Fernando Alonso admits that his hopes of pushing for a good result in the Belgian Grand Prix ended before the race even started after problems on the grid.
The Spaniard qualified a fine fourth, between the two Red Bulls but ahead expected threat Williams, but there was consternation around his Ferrari as the cars prepared to leave the grid, with mechanics returning to the #14 machine even as the signal was given for others to pull away.
“We had a problem with the electricity of the car, the power of the car, so I think we had to replace some kind of battery at the last minute because we could not fire the car - it was just stopped, with everything off,” Alonso revealed, “We put in the extra battery, the portable they have on the grid, and everything was okay, but I think the battery in the car was just empty.”
There was no doubt that Alonso would be hit with a punishment, but the stewards deliberated for fully ten laps before deciding to impose a five-second stop-go penalty – an outcome many thought lenient in the circumstances. For the double world champion, however, it ended any hopes of remaining with the chasing pack, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen featured in the podium scrap to underline Ferrari's potential.
“I felt more or less competitive all race, although we knew that straight-line speed was our biggest problem,” Alonso claimed, “When you have a penalty and start fighting for lower positions that lack of speed has a higher price.
“The battery at the start was the biggest price to pay as, without that, I was in front of [Valtteri] Bottas when I had to stop and he finished third, so I could have been around those positions.
“I was happy with the strategy. I think [Raikkonen] had to anticipate to overtake cars in the first stop but, in my case, I had the penalty and, whatever lap I stopped, I would exit behind traffic, so my race was over there probably.”
Despite the frustration of finishing eighth, which later became seventh when Kevin Magnussen was penalised for a robust move on the Ferrari late in the race, Alonso insisted that Ferrari had performed well. The Spaniard found himself in a four-way fight for fifth place with Magnussen, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, but came off worst in the skirmishing.
“We thought we would be quite far away from Williams, but we were quite a bit more competitive than we thought,” he explained, “In my particular case, the power was the biggest concern - all weekend, there has been a little bit of deficit on the power unit, so the extra horsepower we could have used to overtake in the race were missing.
“Then, on the last lap, I broke the front wing touching Sebastian in the first corner. I lost 10secs in one lap but, luckily, it was the last lap...”