Ferrari: Alonso edges Vettel for second

2011 Japanese GP team review

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Alonso was on top form as he held off Vettel for second while Massa had another run-in with Hamilton.

Fernando AlonsoFelipe Massa
Qualifying position54
Qualifying time comparison (Q3)1’30.886 (+0.082)1’30.804
Race position27
Pit stops33

Ferrari drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

Fernando Alonso104.201101.568100.96100.661100.326100.436100.732101.4100.339102.254117.11599.73599.92799.89299.64999.79199.59699.60899.93999.634101.518116.6498.807109.051137.918147.789153.38998.86398.5998.57598.13698.05698.05898.24297.77398.03999.683114.23997.57598.08898.6298.11797.498.03598.31297.02797.44297.296.91196.68296.8597.06298.137
Felipe Massa103.669101.29101.021100.637100.643101.917100.901101.348101.402101.334103.299116.80299.19199.5599.79599.6199.776100.351100.575100.881102.003101.916116.455110.853130.206146.47152.79199.42598.16698.31198.66198.3698.55498.99998.357100.61117.70999.47799.48199.601100.07698.4449898.53698.73398.41198.57798.46399.45997.898.31398.33298.126

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Suzuka, 2011
Start tyreSoft
Pit stop 1Soft 21.147s
Pit stop 2Soft 21.319s
Pit stop 3Medium 20.731s

“I seem to have a season ticket for fifth place this year,” said Alonso after qualifying there for the seventh time this year. Unusually, one of the four cars in front of him was that of his team mate, for only the third time in 2011.

Alonso ran behind Massa at the start but passed him at turn one using DRS at the start of lap six.

As usual the 150??? Italia made best use of its tyres towards the end of a stint, which brought Alonso within range of the leaders.

He used that trait to stay out four laps longer than Sebastian Vettel at the end of his third stint, postponing his switch to medium tyres. That allowed him to come out of the pits in front of the Red Bull driver.

He came under considerable pressure from Vettel but aside from moving off-line on the approach to turn one, had to do little to defend his position.

Towards the end of the race Alonso also closed on leader Jenson Button, but crossed the finishing line a second behind the McLaren.

Alonso said: “With Sebastian it was difficult to keep him behind as at that part of the race he was quicker than us. I tried to defend the position in braking for the last corners and into the first corner as well, where the DRS was active.

“After we had done this job we saw we were catching a little bit Jenson, so we tried in the last couple of laps but, as we saw later on, Jenson was taking care about tyres, about his car, so it was impossible to fight for victory this time.”

Fernando Alonso 2011 form guide

Felipe Massa

Start tyreSoft
Pit stop 1Soft 21.313s
Pit stop 2Soft 21.214s
Pit stop 3Medium 21.1s

Massa made no attempt to defend him place from Alonso at the start of the race, prompting claims he’d been told to let Alonso pass, which Ferrari were quick to refute.

Massa caught the struggling Lewis Hamilton during his second stint and attempted to pass him on the outside at the chicane on lap 21. Hamilton, who later claimed not to have seen Massa, squeezed him hard and knocked part of the front wing off the Ferrari.

Hamilton pitted at the end of the lap and Massa responded the next time by, picking up a place from the McLaren while simultaneously losing one to Mark Webber.

After both had switched to medium tyres Hamilton came back at Massa, passing him in the DRS zone on lap 38. Unlike with his team mate Massa made an attempt to defend his position but the result was the same.

The pair were then held up behind Nico Rosberg, which allowed Michael Schumacher to get out of the pits ahead of the Ferrari driver, pushing Massa down to seventh.

Massa fumed over Hamilton’s driving after the race – the pair have collided several times this year and twice in the last two races: “My car was definitely damaged by [the contact].

“When I looked at it after the race, I saw there was a bit of the front wing end plate missing and the floor was not on properly on the left hand side and I could feel it in the way my car was behaving.

“I think the footage speaks for itself: he was struggling with his tyres and I had almost come alongside him and for no reason, he moved over and hit me. I let you be the judge… It’s pointless for me to say any more about it.”

Felipe Massa 2011 form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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    Image © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    47 comments on “Ferrari: Alonso edges Vettel for second”

    1. Great job, Fernando! It’s shame that Massa’s situation is always bad for him even when he has some pace. I don’t know it’s due to lack of pure pace or what. It’s just sad. I hope better next year for Alonso and much better year for Massa.

      1. Let’s hope 2012 is better for Ferrari. Before 2011 started we were all delighted for having 5 WDC but the season didn’t live for the hype, I just hope 2012 meets our (mine, at least) expectations.

    2. Just had a look at InsideFerrari:

      Race finished… Fernando second, feliep 7th
      9 oct

      they don’t bother to even name him properly LOL!

      1. I suspect he(or she) used iPhone :D

        1. sid_prasher (@)
          10th October 2011, 20:50


      2. That’s exactly what I thought when I read that tweet…

    3. Felipe is right, it would be pointless for him to say any more about it. If you defend against a driver so as to cause a collision every time he tries to pass you must expect him to do the same to you.

    4. Massa just isn’t the same driver as the one who nearly took the 2008 title. In fact he’s just not the same since he was struck by that bit of car at Hungary and that seems to have dampened some of the driving fire, which unfortunately he’s replaced with anger towards other drivers and Hamilton especially.

      I’m starting to think it’d be kinder if he moved onto a different racing series, like sports cars. He’s just lost his edge.

      1. Your words are true…

      2. That doenst erases what Hamilton has been doing this season, Is he losing his edge? Sorry I dont see things that way in my view its the changes in F1 that are proving to be the biggest factor for example villeneuve was never the same after 1997 simply 1998 cars were too hard to drive for him, Massa was never a good driver but somehow he got worse in 2010 and alot worse in 2011, Hamitlon was amazing in 2007(8)(9) but Pirelli tyres dont suit him another case is Mark Webber he beat Vettel fair and square in spain, Monaco and a few other races, this year he has never been close but in Nurburgring

        1. The difference is that Massa nearly had a career ending accident. If it wasn’t for Carbon Fibre crash helmets, he would have been dead.

          Niki Lauder wasn’t the same driver after his Nurburgring crash. Stirling Moss wasn’t the same and eventually retired after his big crash.

          Hamilton’s having a rough season after being handed two complete dogs of a car in the two years after winning the championship. The two just don’t compare.

          1. The 2010 McLaren was a fine car, maybe not the quickest, but thanks to Vettel’s mistakes, Hamilton could even have become World-Champion that year. But for some reason Hamilton is increasingly making rookie mistakes, instead of improving his impressive performance in his first season. It’s sad his driving is so crappy nowadays that he (sometimes unintentionally) ruins Massa’s races again and again.

          2. Yes, Niki Lauda, 1975 World Champion, was no longer the same after his crash. So much so that he is also the 1977 and 1984 World Champion. Moss, too, didn’t really change after his first big crash (despite multiple injuries). He had one more big crash after that, but he was never really the same because he never got to drive again.

            Many drivers get injured in the course of their F1 careers. But the true greats shrug it off and get better because of it.

            1. One of the best examples of a true great being a driver who broke his leg at Silverstone, then not only took pole on his first 2 races back, but won the next 5 world titles.

            2. Another example is Mika Hakkinen. He was almost killed in 1995 and won the WDC in 1998 and 1999. But I wouldn´t be suprised if Ferrari renew with Felipe after 2012 because the whole point is not how bad he is, but how amazingly good is Alonso. I keep thinking about this championship if we had Alonso and Vettel at RB. 1988 pops in my mind.

      3. I think it has more to do with the fact that he now knows that he is the 2nd driver to the team. Maybe it is misplaced anger. yeah lewis cannot be ignored. but then where was massa trying to pass him? not like lewis would’ve braked for him. massa was on the outside.

    5. But it is really good to see competition at the front getting tighter. Hope the reg changes for next year don’t negate all the good work McL. Ferrari and Merc. have done to catch up to Red Bull.

    6. I admire the way Felipe is speaking the way he feels – and I also think he’s justified in doing it – but I can’t help but think he’d be better off just putting it to the back of his mind and getting on with his race. He’s been driving very nicely since the summer break but he’s letting this silly spat with Lewis get to his head.

      Once again he struggled to pass cars after his pit stops – it’s almost like he gets sucked into the pace of the car he’s following, like what used to happen in the massive aero wake days of old. His pace early on in races and when running in clear air has been on a par with the front runners more often than not, but his lack of decisiveness in traffic is meaning he finishes lower down than he ought to. He could have beaten Lewis for 5th, but for whatever reason he didn’t. I don’t think he actively let Alonso past either – though it would be fair to say he didn’t make an effort to defend his position.

      Alonso on the other hand was at his imperious best. He was like Jaws – sneaking up on the guys ahead of him and gobbling them up one by one. Personally, I’m gutted Jenson had that little bit extra in reserve as I’d love to have seen an out and out duel for the win. My heart rate certainly increased when the gap was coming down!

      1. but then Button picked up the pace and my heart rate was disappeared! :D

      2. But, @dan-thorn, Felipe had excellent pace until his third pit stop. He led Lewis and Mark, and had been very good up to that point. I guess he forsaw something would’ve happened between him and Hamilton, and he was trying a great overtaking manoevure. Unfortunately he was hit, this time I’m not bashing Lewis, but it wasn’t Massa’s fault, and his race, although he suffered no terminal damage, might have been slightly compromised. Sadly he lost places to Webber and Hamilton, and couldn’t improve with his medium tyres, not even passing Schumacher despite being in DRS-range for many laps.

      3. I really disagree about Massa but…
        “Alonso on the other hand was at his imperious best. He was like Jaws – sneaking up on the guys ahead of him and gobbling them up one by one” is my favourite quote of the year.

    7. I don’t much like Alonso, but he is impressing me so much at the moment! Getting 2nd (and showing race winning pace) in that Ferrari is mighty impressive! *applauds*

      1. Same here.
        But Alonso also scored some ‘Nice guy’ points when hè started his press conference by congratulating Vettel.
        Which Button didn’t. Button won…

        1. It did not look sincere at the press conference but it looked sincere when Alonso congratulated Vettel at parc femme after the race eventhough I sense Alonso really dislikes Vettel with half of his talk coming from “Dr. Evil” :)

        2. @verstappen I think Button was toying with Vettel a little, making a point about the contact at the start of the race.

    8. Brilliant race for Alonso. 5th to 2nd won on the road. Another lap, with Button running on fumes, maybe even to 1st. Hamilton had his tire problem giving him one of those spots, but he was able to pull away from Hamilton after the first stint.

      Massa. The judges have spoken and they even put in a choice quip about his alleged innocent position in the collision, so please, say no more. Even when Alonso has a scruffy Q3 and gifts him a spot, Alonso still crushes him in the race.

    9. Alonsos results were more about Vettel just getting to the podium for his post race TV interview than his needing to finish ahead of the Ferrari. If he had to have the points he would have gotten them.

      1. Yeah, Vettel could have easily beat Button too, if only cared…

    10. Alonso -3
      Massa +3

    11. Erm, 2 years on, i think i’m vindicated when i said, Button was the better driver between him and Hamilton.

    12. About time Ferrari fired Massa, what a waste of top drive.

      1. Perez is still a rookie, Kobayashi isn’t that quick, Seb won’t go when he’s in a winning team, JB’s locked in with Mclaren now and Rosberg would be a sideways move in my opinion. He’s upped his game from last year and I think his contract should have least be seen out. If he’s still not that close to Alonso then at the end of next year Ferrari should consider their options.

        1. Maybe but look at the facts

          Alonso – 1 win, 4 second places, 3 third places. 202 points

          Massa – best result 5th (4 times). 90 points

          Even Irvine had a better record than that v Schumi.

          1. The car is the 3rd fastest though and he was in contention for pole at Canada, outqualified Alo quite well at Spa, was in the mix at China and Canada and pace wise hasn’t been too bad.

        2. There’s always Hamilton.

          1. Would be a good choice for washing Fernando’s car

        3. @Steph
          How about having Hulkenberg? Yes he don’t have too much F1 experience but I guess he surely have the pace with him.Even Di Resta won’t be a bad option.They can also have a look for Glock who showed some rue potential in 2009.

      2. Not the top drive really since Ferraris are really struggling, Mercedes is catching them up.
        It’s only Alonso’s supreme form that hides the fact how bad they are.

    13. Ferrari are ruining Massa’s career, they should put confidence in him they got nothing to lose why letting Alonso past why not give Massa a chance to race.
      even though his pace was the same as Alonso in the first stint.

    14. Alonso really amazed me with 2nd this race.
      I feared that unless either a RBR or McLaren driver suffered problems during a race that Fernando wouldn’t make it to the podium again this season, judging by the results in Spa and Singapore.
      I’m very happy to be proven wrong! What a drive.
      As for Massa, I don’t know what’s going on with him: Is his spirit broken by being forced to play second fiddle? Does the car or tyres not suit him? Did the accident have a greater effect than we think?
      Whatever it is I’d love to have the bold, passionate 2008 Felipe back!

    15. Alonso constantly puts his Ferrari highly than the car deserves. This impresses me.

      On the other hand Massa needs to focus less on Hamilton and more on himself. (However, he is completely right about Lewis)

      1. Everything that has happend around Massa this season or at least the second part of it, shows us something is going political about Massa.
        I think he had been told he is going to be replaced for the next year.

        1. @suka I doubt it, there’s no one available to replace him.

          1. is Perez for hiring?

    16. Good result for Alonso, great to see him on the podium again. The pass between Alonso and Massa did confuse me, not sure what’s going on there to be honest.

      I almost wanted a penalty for Hamilton, just for the drama :D

    17. For those Massa haters, maybe you want back one of those great replacements Ferrari brought in during Massa’s recovery from his accident.

    18. One short note about Massa.

      I agree with those who said he lost his edge after Hungary 2009. It’s pointless bringing up examples of drivers not losing theirs (Schumacher, Silverstone 1999; Hakkinen, Adelaide 1995), because each driver reacts in a different way. One loses it (Panis, Montreal 1997; and I don’t agree with you in the case of Moss), one doesn’t. Massa did.

      As for firing him, I have an argument for him staying which could be strange at first.

      What if Fernando Alonso’s out-of-this-world performances are at least partly down to him having a ‘second driver’!?

      I mean, look at it, he was excellent in the Minardi, where he had virtually no opposition from his teammate (some Yoong), he excelled at Renault only after Trulli ‘somehow’ lost his way halfway through 2004 – remember how Alonso crashed out in Monaco spectacularly, when he had a chance of winning; only Trulli was ahead of the two Renaults. Pressure. And how he turned the tides in his favor – Trulli went asleep at the last-but-one corner in Magny-Cours, handing his podium finish to Barrichello.

      He kept Fisichella under total control in 2005-06.

      …And again cracked under pressure from a teammate of his calibre, a certain newcomer, rookie Lewis Hamilton while crushing out of the Japanese GP at Fuji, while in command. Pressure again.

      I think Ferrari can guarantee Alonso’s unearthly performances exactly with having Massa alongside him. Alonso just needs this preference and responsibility which is a must in this commanding role. It makes him able to extract this level of performance from him.

      Which is truly fantastic. I would be disappointed to see him lose out Jenson to 2nd place in Keith’s end-of-the-year 2011 driver rankings.

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