circumstances didn't help and apart from the wisdom of the decisions we took, bad luck really played its part, when you think how many off-track excursions there were in Australia without any consequence and even here when the cars first went out on track.
“Now we are already focusing on the coming races in China and Bahrain, where we hope to do better than last year, so that we arrive in Europe with as many points as possible”.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director, Pat Fry meanwhile both conceded that in hindsight staying out wasn't the smartest of moves.
“The contact between Alonso and Vettel at the second corner was an unfortunate episode: we knew the front wing was damaged but the car still seemed to be competitive and we decided to run the risk of staying out,” Fry explained. “We definitely could have played safe and called him in, but that way we would have ended up behind everyone on rain tyres and would have lost even more ground with the next stop to fit dry tyres. With hindsight, we can say the risk wasn't worthwhile.”
“Clearly today's result leaves a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth given the start positions we had secured in qualifying,” Domenicali continued. “As soon as Fernando collided with Vettel it was clear that his race would involve fighting his way up the order. At that time, we felt the front wing could hold out and on a track that was progressively drying out, we risked leaving him out. With hindsight, it did not work out, trying to avoid doing two stops in the space of just four laps.”
“Given the competitive performance level of our rivals, now the important thing is to turn the page: we must put this Sunday behind us and calmly analyse the positive and negative aspects, as we immediately turn our attention to the next race in China,” Domenicali concluded.