Valencia Street Circuit
Alonso fourth and Massa fifth in a very closely contested qualifying
Fourth place for Fernando Alonso and fifth for Felipe Massa: that was the outcome of qualifying for the European Grand Prix, for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. It was a very tight session, with the top six on the grid all within seven tenths of a second.
Fernando used two sets of Prime in the first session, one Option in the second and two in the third. His team-mate Felipe ran a different strategy, using the Option right from his second run in Q1, having used the Medium on his first. Then he made his first runs in Q2 and Q3 on the Softs already used in the previous session.
“I don’t think this was a disappointing qualifying, because even if there were those outside the team who built up expectations, within it, we were well aware of the situation. The aim was to fight with the McLarens and we did just that. Maybe we had hoped to be ahead of both, but instead we find ourselves splitting the two drivers. I did not expect that the very slight change introduced to the rules would change the order of things and that was the case: Red Bull was and still is the favourite. We will see if at Silverstone, where there are more significant changes coming, something will happen, but we need to keep in mind that everyone or almost everyone will suffer a drop in performance.
On my second run in Q3, I was giving it my all to try and improve, but once I realised that my time was slower than on my previous one, I chose to pit and save that set of Options as much as possible. I reckon that tomorrow we could see different strategies in terms of pit stops. Our aim is to finish on the podium and we are in with a chance. The development work on the car is progressing well, but we are a long way behind in terms of aerodynamics, which to put a time value on it means two or three months. It will not be easy to catch up but we will do all we can to succeed.”
“It wasn’t an easy qualifying, even if fourth and fifth places is definitely not a bad result. Maybe the others, especially McLaren, managed to find a little something extra between practice and qualifying, while Red Bull continues to be very strong, as was predictable. We have become more competitive over the past three races and our aim is to keep going down this path. We must push on the development of the car, especially as next year’s regulations will be more or less the same, therefore any work we do now could be helpful in the long term too. With the new Medium compound, today we struggled more than yesterday: maybe there is more rubber on the track and the higher temperature did not work in our favour on this front. It will be interesting to see what strategies will be chosen for the race: I don’t think doing a one-stop is possible, as was the case last year.”
We fought McLaren right to the end for a place in the top three
“All in all, this was a good qualifying. We fought McLaren right to the end for a place in the top three and we only missed out on it by a whisker. Sure, if we look back at the times, sector by sector, we can claim to have had the potential to get both our cars onto the second row, but we know how difficult it is to put together the perfect lap on a track like this. At the past four races, we have always qualified with at least one driver on the front two rows, which is progress compared to the first half of the season.
Also, the gap to the quickest has come down, but even allowing for the fact that the circuit characteristics might have been favourable to us, it does mean that we working in the right direction in terms of the development of the car, although we need to give it an added boost. Tomorrow’s race looks like being very uncertain: there is a clear favourite of course, but I don’t think we should assume the result is a foregone conclusion. We have often seen races turn out to be more closely contested than qualifying and there is no reason why that should not be the case again tomorrow. The podium? I think we can fight for that. It will be important to do a good job of managing whatever situations arise during the race.”
The gap to the quickest is more or less what we could have expected
“A very interesting and closely contested qualifying. The gap to the quickest is more or less what we could have expected going into this weekend, given that this track has slightly different characteristics to Montreal, where we were closer to the front. In the final sector in particular, we paid the price when compared to the Red Bulls and also to the McLarens.
It’s in that part of the track that aerodynamic efficiency of the car counts for the most and that is the area where we have to improve. Now we must concentrate on the race, well aware that it’s going to be tough and incident packed, as is usually the case on a street circuit. There is one more unknown factor than usual, linked to how the Medium compound that we are running here for the first time will work out over a long run. I honestly believe that no one has yet got sufficient data to say how this factor will work out in tomorrow’s race.”