Fernando Alonso: "I hadn’t won since Germany and this has a special feeling because it was a tricky race full of action."
Shanghai, 14 April - Fernando Alonso delivered Scuderia Ferrari’s first win of the season in Shanghai this afternoon, in a race that was action packed, mainly down to the different strategies employed in managing the tyres.
After a strong start, Felipe Massa had to settle for sixth at the flag but the eight points he added to the winner’s 25 means the Prancing Horse has moved ahead of Lotus to go second in the Constructors’ championship, just five points behind the leaders Red Bull.
Felipe was right on his team-mate’s tail and by lap 4, the two of them were hassling the leading Mercedes. At the start of lap 5, Fernando slipstreamed Hamilton to get by and Felipe, determined not to be left behind dived down the inside of the Englishman to be second: a long way to go, but it was now a Ferrari one-two.
Hamilton and Rosberg both pitted on lap 6. Guttierez ran into the back of Sutil on the back straight, with the Mexican retiring on track and the German in the pits.
Fernando and Raikkonen pitted for Prime tyres on lap 6, which left Fernando and Hamilton to battle for eleventh. Felipe pitted on lap 7, as did Maldonaldo in the Williams.
This slightly later stop for Felipe saw him drop down the order more than expected. The lead trio was now Hulkenberg, Vettel and Button, the same three drivers who opted not to set a time in Saturday’s Q3 so as to start on the Medium Pirelli.
Throughout the race, there would be “false” leaders as the pit stops ran out of synch between the top 7 on the grid who started on the Soft and the rest of the field who had gone for the Medium. Lap 9 and it was Felipe fighting Webber for eleventh, as Fernando now found himself back in sixth ahead of Hamilton and Vergne in the Toro Rosso.
On lap 10, Massa got past Bottas in the Williams to go tenth. One lap later the order was Hulkenberg, Vettel, Button, Perez and Di Resta fifth, all on the Medium all yet to pit.
Fernando was the first of those who had made the switch from the Soft to Medium and then came Hamilton seventh, followed by Raikkonen, Vergne, the Frenchman yet to stop, with Felipe 10th ahead of Webber who had started his Red Bull from the pits.
Lap 13 and Fernando was in fifth, menacing fourth placed Perez in the McLaren and the Ferrari got past as they crossed the line to start the next lap. Lap 14 and the two leaders, Vettel and Hulkenberg pitted, as did Di Resta.
On the same lap, Webber collided with Vergne and the two men had to pit, the Australian for a nose and the Frenchman for a puncture. While this had been going on, Fernando was now second behind Button and Felipe was sixth in between Perez and Vettel.
Lap 17 and Webber was out having lost a wheel off his Red Bull. Fernando was 0.6 behind Button but the Englishman seemed to be controlling the gap, as he continued to run on his first set of Medium tyres.
On lap 19, Vettel managed to pass Felipe, who immediately pitted for a fresh set of Mediums. On lap 20, another spurt from the Spanish Ferrari man saw him again close right up to Button, while behind them was another exciting battle as Raikkonen harried third placed Hamilton.
On lap 21, Fernando was leading once more having swept past Button and he immediately pulled out a lead of 1.5 seconds. Hamilton and Raikkonen came into the pit lane together and left in the same order. Last year’s China winner, Rosberg, retired his Mercedes in the pits on lap 22 and Felipe was eleventh after his visit to pit lane, behind Raikkonen and ahead of Maldonaldo.
One lap later, Fernando made a second tyre change, followed into pit lane by Button making his first tyre switch. The Spaniard came out third ahead of Perez, again leaving Vettel and Hulkenberg, out of synch on tyre changes, in the top two places, as Felipe chased Di Resta’s Force India for seventh spot.
Fernando was flying and dispensed with Hulkenberg’s Sauber to go second on lap 26, 3.8 behind Vettel. The gap came down to 2.1 on the next lap, as the Ferrari man set a fastest race lap. The red car continued to close on the purple one, with a one second gap on lap 28 and next time round Alonso swept into the lead once again.
Felipe moved up to seventh when Hulkenberg pitted and found he now had Vettel behind him as the German had just pitted. With fresh rubber, the Red Bull was able to pass the F138 with a robust move.
Out in front, Fernando had more than 11 seconds in hand over Hamilton, who had Raikkonen and Button behind him, with Vettel now fifth ahead of Hulkenberg and Felipe seventh, which became sixth when Raikkonen pitted the Lotus.
The threat from Vettel was ever present as he passed Button to go third on lap 36, the same lap that Felipe and Hulkenberg came in to change tyres, leaving pit lane side by side with the Ferrari just getting its nose ahead as they rejoined the track.
Hamilton made his third stop on lap 37, so that Vettel was now second, around 19 seconds behind Fernando.
However, they still both had to visit the pits one more time, the Ferrari on lap 41, the Red Bull ten laps later, so that the order between them would switch twice more, before leaving Fernando to manage the race to the flag.
When Vettel made his final stop, with just 5 laps remaining, it dropped him down the order, so that Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus came home second with Lewis Hamilton completing the podium for Mercedes. Vettel and Button filled the next two slots, ahead of sixth placed Felipe.
The result means that the F1 circus heads to Bahrain for next Sunday’s fourth round of the championship, with Alonso third in the Drivers’ classification, 6 points behind second placed Raikkonen and 9 behind the leader Vettel. Hamilton is fourth, followed 10 points down by Massa.
Luca di Montezemolo: “I was very confident going into this race and today I am very happy, especially for Domenicali and for everyone in the Scuderia who has worked so hard and so well at the track and in Maranello, as they really deserve this victory. Fernando Alonso drove a great race and Felipe Massa brought home points that are important in the Constructors’ classification.
Winning in China is very satisfying for Ferrari and it is also a source of great pride in Italian technology. Now we go on, but with our feet firmly on the ground. A thank you to the fans: it was very nice to see so many Ferrari flags in the Shanghai grandstands and to feel so much enthusiasm here in Italy”.
Stefano Domenicali: “I am pleased with the result for the team as a whole today and clearly with winning a race that looked like being a difficult one from many points of view, starting with tyre management.
After what happened in Malaysia, I am particularly happy to see Fernando on the top step of the podium, because it’s the best possible turnaround and it’s down to a great job from the guys here at the track and in Maranello.
However, I am sorry for Felipe who, because of graining, was unable to make the most of his potential, nor to secure the result he could have aimed for after his great start. This is only the third race and in a few days we will already be back on track to take on another challenge in Bahrain.
In this first part of the championship it is harder than ever to come up with an accurate evaluation of the hierarchy in the field: between qualifying and the race we have seen contrasting performances for some teams and therefore we must concentrate very hard on improving the car over the single lap in qualifying, while maintaining the performance level we have seen over the long runs”.
Fernando Alonso: “It couldn’t have gone better than this today! I hadn’t won since Germany and this has a special feeling because it was a tricky race full of action. Along with the second place I got in Australia, this result shows that the car is competitive and that we are working in the right direction to always be in the fight for the podium.
For that, I have to thank the team for the huge efforts it has made both here and back in the factory. They have worked so hard to put me in this position from which I can fight with the others on equal terms. We had a good feeling all through the weekend and qualifying third gave us the possibility of fighting for the top places.
On top of that, maybe we were owed some good luck. Along with that all the important factors worked perfectly, such as set-up, strategy, calling the pit stops and the stops themselves. All together it produced a win that wasn’t easy at the end of a race in which we made the most of our pace and did a good job of managing the tyres, which was definitely the most dangerous aspect.
With no one dominating the Championship, it makes it extremely interesting, even if we are aware this is only the third race. We are under no illusions and we must continue to concentrate and do all we can to improve still further”.
Felipe Massa: “It’s difficult to understand exactly what happened today, because the start went very well. I was immediately quick and the car was working perfectly. At the first stop, I fitted the Medium tyres and after a few laps I began to suffer with graining on the front.
That meant I lost ground to other cars and it was probably down to a problem linked to the track conditions and my driving style. All weekend, I haven’t felt comfortable with these tyres and in the race, any attempts I made to save them was useless.
But for this problem, I would certainly have been in the fight for the podium, but I am still confident because, all the same, I was able to bring home a good points haul which is important in a season that has only just begun”.
Pat Fry: “The great start from both cars was certainly the best way to begin the race. We knew the Mercedes would have a slightly higher degradation than us and the double overtaking move on Hamilton at the start of Lap 5 meant we got into the lead immediately.
We also knew that we would rejoin in traffic after the first pit stop, without knowing if we would have been able to overtake the cars that were on the Medium: the move paid off for Fernando with his stop on the sixth lap, while for Felipe, who pitted on lap 7, it was more difficult, especially as he had some graining which meant he was not able to finish any higher.
Overall, the F138 showed that it has a good pace and we can take satisfaction from that. Now we must immediately turn the page and concentrate on the race coming up in Bahrain. We are absolutely aware that we still have a lot of work to do on qualifying performance if we want to make the most of our race pace”.