The Italian Grand Prix is the home race for Ferrari thus the pressure was on the team to deliver as expectations are always high among the tifosi, and amid apparent turmoil and unrest in the Maranello camp Fernando Alonso turned fifth on the grid – after a qualifying debacle – to claim second place and with that keep his title aspirations alive by minimising the damage of his chief rival’s victory. The Spaniard spoke after the race at Monza.
You must explain how was the overtaking in the beginning of the race for you.
Fernando Alonso: It was difficult obviously. The car was OK and we overtook Nico [Hülkenberg] but then we had to overtake Mark and Felipe later on. And then with Sebastian we were not able to close to the gap so we were fighting with Mark until the end. Second place is good, to have this podium ceremony that is the most spectacular podium of the year for sure and hopefully next one, next year, we come back here but in the top place.
When you make the pass, the public jumped in the grandstand, it was amazing. Inside the car, how it was? It was very close.
FA: It was close. Obviously we have to risk. There is nothing now to lose for us. We are second in the championship and we have to take some risk. We did it and that’s OK.
You understand Ferrari love you? You have to love Ferrari, we are all behind you…
FA: Ah, of course. I always said the same thing, big thanks to the team for everything they do for me and huge support from all the fans from all Italy. Some people still try to create some tension between team and driver but here is the better symbol: zero tension and we fight for the championship always.
Were you happy with that second place? Was that as much as you could have achieved today?
FA: Yes, very happy. I think the weekend we took the maximum from the car. Practice were OK and we learnt some good information Friday. Saturday it was very good, both cars in the top five. I think the last time was Malaysia this year, so very, very long time, so we were very, very happy. Today, being in the podium again, it’s a fantastic feeling here in Monza. The fourth year that I drove for Ferrari, the four times that I was in the podium and every year is something amazing, something unique again, to be there in that moment. And we did the maximum and nearly a perfect weekend. We didn’t close the gap in the championship, which is obviously the goal every weekend but y’know, when Sebastian and Red Bull dominate Friday, Saturday and Sunday and they win the race we have to congratulate them. They were the best all through the weekend and we need to do hopefully a better job next time but from what we had this weekend I think we did the maximum. So we are extremely happy.
Is the only way for you to win this championship is for Sebastian to lose it?
FA: Well, I think we need to be realistic about the championship now there’s a very big gap. We don’t have enough races and probably we don’t have the speed right now to win some consecutive races and hope to reduce the gap just by pace. We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNFs from Sebastian or something to win the championship. With the races left and the points disadvantage, it’s hard but in a way, it was exactly the same last year. We could only lose the championship, with 41 points advantage in front of Sebastian after the Monza race. It was difficult for him to catch up and so it was maybe up to us. We didn’t complete the job and we had a DNF in Suzuka and some other problems. There’s still a long way to go; we will try until the last race to be as good as we can and score as many points as possible and then in Brazil we will see how many points we have compared to him.
And in qualifying, there was so much talk and so much written as to whether you had said this or said that. Did you feel today that the fans spoke out for you? They cheered you; do you feel much better today than after qualifying?
FA: Concerning [qualifying], it’s the third or fourth consecutive race that some people have tried to create some tension between the team and the drivers. Then we come to the press conference, we explain everything but obviously this doesn’t sell so many newspapers – normality. Every time I leave an airport, the hotel, home, everywhere – here in Italy there’s huge support, huge love from them and me to them as well and to the team and we keep repeating this and we saw today on the podium maybe not many of them read the newspapers in the morning, luckily.
Can you explain the overtaking manoeuvre on Mark, maybe the most spectacular in the whole race?
FA: I tried a lap before but I was not close enough in turn four, in the second chicane, and then we were very close in the first chicane on that lap. Mark had a little slower exit in the first chicane so I used all the KERS on that straight hoping that with the KERS plus the slipstream it will be enough to pass, but it was not enough so that we arrived side by side. At one point, I thought ‘well, I will miss the second chicane and I will give the place back’ but at the last moment I get the grip, we were very close to touching each other but again we come back to the point that it’s not the same fighting with an experienced and respectful driver compared to some others with whom you would never try that move, with whom we’ve had some incidents already.
What do you expect for Singapore, because in theory it is very good for your car.
FA: Yeah, we will see. Obviously we were expecting a lot from Monza and it was a very good Monza. It’s true that we didn’t win the race because Red Bull and Sebastian did an even better job and they were very very good but in our level of competitiveness that we had this year, Monza is one of the best weekends, as we expected before. We came from Silverstone, from Nurburgring, from Hungary where we had Red Bull in front of us, Lotus in front of us, Mercedes in front of us and some other cars sometimes, so here in Monza we were able to beat all those cars and fight for the wins, so if we can repeat this good performance in Singapore, we hope so but this will be the real test for us. We made some changes in the car, they seemed to be positive in Spa, seem to be good and positive in Monza, but when we reach the maximum level of downforce in Singapore, like we had in Hungary, we need to check. If we still have Mercedes in front, Lotus in front and some other teams, we will be more or less the same as in Hungary and we don’t want to be. I think we prepare the car and we prepare everything to make a step forward and in Singapore hopefully we can see it.
Do you believe Red Bull is now at the level of 2011?
FA: The level of domination? Well, I think as Sebastian touched on before as well, already in Canada, Spa, Monza are very unique tracks in terms of level of downforce. They were quick in Spa so more or less… we saw it in Canada so Spa was not a surprise and here in Monza also they performed really well. I think it’s more tight this year than 2011 and also there are more teams in the battle. There is not only Red Bull who can be on pole position etc; there is Mercedes who have done many pole positions this year etc, so many races are coming with many interesting combinations of performance so what we have to do is try to be close to the top in all track characteristics. (FIA / Apex)
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