How is Alonso leading the championship with that car and what happens next?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 May 2012   |  11:05 am GMT  |  321 comments

Fernando Alonso sits on top of the drivers’ standings this morning after his third place finish in the Monaco Grand Prix.

But it is more than surprising that Alonso is in this position, given how poor the Ferrari car was in pre-season testing and the early season races. So how has it happened? Consistency has certainly been the key for Alonso who, along with Hamilton is the only driver to have scored points in every race so far. But there’s more to it than that. The tyres play their part in this story, inevitably, the misfortunes of others have their part to play too.

Alonso’s lowest scoring race was China, where he finished only 9th, but he’s been on the podium three times, one of them a win in Malaysia and where no better result has been possible, he’s managed to pick up a fifth and a seventh place.

In contrast his rivals have been more erratic: Webber and Vettel have both had a non points finish, Button has had three non finishes. Hamilton has scored in every race, with three third places early on, but then pit stop and operational issues hit him in the last three races as well as a lack of pace on race day.

Key factors in their favour are that Ferrari has consistently the best starts and the best pit stops of any team at the moment. Alonso has made up many places at the start: 13 places in the first five races and another one on Sunday in Monaco, Massa has made up 23 in total. They’ve had to do this because the Ferrari hasn’t qualified very well; going into the Monaco GP on Sunday Alonso was averaging only 8th on the supergrid, which aggregates all the drivers’ qualifying times – behind the Red Bulls, McLarens, Mercedes and Grosjean.

This is the key area where Ferrari need to improve in the second half of the season, as the leading teams will get on top of the tyre issues and we’ll start to see a more consistent picture in races. To consolidate his position Ferrari need to give Alonso a car that will qualify more strongly.

“If you are fighting for pole position, and even on pole position, then the race is totally different,” said team boss Stefano Domenicali after the race. “This is something we need to keep focusing on to make sure things are going in the right direction. In terms of the pure performance of the car, we had a very difficult start. We have a situation where we are not happy and where we want to improve the car because we have seen other cars at the moment have pole positions, and we do not. So that has to be a target for the team.”

Alonso revealed how he has been approaching each weekend, “We wanted to be ahead of Hamilton and Vettel this weekend and we did it,” he said post race. “In this championship, at every race you have to concentrate on different drivers and next time we’ll need to keep ahead of Webber. We’re on top of the table; if you’d said that to me after Melbourne, I’d never have believed it. We have to keep improving the car because we are not yet the fastest. The next two weeks will be very important.”

Ferrari has clearly improved the car a lot in traction out of low speed corners, which helped in Barcelona and Monaco and will help out of the chicanes and hairpins of Montreal. However another key weak point is straight line speed and this is not straight forward to fix.

Ferrari has a major update coming for Montreal, and their history in recent years shows that they’ve often taken a significant upturn around June. The 2010 campaign, for example, started slowly but from Canada onwards Alonso won races and was in the championship hunt.

This time round he’s already ahead on points and, if Ferrari repeat their progress of 2010, he must be considered the favourite for the title.

While the other top teams are putting on updates to find more speed and then having to take them off again because the priority is to set the car up first to extract the best from the tyres, Ferrari seems to have a good way with the tyres, particularly at the end of the stints; Alonso again made up a place, on Hamilton, in Monaco thanks to pace at the end of the stint.

It was noticeable also that of the front runners, who were struggling to get the new soft tyres warmed up after the pit stop on Sunday, Alonso’s tyres were working several laps earlier than Webber and Rosberg. He acknowledged this after the race.

Expert observers at the weekend noted that Alonso had the right technique for driving the Pirelli supersofts, which can get easily damaged by spinning the wheels on corner exit. Alonso seemed to have appreciated that and was getting the cars straight before hitting the throttle, thus looking after them better.

Hindsight shows that he could have jumped Webber and Rosberg at the pit stop by staying out a couple of laps longer on his supersofts. And then with his superior tyre warm up, he would have driven away from them in the lead in the second part of the race for what would have been a dominant win.

But as he said afterwards, no-one would have predicted those tyre warm up issues, so Ferrari cannot consider it a mistake or a win that got away.

For all the latest F1 news post race and for updates posted by the teams and drivers click HERE

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1

Do you have any video of that? I’d want to find out some additional information.

2

Hi James,

I agree with you on Alonso and his consistency but other drivers have been consistent.

Up until Monaco Webber was consistent. Consistently losing at least two places every start! Webber could win the championship if he only started well.

Hamilton has been very consistent this season scoring points in all races, unfortunately Maclaren have been consistently shocking with pit stops and strategy.

Hamilton would be leading the championship if used Ferrari for his pit crew.

3

A fair amount of people have been saying ifs and buts, so I’m gonna add in mine.

If only Ferrari were as good in 2010 as they’ve done so far in 2012, Alonso would be on his way to grabbing his 4th WDC mug this year!

4

Alonso is a great driver. I have to give credit where credit is due. He is not only a very fast driver, but he is very intelligent and patient. He knows what his plan is in each race. He is a realist. He has the ability to sit back and let his plan unfold rather than constantly being tempted to “race” at every moment. He is truely a great. I expect him to win this season. On the other hand, the Ferrari isn’t such a sh**-box as it has been played out in the media. The car just needed to be sorted. It is fast and will get a lot better.

5

“He is a realist. He has the ability to sit back and let his plan unfold rather than constantly being tempted to “race” at every moment. “

Sounds like the old Hamilton we once knew lol. Hammy getting better these days though esp. this season.

6

I agree. Hamilton has so far put in a pretty good run. He is much better sorted mentally than he was last year. He will certainly shine because of it. If the team can sort its issues out, Hamilton will certainly be in the mix.

7
hero_was_senna

God, don’t we all know about his personal life last year!!

Alonso has carried on where he left off last year, and yet it was only during December, the press found out he had been going through a marriage seperation and heading to divorce.

Is this the OK and Hello magazine effect taking place? What do we really care about these peoples personal lives? I watch them because they race in F1, not because of who they date.

8

ferrari’s biggest weakness in quali is masked by the tyres this seasion plus drs/kers.

except at places like monaco – pole position is not as important as it once was.

winners can now literally come from anywhere on the grid.

as for race pace and pitstops – ferrari are doing well.

the biggest disadvantage in poor quali is getting caught up in someone elses accident.

9

Alonso fully deserves to be on top of the standings. He has extracted every bit of performance from the ferrari in every race so far and the ferrari pit crew have been incredible. Shows how consistency and mistake free weekends as a team can make up for the lower performance from the car at the moment. they will only get quicker from here and thats an ominous warning for red bull, mclaren and mercedes.. Alonso is a firm favourite already for this year’s title!

10

The car really isn’t as bad as many think. MUCH better tire wear than the McLaren, and possibly more downforce than the Red Bull.

11

And people forget that it was considered tricky to set up, hence the Low performance pre season. I think the performance gap between Alonso and Massa is a bit of a butterfly effect. Just like we had with Kimi and Grosjean in Monaco. If one switches the tires on and the other doesn’t the difference is half a second per lap.

12

THey’ve made changes to it that have worked. Not all teams can say that.

13
hero_was_senna

Has the Bridgestone man helped in this James, ie with tyre usage etc?

14

Maybe, although remember the Ferrari has always gone well on soft/supersoft combination

15

I understand that Mclaren always say they can develop a car well and in 2010 they did, but time and time again Ferrari keep getting it right it seems its not all too bad at the Scuderia.

16

I’ve just taken a look at the article pic actually, and URGH??!?! Is that Alonso plucking his own beard?!

17

Excellent analisys!

18

If one thing has the boy is determination. I first met him when he was around 13 y/o. It was before a Spanish Federation annual prizegivings and I was telling the karting youngsters how to act during the ceremony. One children did not pay attention and I told him that if he did not listen, he would not know how to do. He looked at me and very serious told me that he had been attending this prizegiving every year. Ouch! what a boy!

19
hero_was_senna

All due respect but Brilliant!

20

Was this Fernando? oO

21

Yes! It was a very young Alonso, I think he was three times Spanish karting champion as well as karting world champion.

22

“He’s a crafty beggar that Fernando. For 16 laps he sold Lewis Hamilton the dummy that he was sliding away from the lead, dropping to 4.2 seconds behind the Brit on Lap 16, one of the biggest defecits at that stage of the race. He was simply running in clear air and keeping his tyres ready for the big sprint. We should have known something was up because Felipe Massa was so close. Then on Lap 17 the plan began to be revealed when he suddenly set the fastest middle sector of anyone. Previously he’d lost 0.5 and 0.6 to Lewis in that sector (all without backmarkers) so the car wasn’t lacking. Then he closed the gap to 3.6, 2.9 with a quick burst of fastest laps. On Lap 28 he was just 0.1 behind after which Lewis pitted. Luckily for Fernando there were no Marussias around to spoil this plan. A great tactical move from Ferrari.”

23

Alonso won a lot from his team’s pitstops and strategy but Hamilton lost from his team’s pitstops and strategy so far and I think this is why they have a difference in the standings.

24
hero_was_senna

Like someone said, Lewis speaks of “I” and “team” as though they aren’t up to his requirements.

No doubt Freud would have made much out of that remark, but I’m no expert.

When you hear Alonso speak, it’s always “we”.

An old saying but fundamentally true, “There is no I in team.”

25

I think “that car” has been way over blown as being so poor. Massa doing so horrible this year just added to the quesitoning of the car though. The reality is that 6 different drivers have won this year in 6 races and it seems any of about 6 teams can win on any given weekend.

26

Put some rain on Hungary and we’d probably see HRT on the podium owning Caterham and MotherRussia in the process lol

27

Simple.. Mclaren have being truely shocking this year, They never seem to pit Lewis at the right times and the actual pit stops have been a joke.

Mclaren have had the car but because of poor strategy haven’t capitalised on their advantage.

Ferrari have just plodded along and Alonso has been consistant.

28

That’s funny coz previous years McLaren weren’t so bad as far as I can recall.

Maybe Sam Michael tweaked things a bit and made things even worse?

29
hero_was_senna

I love it, all they need now is to hire Nick Wirth to design the next Mclaren on only CFD computers.

30

Difference in previous years was erratic during from Lewis, this year he has been consistant but Mclaren have really struggled to come to terms with this years tyres.

31

I think the main problem in Macca is not the pitcrew, it the bad lack of race pace compared to the qualy pace. If the car were more consistent on race trim the pitstops could not have an important impact. On the other hand, if Ferrari improves 2-3 places in qualy, they would certainly fight for top finishes in most of the races

32

Thing is, this year Lewis has been consistant, but Mclaren haven’t.

A lot of pit stops for Lewis have been slow or had problems and Mclaren just don’t seem to know when to pit Lewis, their strategy is shocking.

At Monaco it was obvious Alonso was saving his tyres (which was only possible because he had the safety of Massa behind him, who isn’t aloud to overtake him), so knowing how difficult overtaking is, they should have pitted him as soon as his tyres started to drop, even if that compromised his pace towards the end, track position is everything at Monaco and if Lewis’s tyres would have ‘hit the cliff’ towards the end he would have been ahead of Vettel and Alonso and Would have most likely been able to hold his position.

But instead they left him out a lap or two too long which ultimately cost him a Podium.

Mclaren need to buck up there ideas, Because This years Lewis in another team (within reason) would be leading the championship ala Alonso

For me Alonso and Hamilton are cut above the rest.

33

James, quick question its been published that Vettel has a rumoured pre contractual agreement with Ferrari for 2014, and that Webber could fill the gap for a year, with Schumachers contract up this year would it be out of the question for Michael to fill the gap instead? Thanks.

34
hero_was_senna

I can’t see it, either Michael was forced out or “retired” when at Ferrari.

I would imagine he was instrumental in Massa’s performance in 2007 and 2008 whilst he was advising the team. I have no hesitation believing that he would have got huge pleasure at Kimi being out-paced.

Would he realistically join his old team and be up against someone of Alonso’s ability? I’m not sure.

I was reading a newspaper over the weekend and they were speaking of MSC’s pole position etc.

What made me laugh was the fact that the sentences started with “Ferrari Legend” not Mercedes driver.

Is Mercedes really getting all they want out of this relationship?

35

Thanks James seems to make sense to me.

Hero_was_senna, I find the statement that Ferrari forced out Schumacher a little absurd, a man who revolutionised the team, made them the most successful team of all time, and retired on top of his game. Look back at replays of Monza 2006 when his retirement was announced, the emotion from the team, tifosi, and Michael himself was there for all to see. Not to mention his near comeback after Massa’s accident 2009. If he had wanted to he could have still been no1 at Ferrari now.

Fair point on the newpaper article though, it doesnt matter what Schumacher does from now on he will always be remembered as the guy that dominated in a red car.

36

“I would imagine he was instrumental in Massa’s performance in 2007 and 2008 whilst he was advising the team. I have no hesitation believing that he would have got huge pleasure at Kimi being out-paced.”

Ah, I found someone who believes this as well!!!

37

That would blow a hole below the waterline for Red Bull if it happened wouldn’t it?

Lot of anti-Red Bull stuff around at the moment…

Get the picture?

39

Alonso was masterful in the race. I noticed in the early laps he dropped back from Hamilton to save his tyres, so much so it looked like Massa was faster. Approaching the pit stops Alonso turned it on, left Massa behind, pulled up behind Hamilton and nailed him in the pitstops.

40

Mclaren have lost the plot with strategy this year.

41
val from montreal

Schumacher without all his DNF’s in 2012 would now be sitting in the top 2 of the standings , or maybe he would be leading the WDC , who knows …. Watch Schumacher pull a ”2003” starting in Canada ( montreal !! ) … As soon as he gets that 1st win , the psychology will change thats for sure …. Schumacher is going to be fighting for the 2012 title ’till the wire …. never count him out … watch him

42
hero_was_senna

val, Schumacher would be grateful fighting for a win after these last 2 and 1/2 seasons.

His first career, whatever the reasons was hugely successful, and trust me, as a Ferrari fan, I was grateful to every victory the red cars achieved because of him and the design team there.

This time round, for whatever reason, he has struggled, be it lack of testing, car design, because Byrne doesn’t work for Brawn, (he still consults at Ferrari), be it tyres that aren’t tailor-made for MSC or be it a team-mate that isn’t forced into submission.

Whatever the reason, 2010 and 2011 haven’t witnessed him stand on the podium.

Respect to the old boy, but there is no-one on that grid who is in awe of him any longer.

43

Yer I sure watched him running to the back of Senna, and running Barrichello into a wall as well.. watched those all along.

Too many ifs and butts. IF he was allowed to be challenged back in Ferrari days maybe Barrichello could’ve put up quite a nice in-team fight and changed history as we know now.

44

Would have put up a fight? You mean the same Barrichello that also lost to the “overrated” Button?

45
Tornillo Amarillo

For me the only highlight in Monaco is RED BULL:

they are the only team in winning 2 races so far and they are slowly slipping away in the WCC. They are not the fastest car, but they are doing a really good job.

46

The thing about Alonso that most impressed me is his leadership skill. the first year he was at Ferrari, the team screwed up his chances of becoming a three time WDC. Another person would have blamed the team endlessly and lost motivation. I didn’t hear much of negative comments from him. Instead I saw the Ferrari crew nearly in tears after that race. This event was followed by the signing of the multi year deal in 2011 when the car was clearly uncompetitive. These events have moved the entire team behind him and there is a feeling that they want him to win the title. This nature was also responsible for his debacle in McLaren. Bring together two drivers who are supremely confident and think that they deserve the best treatment, things start to unravel. Its good to see that the two are making positive comments about each other recently. It will be even better if the fans start showing some respect for both drivers. However, I do feel that Alonso’s recent efforts to reach out to fans is a bit affected and people are going to get more cynical.

47

Alonso is brilliant and very concentrate.

48

Well Alonso is a great driver who positions himself well, and I would not be at all surprised if he won his third drivers championship this year. However great drivers need some help particularly when the car is not at it’s best. I think the Ferrari has always been a good starting car which has enabled Alonso to gain places at the start which is key. This year the car seems to look after it’s tyres better than last, and has had better race pace than qualifying. All these things combined coupled with Alonso’s tenacity and driving skill has given him a reasonably consistent point score, more consistent than anybody else. In the meantime Ferrari have improved their car to the point where it is reasonably quick if not quite the fastest car on the grid. This being the case I expect Alonso’s charge to continue with more wins as the car gets better. Of course McLaren, Red Bull, and Lotus will do their best to prevent it.

49
olderguysrule

Hey James, does Alonzo have a nickname. Many sport figures get good nicknames across the pond. (I’m from America) The maestro? That he is but it’s taken. The professor? Again it would fit Alonzo, but it’s also taken.

Finally, thanks for the article and all the great responses.

50

In Spain we call him “El Nano”, a nickname for anyone named Fernando that’s common in his home region. “Magic Alonso” too, partly as a play on Magic Johnson but also because he’s into magic tricks, especially card tricks.

51

Alonso, not Alonzo. 😉

52
olderguysrule

you are absolutely correct. We’re on holiday over here. My thinking cap was not on when I wrote that. :>)

53

Webber calls him “The Fonz”

54

lol I’d call him the Brute. Damn brutal the way he strangles the car’s neck and throw it across the line like he did for the first 4 or 5 races.

55

Be careful! In Spanish bruto means stupid / coarse and in Italian also unclean. 🙁

56
hero_was_senna

How cool…. sorry couldn’t help it.

I wonder if anyone calls him Arthur??

As an aside, did you get to chat to Ron Howard at all over the weekend? I loved that small snippet of the new film Rush.

57

Why should anyone be surprised that Alonso is leading? First of all, Ferrari has probably the best car on the grid right now. We know pre-season they had a poor car but the fact is, they have a race winning car.

The media is painting a totally incorrect picture about the Ferrari drivers. The fact is, Massa is under-performing. But what certain people are trying to say is, Alonso is over-performing. Alonso is doing a good job while Massa is strugling with the Pirellis. Massa was faster in Monaco but come Montreal, he won’t make it to Q3.

In hindsight we can say Alonso could have won if he had gone a couple of laps further in the first stint. But then we can also say, if it wasn’t for the Kimi train, Vettel could have won!

58

If you take a look at the grid on Sunday u would of seen that a Mercedes, red bull, lotus and McLaren was in front of the ferraris. How u can say that ferrari has the fastest car right now in insane. It’s was the 5th fastest car on Saturday. Fact.

59
hero_was_senna

It’s been the 5th fastest car on Saturday all year. It’s just that the deficit is closing down.

60
TheGreatTeflonso

It either takes a genius or an idiot to say the Ferrari is the fastest car….and I think I know which you are. For your inept comparison on how Vettel could have won…is Alonso had stayed out a couple laps he may have won. Vettel had to overtake a very slow Kimi, which he simple couldn’t do… While his teammate was winning the race. If it wasn’t for the rolling barrier Grosjean, Vettel would have been further behind. Vettel’s performance this weekend pales in comparison to Alonso, webber and rosberg.

61

“If it wasn’t for the rolling barrier Grosjean, Vettel would have been further behind.”

+1

He’s lucky not to be penalised for that.

62

Grosjean a rolling barrier? Please have a look at the accident again. Who bullied and pushed Grosjean on to Schumi’s Merc? Also Vettel didn’t have trouble overtaking Kimi because he cut the chicane and got ahead of Kimi during that first corner incident.

63

Sure, the best car on the grid. As stated above let’s take a look to Alonso’s qualifying positions on “the grid” so far:

1. Australian GP – 12th

2. Malaysian GP – 9th

3. Chinese GP – 9th

4. Bahrain GP – 9th

5. Spanish GP – 3rd

6. Monaco GP – 6th

If this is the best car then Mclaren, Lotus Red Bull and Mercedes are not cars, they are rockets.

64

While I don’t believe that Ferrari is actually the fastest car on the grid, I second Rob’s view that it is up there with the best. Quali positions are hardly indicative, because it’s all about the tyres now, and Ferrari is good on it’s tyres. Look at the LH:

1. Australian GP – 1st

2. Malaysian GP – 1st

3. Chinese GP – 2nd

4. Bahrain GP – 2nd

5. Spanish GP – disqualified

6. Monaco GP – 4th

That’s still the best stats this season, so by that logic McLaren is the fastest car. So why was Lewis moving backwards in every race that he started from his quali position? Is LH an also-ran driver, or maybe it has something to do with McLarens not being kindest on its tyres, so their quali and race performance do not always match? If you look at the Ferraris right now, none of their bad behavior from Melbourne is visible: the car is stable on the braking (just look back how they were into the first corner in Melbourne), doesn’t lose ground to anyone out of the slow corners. Straight line speed maybe not Lotus-level, but they are definitely not sitting ducks like Red Bulls. So, Ferrari is a competitive car and has been for quite a while this season. Alonso, of course, would revel in telling everyone how the car is a dog, as well as praising Massa as the greatest driver he’s ever seen, but the facts are the car is solid and Massa was mostly rubbish until Monaco.

Another reason Alonso is leading now by 3 points is that Ferrari is the only team on the grid that completely focuses on one driver. If Red Bull or McLaren used one of their driver to test the strategy for the other, or told one of the driver to move for the other, or had one of their drivers to guard another’s back – the standings in the championship could be quite different. Giving credit where credit is due, Alonso performs very consistently this year, but he enjoys an absolutely unique position where the whole team is focused exclusively on his, so that is sort of expected.

65

In case you didn’t know Alonso is not a qualifying expert; not good at exerting the best over one lap.

66

In case you didn’t realise, Alonso is still punching above the car’s weight bringing home the bacon whether or not he is good at quali or not.

So say IF he is not so good over one lap as you say, tell me someone better to do a better job.

Say again he is not good at quali, that makes him look even better coz be’s bagging the points and leading the WDC when the car shouldn’t finish where it does.

Fine you may argue Malaysia was lucky, but he was right there to be lucky. Feel free to think he didn’t deserve the win and take it away to make it 0 points. He’d still be level with Raikkonen on standings and within a win’s reach off the WDC leaders of Webber and Vettel.

I don’t think I need to add anymore to justify Alonso’s abilities.

67

James, would you say the parts Farrari brought to Monaco have improved the traction and downforce to make it more nimble round this circuit, hence the “resurgence” of Massa also?

Have they managed to optimise for Monaco better than Lotus, for example, and so overtake Lotus, whereas Merc have done better still [should have won]?

I’m not daring to mention RBR whose success here is likely due to an illegal car!

68

Clearly. If Massa is going well the car must be improving

69
Bring Back Murray

Any idea why Massa fell back in Q3 James? Did he make a mistake, or just didn’t get the tyres warmed up properly?

70

I think the Ferrari was only a total dog of a car in the first 3 races, and one of those was totally neutralised by the rain, which Alonso won. Since then they’ve been about as consistent as the other leading teams – strong performance in one race followed by middling-to-nowhere the next. If any driver can string together a series of wins/podiums over the next few races I think they will be in a strong position to win the title.

Before this weekend I thought Hamilton was the favourite but they still can’t seem to unlock the potential of that McLaren, I fear their time to make hay has come and gone. Now I think it will be between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, with Alonso the marginal favourite.

Also, I think Alonso’s performance is being flattered significantly by Massa, who has rarely looked the same driver since his accident. He looked a step behind in the first half of 2010, and since he was forced to yield to Alonso he’s just dropped off the face of the earth. He always has been a confidence and momentum driver, without them he’s very average.