Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso gave the Scuderia Ferrari team one of its strongest performances of the season with a fifth place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix. His 2007 World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fared less well at the Red Bull Ring, finishing a disappointing tenth almost half a minute adrift of Alonso.
Alonso showed strong pace during the Grand Prix once he had switched from the Supersoft tyre to the soft tyre. He felt fifth was the best he was going to achieve with the strength of the Mercedes and Williams cars ahead of him, but feels Ferrari are gradually closing the gap to the frontrunners.
“I think that I can consider this to be my best race of the season, because finishing eighteen seconds off the Mercedes in a race without a Safety Car or any particular incidents, is a good result,” said Alonso. “It was impossible to keep Hamilton behind me and fifth place is really the best we could do today, because the first four cars were quicker and therefore deserved to finish ahead of us.
“We pushed hard all race without any problems, which means that little by little, we are improving. Sure, there’s still a long way to go but the aim is still to do well and score points. Each track is a different story and we will always try our best.”
Team-mate Raikkonen had a disappointing race and took home a solitary point for finishing tenth. The Finn struggled with the handling of his Ferrari and suffered, like many, with brake temperature. He also felt he should have pitted earlier than he did first time around after losing two places as he struggled with worn tyres.
“This was another very difficult race for me, despite having gone in a different direction yesterday to try and improve the performance,” said Raikkonen. “Unfortunately, it did not bring the improvements I’d hoped for and again here I found myself fighting the handling of the car. At the start I made up one place, but already on the second lap I began to have a problem with the brakes overheating and this meant I had to slow down.
“At the time of my first pit stop, my tyres were completely worn and on my in-lap alone I lost two places. We should definitely have stopped sooner. Compared to the start of the season, progress has been made, even if there’s still a lot to do as our speed still doesn’t allow us to fight for the top places.”
Ferrari Team Principal Marco Mattiacci feels the team have made a step in the right direction in Austria having seen Alonso set some strong lap times at the Red Bull Ring, often faster than the four drivers who finished ahead of him in the race. He believes the result is evidence that Ferrari should continue developing the 2014 car in the hope of securing the best results possible for the team.
“The way this season is going becomes particularly evident when one races at a track where what counts the most is the power of the car,” said Mattiacci. “Today, we tried to get the most out of what we have and we believe we have taken another small step in the right direction.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to demonstrate that with Kimi, who did not have an easy time on this circuit, but we are sure that with the progressive improvement of the car he too will be able to show what he’s capable of. Fernando could not have done any better today. He managed to maintain a great pace for the whole race, at times even quicker than the leaders and this must serve as an incentive to continue developing the F14 T.
“Overall the gaps are coming down and the number of teams fighting it out behind the frontrunners is increasing. So our aim is to exploit all our potential to be at the front of the pursuing group.”
Technical Director Pat Fry believes Ferrari should be pleased with the result in Austria after showing some strong pace despite the car obviously lacking straight-line speed compared to the Mercedes-powered cars.
“After a good start both Kimi and Fernando struggled a lot on the Supersoft because of graining on the rears which slowed their pace,” said Fry. “In this stint, a gap grew to the Mercedes-engined cars which made the most of their superior power down the three straights.
“Apart from the actual result, we can nevertheless be pleased because in the second and third stints, especially with Fernando, we were one of the quickest cars on track and that shows that, race by race, we are making small steps forward. Kimi struggled more than Fernando and unfortunately, with him we paid a high price for his in-lap before his first stop when the rear tyres were on the limit.
“We must look ahead to the next race in Silverstone, a very different circuit to this one, where we can also expect the Red Bulls to be back on form. As usual we will try and be in the fight and to prepare our car as well as possible for this new challenge.”