Fernando Alonso has admitted that he thought it was possible to finish on the podium at the Canadian Grand Prix before finding it hard to work his way through the leading group.
The Spaniard benefited from being one of the last to take on his final set of tyres but, even with fresher rubber and the opportunity to use DRS, his progress was stymied when he caught the leading group. However, instead of being able to work his way through the pack – unlike Felipe Massa, who gained from both his Mercedes power and a spot of team orders from Williams – Alonso would be frustrated by a lack of straight-line speed.
“When I caught the group, I thought a podium was possible, because we had very fresh tyres as we were the last to stop, along with Felipe,” he confirmed, “[But] it was too hard to overtake - even Felipe, who was one of the best on top speeds and with new tyres, was struggling to pass, so when I saw that I thought [where I was] would be my final position because no-one could overtake in the group. Even when we all had DRS, there are seven cars all opening DRS [at the same time] so you had no advantage over the car in front and the car behind had no advantage [over you].”
Having suggested before the race that Ferrari, with upgrades on its F14-T for the Montreal weekend, could finish ahead of Red Bull, there were few who questioned the prediction. However, with the Milton Keynes team eventually claiming a 1-3 result, Alonso's claim looked a little hollow.
“[Beating the Red Bulls] was an ambitious target, but it was my target,” he insisted, “I am an ambitious driver and I try to help my team all the time.”
Even Red Bull would admit that it was fortunate to benefit from Lewis Hamilton's retirement and the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg also being hobbled by a mystery power unit problem, but Alonso was quick to praise them for being in the right place at the right time.
“As we saw today, anything can happen in F1,” he noted, “If someone had told us [after the last winter test] that Red Bull would win a race in the first seven or eight races of the championship, no-one would have believed it. Mercedes were so dominant, but then they have some mechanical issues and you have to be there to take the opportunity - and Red Bull was there.
“That gives us our motivation, and shows us how quickly things can change in an F1 race. We did improve the car because the data shows that we improved the car, and had higher performance, but we were not really looking at the final positions as we knew it would be a tough race.”
Alonso's afternoon started frustratingly as he allowed Jean-Eric Vergne to gain a position on him – “in the first two corners, I was side-by-side with Ricciardo, he was on the inside and I tried to be alongside on the outside but that was my mistake because Vergne tried at the same time to be on the inside and passed me” – but got better as fresh rubber allowed him to latch onto the pack squabbling over the lead. However, having not been able to make a move up the order, he eventually lost positions right at the end and appeared to be coming home ninth before an accident involving Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa elevated the Ferrari to sixth.
“I tried to pass Hulkenberg in very strange places to get the overtaking done,” he explained, having previously revealed that he had been suffering a temporary ERS glitch, “I managed to do it, but both Hulkenberg and me went off-line and touched the grass and Button took the opportunity to overtake both of us before Hulkenberg, on the straight, just passed me again...”
“Obviously we get some extra points because of the DNFs at the end, lucky points, but we are still trying to do a good race,” he pointed out, “In the first part, I was not very comfortable with the balance and was too slow. Then, in the second part of the race, I did improve and was more competitive.
“I reached the group with the front cars but then, running in the group, we were too slow on the straights and it was frustrating not to be able to pass. My target now is to help my team [to get second place] in the constructors' championship. It's a long way to go and, today, we lost many points, but we will try to recover as soon as possible. I finished 14secs behind the Red Bulls [in Canada], but I don't think this distance is something we cannot recover over the rest of the season. I will try to finish in front of the Red Bulls next time – that's my personal view and my personal target.”