May 11th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso qualified fifth and sixth respectively for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix. However, Felipe Massa has been demoted three places after impeding Mark Webber during Q2 and will start the race from ninth on the grid.
Qualifying has been Ferrari's weakness so far this season, in contrast to their race performance which has been impressive. The pole-sitting Mercedes team has been having the opposite problem, with strong qualifying pace and poor race pace, which meant it came as no surprise that Ferrari struggled to challenge right at the front in qualifying today. However, fifth place is not a bad result and puts Alonso within striking distance of the podium and perhaps even victory if he can have a strong early part of the race. Felipe Massa will now be in damage limitation mode from ninth place after his grid penalty.
Ferrari suffered an unexpected setback before qualifying, when Technical Director Pat Fry was rushed to hospital. Team Principal Stefano Domenicali revealed that Fry required an appendectomy. As a result, the team had to rearrange their pit-wall staff and proceed without their top technical man. A reasonable result in qualifying will therefore have been quite gratifying.
Fernando Alonso will be looking for a strong result tomorrow in his home race. He has not won the Spanish Grand Prix since he drove for Renault in 2006, although he did take an extremely popular victory at the European Grand Prix in Valencia in 2012.
Felipe Massa is still looking for his first victory since 2008, but he will have his work cut out to win from as far back as ninth on the grid.
This is what the Ferrari team had to say after qualifying:
Stefano Domenicali: “First of all, I want to wish the best of luck to Pat Fry, our Technical Director who will be undergoing an appendectomy this afternoon and we wish him all the best for a rapid recovery. As for qualifying, we knew we couldn’t be in the hunt for the very front: we definitely cannot be satisfied with the result, but the third row is still a good starting point on which to build in tomorrow’s race. It was not a surprise to see the two Mercedes being so quick, as it was also the case in winter testing at this track. Looking ahead to Sunday, we are reasonably sure we can count on the potential we have seen so far and as usual, the start will be very important to try and make up a few places. Tyre degradation will still be a key factor and so we must stay focused and make the most of any opportunity.”
Fernando Alonso: “It’s a well known fact that Saturday afternoon is our weak point and fifth place is more or less what we were expecting. We were well aware that Red Bull and Mercedes would both be very strong, but while it’s true we have to start taking back points on Vettel, we are not too scared of Mercedes, who usually have higher tyre degradation. The team and I are optimistic for tomorrow as our race pace is good and usually we manage to go better on Sunday. We start from the clean side and hope that will allow us to get off the line well, because what we need here is to make up some places at the start and then put in a few clean laps in the early stages or at half distance. We will also have to defend against Raikkonen: so far he has gone very well in the races and the Lotus doesn’t seem to suffer too much on the tyre front. As usual this season it will be very important to choose the right strategy, because there is only one lap difference in terms of degradation between the two tyre compounds”.
Felipe Massa: “I can’t say I’m pleased with this result, because I was expecting more after the times I did this morning. Unfortunately, in the third sector I had slight understeer which was costing me time, but all the same, I feel very confident because our car seems competitive. Now we must concentrate on tomorrow’s race, because it will be a long one and anything can happen. As for the Stewards’ decision relating to what happened with Webber in Q2, it was not my intention to get in his way and in all honesty, I can’t recall having affected his qualifying. When I saw him in the mirrors, I thought I’d get through the corner before letting him by, which was the only course of action at such a narrow point. On top of that, he was on worn tyres at the time and I don’t think he was doing a quick lap. I’m not surprised at the pace of the Mercedes, as they were already strong here in winter testing and their car is always very competitive in qualifying. This result shows once again that, on Saturdays, our rivals prefer to take a more conservative approach in the morning before revealing their true potential in the afternoon”.