Spanish Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso says he would happily forego another race victory this season so long as he took the title, but the Ferrari driver really has every chance of success on both fronts.
Sunday’s triumph at the Circuit de Catalunya is unlikely to be his last and the Spaniard is increasingly a favourite to add that elusive third title to his name by the end of the championship.
Asked whether he felt he now had his best shot of the title in four years with Ferrari, the 31-year-old – winner of two of the five races so far – nodded: “Probably yes, in terms of performance of the car.”
“We should have won the championship, I believe, in 2010,” he added, scratching the sore of a year when he arrived at the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi with a healthy lead over Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel only to lose everything through a botched strategy.
“Last year maybe we didn’t deserve it because we were one second off the pace but even with that we managed to fight until Brazil,” added the Spaniard of a season that saw him lose to Vettel by three points. “This year, we have in our hands a package that maybe is not the fastest, still not the fastest, but we are working on that. But definitely on Sundays it’s a very competitive team package, let’s say.”
Alonso qualified only fifth for his home race but roared past the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen on the first lap before taking the lead on lap 13 and winning on a four-stop strategy.
The winner of two titles with Renault is now third overall, 17 points behind leader Vettel – who finished fourth on Sunday after struggling with tyre wear – with 14 races to come. Raikkonen is 13 points ahead of Alonso.
“We are not the quickest over one lap, maybe we don’t set the fastest time in the race but we have fantastic strategy people, fantastic pitstops… we have many ingredients to have a competitive car to fight for the championship,” Alonso said. “In the four years in Ferrari, maybe it’s true that this is the one we feel more confident with, but we are not happy still with the performance of the car and we want to have a good and aggressive developing programme for the next race.”
Improving qualifying, without upsetting the race pace, will be the immediate priority for a team whose last driver’s title was with Raikkonen in 2007 and who last enjoyed constructors’ success a year later.
The next race is Monaco on May 26, where overtaking is extremely difficult and getting stuck in traffic is a routine hazard for those not starting at the fast end of the grid.
Mercedes have been on pole for the past three races, although their cars then eat the tyres for Sunday lunch and fade out of contention, and Alonso expected them to be quickest again in qualifying at Monaco.
“They will arrive as favourites for Monaco,” he warned. “It would be a surprise if they weren’t on pole position in Monaco. And it’s more difficult to overtake in Monaco, so maybe they can keep good positions for longer. It’s something we need to understand and we need to do a better job on Saturday, Felipe (Massa) and I, and Monaco is one of those places where we must do it.” (Reuters)