'Confident' Alonso insists Ferrari 'will not give up'
22 July 2011
A 'confident' Fernando Alonso has reiterated that Ferrari is in no mood to simply 'give up' on the F1 2011 World Championship battle – pointing out that the initially uncompetitive F150° Italia is getting stronger by the race and insisting his first victory of the campaign at Silverstone last time out was no 'miracle'.
Nine outings into the season – or just before the halfway mark – Alonso trails runaway pace-setter Sebastian Vettel by a gaping 92 points in the drivers' title standings, with Ferrari even further adrift in the constructors' chase at 164 points shy of Red Bull Racing...or, to put it another way, with just half the score of its Milton Keynes-based rival. In terms of mountains to climb, the Spaniard's task is the equivalent of Kilimanjaro.
Nonetheless, the double F1 World Champion's British Grand Prix triumph – one achieved entirely on merit, and around a circuit at which the Scuderia had expected to struggle slightly – has lifted spirits immeasurably at Maranello and delivered a welcome injection of confidence and motivation to turn the tables on Red Bull. Now, Alonso asserts, is the time to really throw caution to the wind.
“Obviously [Silverstone] was an important boost for the team, because we had some difficult times in the first couple of races, and then we've been introducing new pieces on the car,” he reflected, according to SPEED.com. “Some of them worked, some of them didn't work – [but] now in the last four or five grands prix, every part we put on the car is working fine, so this is definitely good news for us, not only for this year but also the future development for next year.
“Definitely I'm very, very confident now with the car, with the engineers. All the designers, all the aero people are very motivated now, knowing that all the work they do day-and-night is producing good results on Sundays. Definitely there are difficulties to fight for this championship, with the points loss that we have now, but we will not give up; we will try to win races, to wait for some mistakes from Red Bull.
“I think we are having a good championship, [and] we will try to keep doing the same. We are improving our results and trying to do our best, but Red Bull was very, very dominant in the first part of the championship. [There is] nothing we can do now [but] just work hard and keep enjoying every Sunday.
“We will take race-by-race, risking every weekend. If I was leading the championship I would take more care, because you just need to finish races, but I'm 92 points behind, so every qualifying I will take risks on the lap to be as far forward as possible. Every start we risk – if one time we have a bad start or contact in the first corner, there is nothing to lose in our case. Strategy, for sure the same thing. We'll see when the key point of the championship arrives if we are still behind too much or not.”
Alonso's optimism was reinforced by opening practice for this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, a circuit around which he has twice previously triumphed. A minor misunderstanding with Mercedes GP rival Michael Schumacher excepted, it was an overwhelmingly positive day, seeing the 29-year-old pick up from where he had left off at Silverstone by setting the pace during FP1 and then lapping a close second-quickest in FP2 – proof, he argues, that his British Grand Prix glory was not a regulations-aided one-hit wonder.
“A normal sort of Friday, much like any other,” he mused, describing his incident with home hero 'Schumi' as a 'welcome bit of excitement'. “First impressions from the car are good, which confirms that we are working in the right direction. I've said it before – it's not a case of a miracle having happened at Silverstone, because of the regulations relating to the exhausts.
“That result was down to the many improvements introduced race-after-race, as could be seen from the fact that – even from Monaco – we had returned to a good level in terms of being competitive and here too, where we are back to the Valencia rules, we are at the front end of the field.
“In theory, the cold is not a friend to us; in these conditions, the Red Bull has even more of an edge, but it's up to us to adapt as well as possible to these conditions. On top of that, the low temperatures can also impact on our strategy for qualifying, given it's not easy to do a time right from the first timed lap. It if was to rain, the situation would be even more complicated.”
Felipe Massa, for his part, completed 59 laps of the Eifel Mountains track – nine fewer than Alonso – as he joined his team-mate in evaluating new technical components for the F150° Italia and comparing the two types of tyre supplied by Pirelli, along with an additional experimental soft compound. The Brazilian wound up fourth on the end-of-day timesheets, half-a-second slower than the sister scarlet machine.
“It was a good day,” confirmed the 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up. “We had so much work to get through and we managed to do it in both sessions, without having any problems. I would say we can be reasonably satisfied with our level of competitiveness, even if it's too soon to say if we can fight for something important.
“The pace over a long run is not bad on both types of tyre, [although] there is quite some difference between the 'Prime' and the 'Option', and we will need to keep that in-mind when coming up with our race strategy. It's a bit of a struggle to do a time immediately on the first lap, even with the soft, but I think it's the same problem for everyone. I like this circuit – there are climbs and descents and a lot of changes of direction, which make it fun to drive. Sure, if on top of that you have a quick car, then you can have even more fun!”
“We had a very full work programme that we managed to complete without any reliability problems, which is always a good way to start a race weekend,” summarised Ferrari chassis director Pat Fry of what was a generally unremarkable day.
“Felipe and Fernando did practically two grand prix distances between them, picking up a lot of data that is now being studied by our engineers. There were various elements being assessed, both for this race and for the forthcoming ones, and we will now try and put together the best possible package for the rest of the weekend.
“It's hard to say where we are compared to the others, because of the usual unknowns regarding fuel loads and also because of the different programmes being run. From what we could see, the low temperatures are certainly not helping when it comes to getting the tyres working at their best right from the first lap, especially with the medium compound. Tomorrow, qualifying could be affected by rain, which means it will be important to do a good job of managing the tyres and the strategy.”