Fernando Alonso during his pit stop on his way to second pace in the hungarian GP
Aug.1 (Grand Prix 247) Ferrari and Fernando Alonso are the only combination capable of hassling and hustling the dominant Red Bull Racing duo. Starting third on the grid and finishing second in the race will go down as a good result for the Maranello squad. Alonso spoke at the FIA post race press conference, here are highlights.
Second place was something of a bonus for Fernando
Was second place for you and Ferrari a bonus given the pace difference between yourself and Red Bull this weekend?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, I think so. But I think we have some credit still from this year’s bad luck. If we have five or six more gifts like this, still not enough maybe. I think it was a good race. The start was super. We passed Mark thanks maybe to the clean side and then we were side-by-side with Vettel in the first corner. Not able to overtake this time but very close. Then very stressful moments when the safety car came in. Tried to go to the pits. We were before the last corner, so there is always the minimum time to respond, so we were taking care about all the stints to do a good Sunday today with no mistakes, no penalties, not anything, so we found ourselves second. Mark was incredibly quick and the soft tyres this weekend were not too soft, so he was able to do 40 laps with a set of tyres which normally is not the case. Overall a good weekend knowing that the pace was not good enough. We had 40 laps with Vettel behind and one second or two seconds quicker than us, so the lay-out of the circuit also helps today as I think on a normal circuit it was impossible to maintain second.
Fernando Alonso held off Sebastian Vettel for most of the race
How hard were you being pushed by Sebastian in those closing stages?
Fernando: Well, a lot. I think we were clearly slow compared to them all weekend, so no surprises in the race. I had a similar feeling in the first part when I had Mark behind me, so I knew more or less the important places were the main straight, maybe the only opportunity, so last corner became crucial to do a good exit to avoid any risk. Lots of pressure. We felt very slow today compared to them but thanks maybe to the lay-out of the track and the difficulties to overtake we were able to maintain position and finish in second which is good for us but we know that we need to improve. I think this weekend the race pace and the qualifying pace we were not quick enough to fight with Red Bull, so we need to also be realistic about what we did this weekend. A fantastic result Sunday, but overall a weekend that we need to push and keep improving the car as we saw this weekend.
Fernando pursued by the pack at the start
And in fact second place was perhaps unexpected but also the fact that McLaren weren’t really in the hunt this weekend.
Fernando: Well, I think third place was our deserved place this weekend. We were third in all the free practices, in Q1, Q2 and Q3, so third position was maybe what we expected from the race but we knew that we maybe had an opportunity at the start, starting on the clean side. The car did a very good start today, so we nearly arrived first into the first corner, so we nearly had the chance to overtake both Red Bulls. In the end, it was not possible but it was enough to put me second and then with the safety car period, tried to pit and to secure second place and then Mark did a fantastic first stint, forty laps with the soft tyre with no problems at all, so that maybe surprised us and we were not able to react, or we were not quick enough to make our strategy work. When you have such a pace advantage as Red Bull had this weekend, any strategy works. That was the case this weekend.
Fernando during the post race FIA press conference
Yesterday you were 1.2s behind in qualifying and you said that in the race you would be a little bit closer. What we saw was that you were quite a bit further away, even today. Were you expecting the gap to increase instead of decrease?
Fernando: Maybe it was not increasing. In the first sector we were taking care of the tyres. We knew that we were taking Mark at the start. We knew that maybe the first stint was quite long, because they would wait for us to stop and we had to avoid that, so we knew that maybe the first stint was quite long, so I was taking care of the tyres and Sebastian was pulling away, not by 1.2s I think. And when the restart came after the safety car, Mark was pulling away quite quickly, because I think the soft tyres were working very well at this stage, but with Vettel we were maybe four or five tenths slower than him. He was pulling away at a much, much slower pace than in the first stint. In fact when he had the drive-through we were able to pass him, because the gap was not big enough to do the drive-through and stay in front, so more or less as expected but for sure, we had some slower pace in the race and especially some parts of the race when we took care of the tyres etc. They don’t need to do that with the pace that they had.
Fernando celebrates in parc ferme
My first question is if you think that this defence is similar to Imola 2005 when you stayed in front of Michael Schumacher, and the second question is about the rule to enter the pits? Do you think it’s Ok to cross the kerb at the pit lane entrance?
Fernando: About the defence, I think this was a little bit easier, because it’s impossible to overtake on this track. It’s like in Monaco. You can drive whatever speed you want and you will more or less maintain position. There’s no place to overtake. As I said, turn one is the only opportunity. If you do a very slow lap and do the last corner quickly, it’s enough to maintain position. Today was just a very long race, a boring race in a way but important for the points, for the championship.
Concerning the entry, I think it’s part of the track, the kerb, so I don’t know if you gain time or you lose but it’s OK.
Fernando on the Budapest grid before the race
What are your calculations now for the next races, and your goal to get closer to the leaders?
Fernando: I don’t know what the gap is now, if Mark is leading now. Twenty points? I don’t know. Two races ago it was 47 before Germany, so after Germany and Hungary we have reduced half of the gap which was important for us as we enter August and four weeks’ break with less than 47 points which was too big a gap to recover. Now, twenty is still a lot, especially because we know how competitive Red Bull is, we know how competitive McLaren is, even if they had a tough weekend, I’m sure they will come back very strongly after the break. We know it’s going to be difficult, very difficult but with the car we have now, the improvements that we’ve done, we know that there will be some circuits with some opportunities as we had in Germany and there will be some other circuits like this one where we will maybe have no chance to win and we need to score as many points as possible, as we did. It’s still open, but it remains very difficult, so we stay calm, we know how difficult it will be and we also know that we must improve. If we don’t improve, we will not win the championship. If we improve enough, maybe we have a chance. There are still very important races now, the next four or five races, so it’s important, for sure, to have less than one race distance, less than 25 points going into this break.
What do you feel inside the car when there’s a faster car than yours right behind you for many laps?
Fernando: I felt like a back marker. I felt like one of the new teams, when we approach them, because I was doing my maximum and they were quicker than us, but we were lucky to have this scenario here in Hungary, which is a circuit where it is very difficult to overtake. I’m sure that with the pace advantage that Red Bull had, if we had this situation in Germany last week or in Spa next race, I cannot defend my position for more than two or three laps because they will overtake soon or later. Here we were lucky to have this opportunity.