Fernando Alonso was able to salvage a fourth place from the Chinese Grand Prix in a race which saw him penalised for a jump start, overtake teammate Felipe Massa in the pitlane and make five pitstops.
Alonso was rather understated when he described the race as “unusual”!
The race appeared as if it had started well, Alonso jumping around the outside of the two Red Bulls ahead of him to lead into turn one. However, the race stewards soon announced that the double world champion had jumped the start, issuing him with a drive through penalty.
“I made a serious mistake at the start as my reflexes let me down and I left early,” he later admitted in hindsight. “It’s never happened to me before and I am very disappointed with myself.”
Two early pitstops for tyres, as well as the penalty dropped Alonso down the order ranging back up to 12th, behind his teammate when the rain started to come down again on lap 19. Coming to the pitlane, at the hard left hander before the speed limiter line Alonso dived up the inside of Massa. It was a legal move, at least in the eyes of the all important stewards, and the team are quick to dismiss any reference to it.
“If he was not my team-mate,” rebuts Alonso, “there wouldn’t be so much talk about it and for me it was a normal move and it definitely won’t compromise our relationship.” Massa, the victim of the incident as he not only lost a place but was then forced to wait behind Alonso before getting his own new Bridgestones, admitted his own fault in the move.
“I ended up on a puddle of water coming out of the hairpin and slightly lost control of the car: he managed to get inside me, passing me going into the pit lane,” said the Brazilian. “I lost some places because of it, as I had to wait for his stop to be finished.“
The move proved a pivotal moment in the Scuderia's race – Alonso able to climb up through the pack to fourth during the second half of the race, while Massa was only just able to scrape into the points, overtaking Michael Schumacher's Mercedes for tenth in the closing laps.
But despite the varying fortunes Ferrari were one of many teams who praised the work of their pitcrews during a race where they saw far more action than normal, especially with 2010's ban on refuelling.
“I want to compliment the pit stop crew, who did an amazing job today, handling three double stops without making the slightest mistake and also helping the drivers to make up places,” said Stefano Domenicali.
“As for the strategy choices, especially for the first stop, it’s clear from the top four finishers that two drivers made one choice and the other two a different one, which means it is difficult to give an instant assessment of which was the right one. With hindsight, Button’s paid off better, but it can also be said that, but for his penalty for a jumped start, Fernando could definitely have fought for the victory.”