I’ve been thinking about the Monaco race and it occurred to me that something really remarkable happened on Sunday, which no-one has commented upon.
Alonso’s fightback from the pit lane to finish sixth was achieved in a car which was a box of bits on Sunday morning. Built in a hurry, without any shakedown or warm-up, it was sent out into the race and performed perfectly for two hours, getting a single set of tyres to last 77 laps.
If you think about it, this is quite incredible. We take it for granted these days that the cars perform and are reliable. Compared to F1 10 or 20 years ago the cars are amazingly consistent, despite the enormous complexity of the electronics and hydraulics, packaged into a tight space, subjected to heat and violent forces.
This year we have seen some signs that teams are finding niggling problems, because they are right on the edge with their development and there is no testing allowed.
We’ve seen McLaren have problems with Hamilton’s wheel rim and Button’s dashboard in Spain. Red Bull have had several problems with brake discs, spark plugs and what not. Williams had a nightmare in Monaco with failures on both cars which led to big accidents. Ferrari have had a couple of engine issues. And Sauber seem to have gone back to the 1980s on quality control of components.
And yet on Sunday the Ferrari mechanics built up a new car from the spare monocoque they carry in the transporter, set it up based on what they had learned on Alonso’s original car in practice and sent Alonso out for a lap to make sure it worked before he started the race from the pit lane.
It performed like a Swiss watch. Particularly impressive is the way it looked after the hard tyres for basically an entire race after he made the early pit stop on lap 2.
“The car was fantastic, “ said Alonso. “In the morning there wasn’t a single cable attached. It’s not common in a race as tough as that that everything works without problems.”
Alonso blew his chance of a win in Monaco with the crash on Saturday. Who knows where he might have finished if he had done qualifying as normal. Certainly he had a chance to challenge for the pole and the win.
“I admit I got a bit frustrated, driving such a fast car and having no room to overtake, “ he said. “The only place it was possible was the chicane in the port. I made five passes there, the rest was all strategy.
“It went better than I thought it would. I lost a lap behind Di Grassi, who perhaps thought he was fighting for the world championship.
“This result gives confidence to the team. It was tough not doing qualifying, but in this difficult moment the team was together. We showed that this team has talent, in rebuilding the car, in the choice of tactics and in the management of the car.”
It’s hard to disagree. Ferrari got it just right with the tactics on Alonso’s car. They were lucky to have the early safety car, which allowed Alonso to get straight onto the back of the pack after his stop and lucky also that none of the drivers in front chose the same tactic of the early stop for tyres, which was probably due to the slower cars not being well balanced enough to look after the tyres for a whole race.
If you throw in Ferrari’s adaptability and quick thinking in China, switching the tyre sets over in seconds when Alonso unexpectedly came in ahead of Massa, having passed him in the pit lane, it seems that the team is in quite a good groove at the moment, with engine woes hopefully behind it.
They need to be because the opposition is strong. Alonso is only three points behind Webber and Vettel in the drivers’ championship. The Red Bull is a faster car, but Ferrari is working well as a team and hats off to the mechanics, the unsung heroes of F1, for an incredible feat on Sunday.
Ferrari today announced that Alonso’s chassis from Saturday was written off. It also said that i Turkey it would debut new software for the operation of the drag reducing rear wing, which is interesting as the device is supposed to be driver activated. Is this Ferrari being provocative?
“The F10’s development programme continues apace,” says the item on Ferrari.com “Turkey should see the debut of an evolution of the software controlling the blown rear wing and other important advances will be introduced by the end of June.”
I got onto them today and it is a case of bad translation. In Italian the wording is “sistema di gestione”, which really means “system for managing” or management system, to give it its posh title.
Ferrari admitted on Sunday night that the rear wing had cost them downforce in Spain. Fixing that is priority number one for Turkey.