Catching Mercedes still possible – Alonso

Fernando Alonso insists he is not ruling out Ferrari catching up to Mercedes by the end of the season but admits it will be one of the biggest challenges of his career so far.

Alonso’s podium in China came on a circuit more suited to Ferrari than Bahrain, but was a welcome result following the resignation of Stefano Domenicali on Monday 14. Despite the fact Mercedes’ current advantage over the rest of the field remains substantial Alonso is determined to keep scoring good points while Ferrari works on its development.

“Well, of course it is a priority, we need to close, we need to catch them as soon as possible before the championship is over,” Alonso said. “We need to keep scoring points, as many as we can now that we are not super-competitive, try not to lose too much ground on points in the championship, and if in one race we become as competitive as them, try to catch up in terms of points.

“At the moment, it seems very far away because they have a big advantage and we need to work really hard if we want to have that possibility. There is nothing really special we can do, just don’t give up; we’re in the fourth race in the championship, there’s still a long way go but being super-realistic, knowing that the gap is very, very big it’s going to be very tough.”

The next race will be Alonso’s home grand prix in Spain, and with three weeks for Ferrari to work on upgrades for the car he wants to see the team build on its positive result in Shanghai.

“We need to see, we need to remain very calm,” he said when asked what the next three weeks would hold for Ferrari. “We were ninth and tenth 15 days ago and that was hard, even a bit of a pain. So we need to remain calm. We are happy, we need to enjoy the result today but still a long way to go and we cannot promise anything for Barcelona.

“We will give 100% again and we will fight – but in terms of result we need to remain very calm and see how development is these three weeks if we can bring some extra new parts for Barcelona.”

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Chinese Grand Prix : Fernando Alonso dedicates podium to former boss

Fernando Alonso said his first podium of the season was the result of car improvements and his own performance.

He dedicated his third place in China to former boss Stefano Domenicali, who resigned after Ferrari drivers were ninth and 10th in the last race.

Alonso said the car felt “more competitive” thanks to “new parts”.

“On the personal side I had a fantastic weekend, probably at the level of 2012 in terms of driving and feeling comfortable,” he added.

“Hopefully we can give some great Sundays at home in front of the TV to Stefano.”

Alonso’s 2012 remark is a reference the season regarded as the two-time champion’s finest.

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Chinese Grand Prix – Race Press Conference

DRIVERS

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)

2 – Nico ROSBERG (Mercedes)

3 – Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari)

 

PODIUM INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

 

Three consecutive for Lewis Hamilton – how about that? Great stuff, Lewis. That looked, from where we were sitting, incredibly easy. How was it for you?

Lewis HAMILTON: Ni hao. The fans have been incredible this week, so I really felt a lot of energy but I really couldn’t do this without all the hard work from the team, it’s incredible. Honestly, I just can’t believe how amazing the car is, and how hard everyone has worked. The results we’re getting is a real true showing of all the hard work.

Absolutely incredible. You were radioing in and saying ‘my tyres feel good’ and everybody else was screaming to come into the pits. The first stint was just beautiful for you.

LH: Yeah. Surprisingly, again, as I said, after P2 I had to make a lot of changes in anticipation of today, even though yesterday was wet, but it worked perfectly and I was able to look after the tyres. After that I was just really racing myself. I did lose a lot of time after the first stop but still it was great. I am really happy that Nico is up here with us, it’s great points for the team and they really deserve it.

You had one little trip off the circuit, obviously when the front tyres were finally going away. A little fright there for you?

LH: No, no, fortunately there’s lots of run-off area. Basically the left front is the one that’s graining and wearing and I’d gone quite a lot longer than I’d planned and eventually the tyre was dead so I locked it, but it was OK and I recovered.

Nico, you still lead the Formula One World Championship so some consolation in that respect?

Nico ROSBERG: Yeah, definitely. That’s there. I’m not going to use the word still because I plan to keep it that way. Definitely in the lead and that’s good. Especially considering that the whole weekend was really, really bad for me. It went completely wrong in so many different respects. Also, in the race we had no telemetry so there was no communication between the car and the pits, so they had no idea what was going on on track and that’s why the start was also so bad and a lot of things came together. So I’m pleased with second and I just look forward to a normal weekend again in Barcelona, full attack again.

Yeah it was a bad start. Take us through that first corner when you had contact with Valtteri Bottas in the Williams.

NR: It was just very close, there were cars all over the place. Just had a bit of contract there and it was great that my car held on.

Then you had to make your way back through the field. You had a little bit of fun coming through?

NR: It’s really a pleasure to drive this car at the moment. It’s incredible the car that the team has built – fantastic. So thanks to the whole team. And Mercedes. This thing is so quick. It really increases the enjoyment level even further.

Let’s talk to Fernando Alonso, third for Ferrari. I know there are a lot of Ferrari fans out there and of course Fernando Alonso fans. Fernando, you beat the Red Bulls and you’re third only behind the Mercedes Benz cars. You must be really satisfied with that.

Fernando ALONSO: Hello everybody, first of all. It was a good weekend. We did improve the car a little bit compared to the first three races, so we felt more competitive and now in the race being here on the podium is some kind of surprise for us, a nice surprise finally. Happy with a podium finish today. I think I’m third in the Drivers’ Championship behind these two guys. So we didn’t have the start of the season that we would like but at the end of the day we’re still in the fight.

Just briefly you had a big contact with Felipe Massa going into the first corner. You were lucky [there] with no suspension damage.

FA: Yeah, it was a big contact. I asked on the radio ‘can you check the car’, because it felt OK but I don’t know how it looks from the outside, but it was OK and we managed very lucky to finish the race and hopefully next one it will be a clean start.

Lewis, we’re back to tracks you know well, obviously Barcelona, you’ve got some testing coming up. Surely you can’t keep improving this car?

LH: Well, this team is a on a roll that’s for sure. The team have done a great job, as I said. We’re going to keep pushing; we’re going to keep moving forwards. That’s what Mercedes Benz want to do. They want to keep moving forward, developing, hopefully improving the engine, also the car. But as I said, I’m going to be working hard, we’re going to keep working hard because obviously the others are pushing to catch us up. So I hope it continues.

PRESS CONFERENCE

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Chinese Grand Prix : Results

Pos No Driver Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 44 Lewis Hamilton 54 1:33:28.338 1 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg 54 +18.0 secs 4 18
3 14 Fernando Alonso 54 +23.6 secs 5 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo 54 +27.1 secs 2 12
5 1 Sebastian Vettel 54 +47.8 secs 3 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg 54 +54.3 secs 8 8
7 77 Valtteri Bottas 54 +55.7 secs 7 6
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen 54 +76.3 secs 11 4
9 11 Sergio Perez 54 +82.6 secs 16 2
10 26 Daniil Kvyat 53 +1 Lap 13 1
11 22 Jenson Button 53 +1 Lap 12
12 25 Jean-Eric Vergne 53 +1 Lap 9
13 20 Kevin Magnussen 53 +1 Lap 15
14 13 Pastor Maldonado 53 +1 Lap 22
15 19 Felipe Massa 53 +1 Lap 6
16 21 Esteban Gutierrez 53 +1 Lap 17
17 17 Jules Bianchi 53 +1 Lap 19
18 10 Kamui Kobayashi 53 +1 Lap 18
19 4 Max Chilton 52 +2 Laps 21
20 9 Marcus Ericsson 52 +2 Laps 20
Ret 8 Romain Grosjean 28 Gearbox 10
Ret 99 Adrian Sutil 5 Engine 14

Note – Result declared at end of Lap 54/56, in accordance with Article 43.2 of sporting regulations (chequered flag was shown to leader at end of Lap 55).

Chinese F1 Grand Prix: Alonso urges Ferrari ‘to be realistic’

Fernando Alonso has urged Ferrari to set realistic goals for the Chinese Grand Prix after qualifying in fifth place.

The Ferrari looked strong in dry conditions throughout practice, and with Alonso starting from the third row he is well placed to try to challenge the Red Bull’s ahead. While Alonso concedes Mercedes is likely to be too quick in dry conditions, he says the main focus has to be on improving upon the last result from the Bahrain Grand Prix rather than thinking of the podium.

“We need to be realistic and don’t dream too much,” Alonso said. “We were ninth and tenth 15 days ago and we can’t go to the race thinking that the podium is the only target we can be happy with. We need to do it step-by-step; we are starting in a good position in fifth.

“We need to avoid some of the battles we had in the last races in the first couple of laps which meant we lost the train of the leaders a little bit too much. Hopefully we can have a good and a clean first lap and then try to follow them.

“We expect Mercedes to be very strong in dry conditions so if we can have a good pace in the race and be close to Red Bull and even fight with them that would be good news, but as I said we need to think that 15 days ago we were ninth and tenth, one minute behind the leaders. Tomorrow we need to avoid that distance and we need to have a better position, and let’s try to do so.”

With Ferrari appearing to lose any single lap advantage over Red Bull as a result of the wet weather on Saturday, Alonso said he didn’t feel there was the potential to qualify any higher regardless of the conditions.

“I don’t think that it changes too much to be honest. I’m fifth today in the wet, I don’t think if today was dry I could be fourth, third, second or first. Fifth is an extremely good result in the wet and it was also a dream result in the dry.

“It’s true that in some parts of the qualifying we were more competitive and in some less, but this happens year after year. Some cars seem to perform a little bit better in dry and some others in the wet; we’ve seen it with Williams happening sometimes this year.”

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Chinese F1 Grand Prix: Qualifying results

1. Lewis Hamilton Britain Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 53.860s
2. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 54.455s
3. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 54.960s
4. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 55.143s
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 55.637s
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Williams-Mercedes 1m 56.147s
7. Valtteri Bottas Finland Williams-Mercedes 1m 56.282s
8. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 56.366s
9. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 56.773s
10. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1m 57.079s
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It’s Official, Domenicali Resigns, Mattiacci In

On receiving Stefano Domenicali’s resignation, Ferrari thanks him for the dedication he brought to his service to the company, in positions of ever increasing responsibility over the past 23 years. It offers Stefano Domenicali its most sincere best wishes for the future.

Stefano Domenicali has decided to resign from his position as Director of the Gestione Sportiva.

“There are special moments that come along in everyone’s professional life, when one needs courage to take difficult and very agonising decisions,” said Domenicali. “It is time for a significant change. As the boss, I take responsibility, as I have always done, for our current situation. This decision has been taken with the aim of doing something to shake things up and for the good of this group of people that I feel very close to. With all my heart, I thank all the men and women in the team, the drivers and the partners for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed over all these years. I hope that very soon, Ferrari will be back where it deserves to be. My final words of thanks go to our President, for having always supported me and to all our fans. I only regret that we have been unable to harvest what we worked so hard to sow in recent years.”

Ferrari announces that, as from today, it has appointed Marco Mattiacci, current President and CEO of Ferrari North America, as the new head of the Gestione Sportiva.

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Domenicali stands down at Ferrari as F1 team principal

Stefano Domenicali has stepped down as Ferrari team principal following a poor start to the 2014 season.

The new power unit regulations this year offered Ferrari a chance to end Red Bull’s dominance, but Mercedes is well clear of the rest of the field and Ferrari has only managed a best result of fourth in Australia; with Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen finishing 9th and 10th respectively in Bahrain. Domenicali has now opted to resign following the poor start to the season, and said he had taken the decision to try and “jolt” the team in to success.

“There are certain moments in the professional life of each of us where it takes courage to make tough decisions,” Domenicali said. “It’s time to implement a major change.

“Again, I take responsibility – as I always have – for the situation we are experiencing. It is a choice taken with the desire to do something to give a jolt to our environment and for the sake of this group, which are closely linked. I sincerely thank all the men and women of the team, the drivers and partners for the wonderful relationship we have had in these years.

“I wish you all that you can quickly return to the levels that Ferrari deserves.”

Marco Mattiacci – CEO of Ferrari North America – has been named as Domenicali’s replacement.
Ferrari has not won a drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, with its last constructors’ title following a year later. Domenicali took on the role of team principal from Jean Todt in 2008 and has seen the team take 20 victories in that time. Alonso missed out on the drivers’ championship at the final race of the season in both 2010 and 2012.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was present at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix but left the race early with both cars unable to challenge for the podium, and has since vowed to “leave no stone unturned to get where we need to be.

“We’ll work day and night to improve, and we’ll take the decisions that we need to take,” Montezemolo added

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Bahrain F1 Grand Prix: Alonso: Racing is still exciting

Fernando Alonso says racing in F1 is still exciting despite the slower lap times and new regulations in 2014.

New power units and aerodynamic regulations have seen lap times drop significantly in 2014, while drivers are also limited in terms of fuel and fuel flow. The new regulations have come in for some criticism, with Sebastian Vettel calling the sound “sh*t” last weekend and Sergio Perez saying the Malaysian Grand Prix was “boring”. However, asked if the racing was boring or exciting for him, Alonso said testing himself against his fellow drivers was always a thrill.

“Still exciting because at the end of the day you are competing against the others,” Alonso said. “That is the DNA of the driver, the competition, if we drive go-karts we enjoy so much and we are driving at 50km/h with very hard tyres and sliding everywhere and we keep enjoying that race.

“It is not a problem of excitement, it is just that the cars are too slow. The fastest lap in Malaysia in 1:34.7 with [Sebastian] Vettel some years ago and [Lewis] Hamilton did a 1:43.0, so that’s nine seconds. And behind the wheel when you drive nine seconds slower you don’t enjoy as much as driving the fast car.

“As far as it is the same for everybody, and you compete against the others you keep enjoying it but for drivers like me or Kimi [Raikkonen] or Jenson [Button] who drove another F1, not better or worse, you will miss some of those cars.”

However, Alonso did admit that the physical challenge had decreased to such an extent that he didn’t even need a drinks bottle in Malaysia.

“Definitely. I remember going to Malaysia and having very specific preparation and from Saturday doing a lot of strange things to get hydrated. Don’t get me wrong, but we had some specific training programme etc, and now they asked me on Saturday, ‘Do you want a drink system on the car?’ And I said ‘No, I don’t want.’ I don’t even sweat sometimes. So I had the Malaysia race even without the drink system. It’s not necessary any more.”

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