Fernando Alonso started the Belgian Grand Prix from ninth place on the grid; a couple of hours later he was celebrating second place on the podium against all odds, although in truth only race winner Sebastian Vettel was better than the Ferrari driver on the day. Alonso spoke afterwards.
This must feel like a victory today. You’ve never won around the Belgian Grand Prix circuit, which is surprising given that you’ve got 32 victories in your career but that was typical attacking stuff from ninth place.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, we had to recover some places. We were not OK yesterday and everything went OK from the start and then the car has the speed to overtake some cars and it was a little bit boring. After we get the second place we are nowhere near Sebastian and not a big threat from behind.
Looking ahead to Monza, you must feel pretty much buoyed for Ferrari, going to what is the home grand prix for the Ferrari team.
FA: Yeah, definitely it’s an important weekend for us, for the team. Last year we were very close to repeat the victory that we got … in 2010, so we arrive fully motivated again and in Monza we would like to give some smiles and some satisfaction to the tifosi and we will try our best.
Obviously for you also the start was pretty decisive. Ninth on the grid, up to fifth on the opening lap. You passed Rosberg, Webber, Button, Hamilton to come through to second place. That’s quite a recovery from what must have been a very disappointing qualifying performance yesterday.
FA: Yeah, I think the weekend was more or less good for us with recovering some feelings that we lost in July with the car especially. We were a little bit more competitive – or we felt a little bit more competitive this weekend. Not for sure maybe for pole position but to be in the first four or five positions on the grid, maybe that was possible but yesterday I think were extremely unlucky with the situation in Q3 with weather and the track: where we were, in the place we were, at the time we were was wrong. So, unfortunately some times in these changeable conditions you are lucky, sometimes unlucky. I remember Malaysia very well in Q3, we were in the right place in the right moment and we were second and third of the grid. Yesterday was a little bit the opposite. So we had to plan a perfect race from the start to the pace of the car, to the strategy and everything worked fine and we could recover some places and extremely important for the championship also to get some good points again after three races not so good.
Throughout the practice and qualifying as well the Ferrari looked quite quick and looked like it had taken a step forward. Do you feel that over the course of this weekend? Is that giving you encouragement? Obviously we’re going to some very different kinds of circuits in the next few weeks but are you taking encouragement from this weekend?
FA: I’m happy. I’m happy with the feeling that I had this weekend. I’m happy with the parts that we brought here, seems that they are working fine. We need to take things very carefully because, as you say, this is a very specific circuit and we are not first and second in any practice or any qualifying or any race. We are ninth and tenth in quali and now we are second and seventh in the race. At the moment it is still work to do.
Definitely a good race for you, starting from P9 but is it also good for your championship, as Vettel finished ahead of you?
FA: I think it’s good; obviously we lost an extra seven points but when they are dominating the weekend, when they do everything better than us and they win the race, they deserve the win and we need to aim for maximum points. Weekends like this one we need to extract the maximum from the car. That is what we did this weekend, all we could in qualifying, all we could in the race. In the race, once we were second we were two to four tenths slower per lap. When you are the second fastest, you deserve to finish second. So we just need to congratulate Sebastian, Red Bull and try to get better for Monza, but in terms of the championship, as I said, we came from two fifth places in Hockenheim and Hungary, with a little bit of a not good feeling and not good performance from the car and today I think we recovered some of the optimism that we lost and I think it was a good weekend for the championship in terms of feeling and in terms of points as well.
Once again you were fast in the race but not so much in qualifying. Do you think this could affect your championship chances against Sebastian?
FA: Well, we need to improve the qualifying performance but to be honest, I’m doing what I can. I’m 8-3 against my teammate, I think. Yesterday was about qualifying but I was 0.6s quicker than my teammate, so in a way, it’s not that the races are good and the qualifyings are bad, it’s just the way it is and we are extracting the maximum from the car all the time. In the races there are more aspects, not pure performance of the car. There is the strategy, the management of the tyres, the characteristics of the cars and on that aspect, I think we are very strong. In the pure performance of the car, we are maybe lacking some performance compared to the others but as I said, I’m extremely happy with the performance we are achieving on Saturday and also on Sunday and the championship is open and we have the best example last year. I was leading with 41 points ahead of Sebastian after the Monza race and I arrived in Texas 15 points behind, so things can change very quickly. Our hopes are to keep developing, to keep improving performance and try to repeat what happened last year the other way around.
You said the team’s recovered some of its optimism. How far can that optimism take you; do you still believe you can mount a genuine title challenge with eight races left?
FA: Yeah, yeah. I think we cannot forget that in the first five races we were a very competitive team. We won two of the five races and we were in a position to fight for the podium all the time. At that point, we were a very few points behind the leader. Then there were some races in the championship where we went backwards in terms of a step in the car and we lost direction a little bit. We understood the problem, we analysed everything and all the things that we are now bringing to the races are delivering what we expected, finally, so this gives us the possibility to get our good form back but we still have to recover some of the gap, to fight for pole positions etc but the championship is very long, and as I said before, the example is what happened to us last year. If you have a competitive car and you win four or five consecutive races like Sebastian did last year in India, Japan, Singapore etc, you recover very quickly. If we are in the position to do that, we will find out very soon.