Teams are cheek by jowl with each other, journalists have to climb over tables and squeeze into corners to hear what’s being said at briefings and today we have seen a very calm Fernando Alonso and a Mark Webber who has chosen to cast himself as an underdog again.
Alonso spoke about his team mate Felipe Massa and how he’d like him to win the last two races. This is his way of saying that he’d like Massa to be really fast and get in the game. If Massa wins here, it takes away points from the Red Bull drivers and makes their task very hard.
Despite his cool facade, Alonso has some concerns, not least his engine. There have been suggestions that he may be able to use an engine that was replaced during the Bahrain weekend and according to the rules can only be reused at the final round. If useable this would be a very low mileage engine. But it’s a risk.
The team would not have been able to do any remedial work on the area they were concerned about. They will have been able to test it on the dynomometer in Maranello and they may well have run it in Friday practice somewhere and evaluated it carefully. One of the problems with the engine use plans is that you never know which engine is being used on Fridays. It’s quite possible that this Bahrain engine will be in the car tomorrow.
Alonso won Korea with an engine which had done Spa and Suzuka already, so they know they can still be competitive on the third race. Which is the lesser of the two risks?
Webber meanwhile had a rather strange press briefing this afternoon in which he allowed himself to be drawn by the media into talking about how the team has treated him,
“I wasn’t supposed to be in the hunt and it’s been inconvenient. I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” he said at one point. At another, speaking about support from the team he said, “Technically everything has been very good, but emotionally….” he left that hanging and no-one was in any doubt about what he meant.
Webber had a poor race in Korea and looking back at how he turned the wing swap incident in Silverstone round to a powerful motivating force I think he’s trying to do the same again. He’s psyching himself up for a critical weekend. Let’s see if it works.
He also said that he was surprised by the comments made by Gerhard Berger on Servus TV, a Red Bull owned TV channel, broadcasting out of Red Bull’s Hanger 7 in Salzburg. Berger accused Webber of trying to wipe Alonso when he came back across the track in Korea after hitting a wall. Instead he clouted Rosberg.
Webber said he would have “no problem” if Alonso were to win the championship by the seven points he gained from team orders in Germany, saying that it only happened because Massa wasn’t fast enough. “If he’d been ten seconds up the road it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Both drivers feel that they have a good car here. The Ferrari will be more of a match for the Red Bull here than Suzuka because of the absence of fast corners.
The great unknowns are Massa – will he be motivated to win in front of his home crowd and do a job for his team? And also the McLarens. They have some new parts on the car this weekend and Friday will be crucial to see whether they will get involved in the podium battle.
The atmosphere here is great and we are in for a very intense weekend, I sense. Try not to miss a moment of it, if you can.