Fernando Alonso puts Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull at eight tenths to one second after finishing behind Sebastian Vettel in Valencia.
|Fernando Alonso||Felipe Massa|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’37.454 (-0.081)||1’37.535|
Ferrari drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
Alonso was quickest on Friday but he had to do a second run in Q1 to get through. The team decided he could make it on a fresh set of mediums instead of using more soft tyres.
The gamble paid off but Alonso wasn’t able to improve his time in Q3 with the extra set of soft tyres he’d saved, and aborted the lap, leaving his fourth on the grid.
He made another rapid getaway in the Ferrari – not quite as fast as Massa, but he re-took his team mate at turn two: “I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with my start.
“Obviously we knew that the wrong side of the grid here is quite bad so I lost ground with Felipe who was fifth and also Jenson was very close to me, so I was sixth.
“I think the first 100m of the start was not very good, but in the first corner, everybody seemed to brake very early this time, so I took the benefit from it.”
Alonso chased the Red Bulls and passed Webber for second on lap 21. Webber got ahead of him at the next round of pit stops, but fell behind at the one of that.
Alonso briefly came under attack from Webber at the beginning of the last stint, but the Red Bull driver dropped back with a gearbox problem.
He said the team tried to minimise the time spent on the medium tyres as they felt they would struggle for pace: “We were expecting a lot of trouble, a lot of problems with the level of grip and in fact I think our best laps of the race were at the end on the medium tyre, so that’s also very encouraging for the next races.”
But he feels the gap to Red Bull is still too large for them to be able to complete for the championship: “At the moment, as we said, we’re one second behind, or eight tenths behind so if anyone thinks we can win a championship being eight tenths behind it’s because maybe they don’t understand Formula 1.”
Alonso was half a second slower than Vettel in qualifying and ended the race 10.8 seconds behind after 57 laps.
The team’s technical director Pat Fry said the team anticipated the difficulty of overtaking at Valencia and factored it into their strategy: “We were not so sure that the effect of the DRS would be enough to overtake cars that were significantly slower.
“That is why we did not try to chase after the others, always pitting early, thus lengthening the final stint on the softs which, even though they were very well worn, were faster than the first laps on the Medium.”
Massa started behind Alonso as usual but as in Canada the gap was small: less than a tenth of a second.
He pass Alonso and Lewis Hamilton on the run to turn one but had to back out of trying to pass mark Webber, which allowed Alonso to claim the place back.
That turned out badly for his race prospects as he had to wait for Alonso to pit at the first round of pit stops, causing him to fall behind Hamilton.
Other teams have had a similar dilemma this year when trying to pit their two cars when they’re running close together. Bringing in the trailing car first would allow him to leap-frog the car ahead, so out of fairness to the leading driver they tend not to do that, even if it could cost the trailing driver a place.
The same thing happened with McLaren in China, when Hamilton’s pit stop was delayed while Jenson Button stayed out, which cost him a place to Massa.
On this occasion it was Massa who lost out, falling behind Hamilton. Worse was to follow at his second pit stop, where a problem with the left-rear wheel nut cost him several seconds.
He cut into Hamilton’s lead in the final laps but didn’t have enough time to catch the McLaren.
2011 European Grand Prix
Image © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo