Alonso: The car is responding well and we feel much more optimistic

Second place for Fernando Alonso in Melbourne

Second place for Fernando Alonso in Melbourne

Fernando Alonso has been upbeat about the Ferrari F138 car since he drove it for the first time under a month ago, and his trust in it was vindicated as he finished second in the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – again the reds showing far superior race pace than what they were capable of delivering in qualifying. The Spaniard spoke during the post race press conference about his afternoon at Albert Park.

How are you feeling about second place?
Fernando Alonso: Fantastic. Obviously it was fantastic race, with fighting all through the race. Big thanks to the fans all weekend. We felt sad yesterday when we postponed the qualifying until today, because they were in the grandstands with the rain, the windy conditions and at the end we didn’t run. So today we had to put on a good show for everybody and I think we did it, because the race was action every lap. I personally enjoyed it. Obviously at the end it was a little bit sad not to be able to win the race, but Kimi was fantastic today, the Lotus car as well. We need to congratulate them for a fantastic race.

You made some pretty bold moves when you came out of the pits after your stops. You really had to push, with Adrian Sutil and generally you had to push hard for that…
Fernando: Yeah, it was not an easy race. At the beginning traffic with Sebastian and Felipe and then traffic with Sutil, some tricky moments. But at the end, as I said, extremely happy. We had a very difficult start to the season two years ago and last year as well and this year is very different. We feel much more optimistic. The car is responding well, we are competitive so we have a very interesting season ahead of us.

But isn’t it very worrying that they could do two stops? I’m assuming you couldn’t do a two-stop race.
Fernando: It is a worry, yes. Obviously Lotus did a very good job. Kimi was driving fantastically all through the race and he managed two stops, so we need to analyse what we can do for the next race. We have only four days to work on the car to prepare for the next race and I think he will again be a tough opponent.

You had to stop one more time, was there ever a chance that the Ferrari could run longer? Was it the way that the car wore out the tyres that cost you victory today?
Fernando: I think it’s difficult to know if we could do two stops today. You need to commit, more or less, to one strategy before the start of the race because you race differently. Obviously we were attacking, we tried to pass Sebastian in the first part of the race, Felipe and me. We could not do it in the stint. In the second stint we were again also behind Sutil at that stage of the race. I think we felt all these things against… maybe you can go a little bit longer in the stints but we have to stop, try to overtake these people that we felt they were slower than us in the race and if you commit to that, obviously there is not a way to find a two-stop so, I don’t know, the race without traffic… could be.

Your team-mate Felipe Massa got the better start, how surprised were you to see him get off the line so quickly and how much of an effect did that have on the early part of your race?
Fernando: No, well, I had a much better start than Felipe and a much better start than Hamilton especially but they close each other in the middle and I have to lift off. If not, with a longer straight I think I could arrive second easily in the first corner but it was a little bit problem there and then Nico also was very aggressive on the first corner, so it was not easy start and obviously in the first race no-one wants to take an extra risk. But yeah, that was not a help in the first part of the race and then some traffic all through the race. First with Sebastian and Felipe and then with Sutil, Hamilton, Rosberg, Sutil again and two people, I think one Caterham and one Williams that, obviously it is a first race for them but it seems they were not very concentrated today.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you today, Red Bull, Ferrari or Lotus?
Fernando: I think none of them, to be honest. At Ferrari, we had a good winter and the car is more or less as we expected. Arriving here and fighting for the podium was the aim of the team and the goal of this winter, to reduce the gap and to arrive at the start of the season with a competitive package. I think the goal was achieved. In the winter the car felt good and the understanding of the car was good so being on the podium here is some kind of job done, let’s say. Lotus, we saw in winter they were very quick and we saw this weekend they were very quick and very consistent, so they had a fantastic weekend, they deserved victory, and then Red Bull is the quickest car at the moment, first and second in qualifying, first and second in practice, nearly, and then in the race they saw a little bit of degradation but that doesn’t mean that they are not the fastest.

What did you learn about the car today in the race that you didn’t know after testing?
Fernando: You always learn some things for sure but I will talk with the engineers now in the debrief about the competition. When you run close to other cars in the first race, you always discover some weak points of the car and some strong points and today was a lot of fights, a lot of traffic, a lot of action, let’s say, in the race and it was pretty clear for us some of the strong points of the car and some of the weak points that obviously we will keep between us.

We saw this weekend two completely disciplines: in practice Red Bull was dominating with a big pace difference, then all of a sudden, in the race, we have to say that the Lotus and the Ferrari were faster, whether in traffic or on an open track. How do you explain that?
Fernando: I don’t have an explanation to be honest. It’s not new. We saw in the last three years that Red Bull are untouchable in qualifying and in the race everything is much closer. And we saw McLaren sometimes winning the race and sometimes us. Lotus, I remember last year, in Hungary I think, in Bahrain, they finished on the podium and in qualifying they were not as quick as the Red Bulls so we need to find some extra pace in qualifying because if not, they will always start on the front row.

The same three guys were on the podium in Abu Dhabi in the same order. From your point of view were there any similarities in your fight against Kimi in this race compared to Abu Dhabi.
Fernando: I don’t remember too well but I don’t think so. It was a very different race. I think we were closer to victory in Abu Dhabi or closer than what we were here today. We didn’t have the pace to fight with Kimi today. He was too fast for us and he did a fantastic job. I think in Abu Dhabi it was different with the safety car. I think with 15 or 20 laps to the end of the race we really had the opportunity there to fight for victory and today they were too fast.

Could you please describe the decision process about the second stop because it was the main point of your race and Felipe is not so happy with that. It was two or three laps later.
Fernando: There is always the flexibility to anticipate the stop, delay the stop. There are some kind of laps that you programme before the race to do the stops as you predict more or less with the simulations etc. But there is always a margin of three or four laps shorter or longerdepending on how the race goes. How the race goes is the tyre degradation that you are facing through that particular race or the traffic you are facing through that race. In my casewe felt we were a lot faster than the cars in front. We stopped in lap 20 or 21. We felt we had more pace for 18 or 19 laps so it was the right time to start. It was too early then maybe that compromised the full potential of the three stops. For that we could not maybe fight with Kimi because it was too early also for three stops, I think lap 21. It was enough to jump three place though, Sebastian, Felipe and Sutil. So it was a very good decision at the time but what we didn’t know at the time was the pace of the Lotus. So they did a better job than us and maybe we did a better job than the others in the front.