Alonso: It tastes like a victory for us

Fernando Alonso celebrates second place on the Hungaroring podium

Fernando Alonso celebrates second place on the Hungaroring podium

If anyone can slug it out well above his weight in Formula 1 it is Fernando Alonso, and once again with tricky conditions prevailing and a tough afternoon on the cards, the Ferrari driver dug deep to deliver second place against the odds in the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was yet again involved in some of the more memorable battles in an action packed race. He spoke of his afternoon’s hard graft at Hungaroring.

You hung onto the tyres, you took a risk and you pushed like crazy. It’s your birthday on Tuesday and you nearly had the perfect birthday present. But second place, is it painful or are you satisfied anyway?
Fernando Alonso: No, extremely satisfied. I think it has been a tough weekend – a tough season in general – so to get a podium is always a nice surprise let’s say. We took a gamble. We risked today just trying to get the victory. We went close but as I said, extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the job we did today and very, very happy.

Rain for the start, safety cars, traffic, tyres degrading, you needed all your experience today. You needed everything.
FA: Well, today we have a combination of things that made the race difficult to execute, difficult to understand and we took our opportunities, our experience… we need some crazy races to get some podiums and today we took the opportunity.

What does this mean to you? What does it mean to Ferrari, coming just before the break?
FA: It means a lot. Obviously we had some tough races recently and to see one Ferrari again on the podium is the best news. We took the opportunity after a difficult race, with a wet start and then some difficult decisions to make around the safety cars – if pitted or not. Unfortunately first safety car we went a little bit out of position, because the safety car went out and we were in the last corners so we missed the opportunity to stop. We stopped the lap afterwards and we lost a couple of places. We have to attack, we have to overtake a couple of people and just 10 laps to the end we were discussing if we stop and secure the fourth place that we really needed, those points, so just try to defend the position as much as you can and maybe finish in fourth, so at the end it’s the same result but at least you have the chance to fight for the podium positions. So we were in that position 10 laps to the end and at the end we chose the right thing – stay out, defend the position as best we could and secure this second place that, for sure, it tastes like a victory for us at the moment.

Yes, it’s interesting what Ferrari will take from this. Presumably you’ll still be telling them to push on other types of circuit, this was a very tight circuit obviously?
FA: We’ll see. This circuit didn’t change much our performance, our position but today we had a little bit of a chaotic race and we took every opportunity we had in front of us. I think cars from behind also had some issues, with Rosberg, with Hamilton yesterday, with the issues in qualifying, we get this position for free. We had Vettel, had a problem in the last corner today, the Force India. We had some cars out of the way let’s say and we took benefit from this and we secured some very strong points for the team.

You’ve battled wheel to wheel with Daniel. Has he now established himself as a front-runner?
FA: Yeah, definitely. I think he’s leading the champion team. That says all. He’s doing a fantastic job this year and now he had a few bottles. In Hockenheim I had a very fresh tyre which probably allowed me to pass with some advantage but even with that it was not easy. Today, I really didn’t have the tools to fight but I tried to do my best – but definitely, congratulations to him for today, for the whole championship and it’s going to be an interesting fight in the next couple of years.

Does this result show that something can still be taken from the car?
FA: I think from this year’s car there are obviously some positive things and some negative things. Now, together with the team try to analyse what to carry on and what to change. Philosophy of the car probably is not perfectly right because we are not as competitive as we wish, so there are things that we need to change but also there are things that are probably working OK.

Your birthday is approaching: we know what you wished last year – what about this year? What is the gift you would like for your birthday?
FA: Well last year it was a very big understanding of what was my wish. Especially in Italy. So, this year, I will not wish anything about the car and I will wish a happy day to everyone in Italy.

Do you think that this race is one of the best races of your career?
FA: I don’t think that is one of the best in my career. It has been a good and a complex race, let’s say, to execute and perform – because there were some difficulties around the race that make the 70 laps not straight forward. You just need to make decisions during the race and all of them were, together with the team, and I think we did the best we could.

To hear the people cheering “Alonso, Alonso” is one of the reasons that you are in Formula One?
FA: On the podiums, the support from the people has been amazing. Especially this two or three last seasons – which is a little bit strange when you think that I won the World Championship the last time in 2006, I suppose that my career should be going down and it’s going up. So that’s definitely something that keeps my motivation very high. I would like to give them something back in terms of trophy and in terms of titles. It’s what we’re working on.

Three different drivers, three different teams, three different power trains in the last race of this part of the season. Does it mean that in the second part of the season we will maybe see some more competition or did the circumstances of the race create this situation?
FA: I think the circumstances and the weather played a big factor today. The circuit characteristics also probably helped some of the power units that we are not on top of the game still, so let’s see at Spa. Monza is quite a tough challenge for us and that will give us some answers for the final part.

How impressive or how surprising for you and for the team was having such an amazing pace with the soft tyres for such a long time with the degradation of the tyres. Was it really a surprise, a question of weather?
FA: Yeah, it was definitely a surprise. We found ourselves leading the race when Ricciardo and Massa pitted so we thought OK, let’s give the maximum for three or four laps just to open up a gap and stop see whether we are in the final part and then we realised that it was not so many laps to the end and it was a difficult call: stopping and keep pushing and finishing fourth or keep going and risking the cliff with the tyres and finishing fourth or fifth or whatever. So it was surprisingly good, it was surprisingly fast, the car in the race. I think the weather helped us with cooler temperatures and the track a little bit damp in the first part. Obviously you don’t stress the tyres as much as a completely hot track. I felt the car was good and it was definitely a surprise.