After a week where Ferrari under went a change of team boss it was fitting that Fernando Alonso dug deep, in his unique style, to score the team’s first podium finish of the new season, at the Chinese Grand Prix. The Spaniard spoke about his race in Shanghai;
Third for Ferrari. There are a lot of Ferrari fans out there and of course Fernando Alonso fans. Fernando, you beat the Red Bulls and you’re third only behind the Mercedes Benz cars. You must be really satisfied with that.
Fernando Alonso: Hello everybody, first of all. It was a good weekend. We did improve the car a little bit compared to the first three races, so we felt more competitive and now in the race being here on the podium is some kind of surprise for us, a nice surprise finally. Happy with a podium finish today. I think I’m third in the Drivers’ Championship behind these two guys. So we didn’t have the start of the season that we would like but at the end of the day we’re still in the fight.
Just briefly you had a big contact with Felipe Massa going into the first corner. You were lucky [there] with no suspension damage.
FA: Yeah, it was a big contact. I asked on the radio ‘can you check the car’, because it felt OK but I don’t know how it looks from the outside, but it was OK and we managed very lucky to finish the race and hopefully next one it will be a clean start.
First podium this year for Ferrari, how satisfying is that?
FA: It is. Obviously we had a difficult start of the season with some lack of performance in the first races and, y’know it’s good to be on the podium here on the fourth race after a not-easy weekend with changeable weather conditions and a difficult race as well, as Nico touched on. I think with the tyres, being a unique track with the front graining that you need to take care, plus some actions because we were not alone on the race. We managed, I think, quite well to get this podium and this is hopefully some boost of the team and some extra motivation y’know, to keep improving and to do even better in the next couple of races.
And again, the set-up from FP2 to the race, how good was that?
FA: I think we make very few changes to be honest, from FP1 to now in the race. We brought some new parts here, a small step that probably we are a little bit more competitive now and we concentrate on Friday testing those parts and not much set-up work to be honest. Yesterday on the wet conditions, now in these days it’s not much to do, wet to dry anyway, so, as I said, the setup, my feeling was quite OK from Friday to now.
The podium here, what can you promise your home fans at the next grand prix at home?
FA: We need to see. We need to remain very calm. It has been a very unique race, we make a step forward. We were ninth and tenth fifteen days ago and that was hard, pain a little bit. So, yeah, we need to remain calm. We are happy, we need to enjoy the result today but still a long way to go and we cannot promise anything for Barcelona. We will give 100 per cent again and we will fight – but in terms of result we need to remain very calm and see how development is these three weeks if we can bring some extra new parts for Barcelona.
You said several times that Ferrari needs a global improvement but is there a priority in this situation, to try to get closer to Mercedes?
FA: Well, of course it is a priority, we need to close, we need to catch them as soon as possible before the championship is over, so we need to keep scoring points, as many as we can now that we are not super-competitive, try not to lose too much ground on points in the championship, and if in one race we become as competitive as them, try to catch up in terms of points. At the moment, it seems very far away because they have a big advantage and we need to work really hard if we want to have that possibility. There is nothing really special we can do, just don’t give up; we’re in the fourth race in the championship, there ‘s still a long way go but being super-realistic, knowing that the gap is very very big it’s going to be very tough.
How can you understand this race? In the last one, you finished a long way behind the Mercedes; this time you were seven seconds behind Nico. Is it the characteristics of the track or the new parts that you brought that has made the car so fast?
FA: I think it was a combination. As I said, we brought new parts that feel a little more competitive – the car feels a little bit faster – we also tested in Bahrain, they felt OK and we confirmed that here. On the other hand, I personally have had an extremely good weekend, probably at the level of 2012 in terms of driving and feeling comfortable with the car, qualifying, Friday, today. In Bahrain, we were one minute behind the leaders, ninth and tenth and today we are on the podium, seven seconds behind Nico as I said, but Kimi’s one minute behind the leaders. I think it’s a combination. Hopefully I can keep going like this. I felt more comfortable with the car and we will not give up.