Formula 1

Ferrari Struggle on Medium Tyres in Belgium as Alonso’s Podium Run Ends

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Fernando Alonso saw his run of four consecutive podium finishes come to an end at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday after he lost third place to Jenson Button in the closing laps at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Spaniard, who now sits 102 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel, says that he will not give up on the title until it is mathematically beyond him, and blamed the Ferrari‘s pace on the medium tyres for his failure to challenge for victory in Belgium.

“It would have been difficult to do better than this fourth place today, especially given how much we suffered on the Medium tyres: in these conditions, we are a second and a half slower than the best,” said the double world champion. “Honestly, I didn't think I had a real chance of winning, but a podium was within our grasp. The strategy saw me lead in the early stages, but then, we knew that in the final part, we would have struggled more. I had fun in the first stint: the start was good and then I had some nice duels.

“A shame about the podium: it was our target and was possible, despite qualifying eighth yesterday. Compared to the gap we saw yesterday in qualifying, the situation was very different today, but we are well aware that, with temperatures which were definitely not very hot for summer time, we paid too high a price.

“At the moment, we must congratulate our opponents, who are doing a fantastic job, but we will not give up, at least until the mathematics tell us otherwise: we will always try and win, giving it our best shot, starting in Monza, a very special event for Ferrari and for all its fans, and then in all the other remaining races this season.” 

Felipe Massa, who qualified ahead of team-mate Alonso on Saturday, was challenging at the top during the early stages, but then spent the rest of the race languishing in the lower half of the top ten. The Brazilian also had an extra unscheduled pit stop after a puncture and finished the afternoon in eighth place.

“It was rather a strange race for me,” commented Massa. “In the opening phase I was absolutely in the fight for the top places, but then I started to have tyre problems and the car seemed to no longer be so well balanced. With the Mediums, the situation improved, maybe also down to an adjustment to the front wing which we made at the pit stop, but we were not quick enough, as was clearly evident and by then it was too late. On top of that, I also had a puncture on the left rear tyre which meant I had to make another stop.

“When I found myself behind Rosberg, I could not pass him, despite the DRS, because their (Mercedes) top speed is very good. Furthermore, I was struggling especially in the slowest corners – the final chicane and La Source – and that stopped me from getting as good a tow as possible. The next event is the home race for the team, but it is also very important for me and I really want to get a good result there.”

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was full of praise for Alonso but said that the team must get to the bottom of their difficulties with getting the harder Pirelli tyres working under low temperature conditions.

“We definitely cannot claim to be happy with this result, but we must evaluate it objectively, without letting emotion get the better of us,” said Domenicali. “We saw our car perform in two different ways, depending on what tyres it was running: very good on the Soft, especially with Fernando, but definitely lacking with the Medium.

“This explains how Fernando, who delivered an extraordinary performance, taking the lead and fighting for the win in the first stint, then gradually saw what would have been a very well deserved podium place slip from his grasp. Felipe began his race in a very aggressive fashion, but then he paid an even heavier price for our chronic difficulties on the harder tyre.

“The Safety Car definitely did not help, coming out just as our main rivals were struggling the most, which meant they could make up for their initial handicap. We know what is our Achilles Heel and we have to continue to work on it: we have made up ground in some areas, but on this one – I refer to the ideal window of operation for the tyres – we are still lagging behind.

“Now we go to Monza, our home race: our objective is unchanged, which means trying to win. I am convinced we can be on the pace, while aware of the fact we are up against very strong opponents.”

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David is an occasional contributer to the site on matters related to Formula 1. You can follow him on twitter at @Dr_Bean.
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