Fernando Alonso: “This will be one of the Toughest Races for us”

The Scuderia Ferrari team head into their home Grand Prix in Italy hoping to continue their progress that has seen both drivers praise the efforts of the Maranello workforce in recent weeks. However both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are expecting tough weekends at Monza in front of their adoring Tifosi.

Alonso is hoping for a good performance this weekend, but goes into Monza with a different feeling towards the weekend with the power unit deficit to Mercedes most likely to be more pronounced around the Italian track.

“This is definitely one of the most important races this year for us in front of the Tifosi,” said Alonso. “We want to give them a good result on Sunday, but it will be very hard to repeat what we did the last four years and this will be one of the toughest races for us this year.”

Alonso reflects on the difficult season he and his team have had to endure so far in 2014, believing it’s the most challenging year he’s had since he joined the team back in 2010.

“This year has definitely been the toughest in the five I’ve been with Ferrari, in coming to Monza in greater difficulty and without having a really clear idea of what the race can hold for us,” reflected Alonso. “In the other years, we were fighting for the title or a podium was definitely within our grasp or maybe even a win. This year however, it’s all much more up in the air and there is no certainty as to what we might be able to do.

“One can say this situation is frustrating, it can be seen as sad or simply as the reality of the situation. For eleven races now we have been fighting to sort out the situation and become more competitive and I think we have done that. I would say the progress is visible, because in the last three or four races, we have become more competitive: in Hungary, we got a podium finish, in Spa we came close and even at Hockenheim and Silverstone we went quite well. So in the recent races we have recovered and have a better feeling.

“It’s definitely not enough, because everyone is improving, especially Mercedes, who are dominating the season, given that, while we were two seconds off their pace, now we are still 1.6 or 1.4 behind, therefore the improvements we have made are definitely not enough yet.”

Team-mate Raikkonen had his best weekend so far since his return to Ferrari with a fourth place finish at Spa-Francorchamps, and believes that he and the team are slowly but surely seeing positive results from their upgraded car. He heads into Ferrari’s home Grand Prix hopeful of another problem-free weekend.

“We had a pretty okay feeling in the races before Spa, but something always happened, being hit by another driver, or other small issues,” said Raikkonen. “It’s very hard to get a good result when you have problems like that. In Belgium, the race itself was probably the first one where we had no issues at all and the result was a bit better. We can have a good race here. We need a clean weekend, so that we start by running our normal programme on Friday.”

“We expect to have a little bit more difficult race here because straight line speed is what we are lacking a bit, not so much in qualifying but in the race, where we have a bigger disadvantage. We expected that situation in Spa, but it turned out to be surprisingly good for us, so hopefully we will find something similar here, but we need to wait and see tomorrow. So it should be difficult, but hopefully we are wrong!”

The Finn insists the teams’ aim is still to be near the front of the field where he feels the team belong, but knows it could take a little while longer to be challenging for race wins and indeed podiums. He is hopeful those podiums come sooner rather than later, perhaps even before the end of the season.

“Our aim is to be nearer the front because we are not where we should be as a team and we are working hard on that,” concluded Raikkonen. “If it’s not for the end of the year, then it will be next year, because it will be hard to make big steps from now to the end of the season. We are improving little by little and hopefully we can be in the fight for podiums later in the year.”