Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari their first piece of good news in quite some time with a superb drive to fifth in the Australian Grand Prix. The Spaniard started down in 12th but ran in the top six for most of the race after a lightning start, finishing behind the two McLarens and the two Red Bulls only.
Alonso was forced to hold off Pastor Maldonado until he crashed on the final lap but after holding on to fifth, the double world champion felt it was a good exercise in damage limitation.
“We knew it would be a very complicated race and I am happy I managed to bring home a useful number of points. I got a great start and managed a few passing moves in the early stages and later, after the Safety Car, there was a tough fight with Maldonaldo: when I saw he'd gone off the track I breathed a sigh, because he had been really close to me for quite a few laps up until then. I was slower than him and all I could do was defend my position, using the KERS at a few specific points. I am sorry for him, because it's a real shame to finish a race like that. As for the positive points to come out of today, they would be the start, the pit stops and the strategy. Today the car was better than yesterday and we were closer to the leaders. However, we still have a lot of work to do to reach those who are ahead of us in terms of performance; not just McLaren and Red Bull, but also Mercedes and Lotus. We are probably a second off pole and there are seven or eight teams who are all very close to one another. In one sense, that's good news because if we can improve by a few tenths, then we can make up a few places. Next week in Malaysia will be a trial by fire, because Sepang is a very demanding circuit, for the cars and the tyres.”
Teammate Felipe Massa's miserable weekend was completed by a collision with Bruno Senna in the closing stages , forcing him into retirement.
“This has been a really poor weekend for me. Already yesterday I suffered because the car was badly balanced and today, it was probably even worse, because after a few laps I was struggling with the tyres. I had got a great start and had managed to make up a few places and I was hoping to finish in the points. We tried to bring forward the first stop, but also on the second set of Soft tyres we had the same problems: the car was sliding and the degradation was much greater than for the others. I would not say I was driving aggressively and I was actually trying not to be hard on the tyres, but there was nothing I could do. Even on the Mediums, the situation did not change. We must work to understand why we could not reproduce the right balance on the car, as we had for example at the Barcelona tests. As for the contact with Senna, I think we can consider it a racing incident. A Toro Rosso tried to pass me on the outside of Turn 3 and Bruno had better traction on the inside, so we went into Turn 4 side by side: that where we tangled and it ended as you saw it did.”
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was happy with Alonso's result under the circumstances and was also quick to praise the pit crew who played a key role in the Spaniard jumping Nico Rosberg at the first round of stops.
“Clearly we cannot be happy with a fifth place but, given how things went yesterday, Fernando's result is a positive one, the result mainly of yet another super performance from the Spaniard. Felipe's bad Sunday is the result of the Saturday that preceded it: the balance of his car was not right and he paid the price, especially in terms of tyre degradation: a shame because thanks to a really good start, he'd managed to move up straight into the top ten. We knew that this weekend, the car we had was not the one we wanted going into this season, but today we also saw a situation that was a bit different to yesterday, especially as far as Fernando was concerned, because, in the first stint, his pace was not that far off that of the leaders. The Safety Car did not help him any and after the end of the neutralised period, Fernando's pace was no longer as competitive and he struggled to keep Maldonaldo's Williams behind him.”
“I want to highlight the performance of the crew during the pit stops: looking at the figures, we were the fastest both in terms of outright performance and on average. I am keen to mention this, because we have worked a great deal on this front: already in the second part of 2011, the situation was better and today we have taken another step forward. We know we must raise the performance level of our car: from what we have seen here in Australia, there are several teams not so far off one another and one does not need to make enormous progress to make up several places. We know the main areas we need to work on – traction and top speed first and foremost – and we must accelerate as much as possible the development work to reach the level of the best as soon as possible.”