Alonso enjoys advantage as F1 season reaches key stage
Fernando Alonso insists the Formula One championship remains wide open despite his third win of the season for Ferrari in a tight German Grand Prix.
The Spaniard is now 34 points clear of Red Bull’s Mark Webber at the season’s halfway point, with this weekend’s coming Hungarian Grand Prix looking crucial for the teams before a summer break.
“We are very happy with the positions we got in the first half of the season but it means nothing because there are still 10 races to go,” Alonso said.
Directly after the race in Hockenheim, the Formula One teams were already looking ahead to Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, which Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said would be “a key race.”
He added: “We know we still have a lot of work to do, because we are still not the fastest. We have seen how quickly things can change this season, therefore we must keep concentrating to the maximum.”
Alonso took the chequered flag after an intense race in Hockenheim ahead of double world champion Sebastian Vettel in a Red Bull and McLaren’s Jenson Button, but Vettel was later demoted to fifth place for passing Button by going off the track in the penultimate lap.
Alonso has 154 points in the standings, ahead of Webber (120) and Vettel (110), with Lotus driver Kim Raikkonen on 98 and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on 92.
Italy’s La Repubblica said it was a “perfect” race from Alonso and the world championship was now “within range” for the Ferrari driver.
But the former two-time world champion said the race had shown that Ferrari was not the quickest car on the circuit and that there was a lot of work to be done with the title race remained wide open.
“All I have to do is think about driving and helping the team. I always want to give 100 percent and work day and night towards this goal,” he said.
“I don’t want anyone to come to Hungary better prepared than me, physically or mentally or more motivated than me and I always try and win this competition that runs alongside the one on the track.
“I expect to go well in Budapest and there is no reason to be pessimistic. However, I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker. I said that the month of July would be crucial, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks and so far we have brought home 43, so we will try and finish the job in Hungary.”
There were mixed feelings for Red Bull after Vettel ended up fifth despite crossing the line second and Webber failed to make any impression, while McLaren’s Hamilton was unfortunate to suffer a puncture.
The British team, however, remain optimistic of closing lost ground after seeing improved speed after recent upgrades.
“Our upgrade package is working well: if we can sort out qualifying, we’re in the mix, and we’ll have a really good chance of winning races this season,” Button said.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “This season is going to be right to the very end. I believe we will be sat on the edge of our seats in the last few laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix and I hope I am in deep agony on those laps because it means we are in contention to win.
“Fernando is doing a great job and so are Ferrari. They are difficult to beat but it’s doable. It’s going to be a great, great season. It already has been a great season.
“Looking ahead to Hungary next weekend, we know we’ve got a good car and a good recent track record there — we won in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Winning just before the shutdown is always positive because it provides you with great momentum across the summer break.”
McLaren, who had been criticised for poor pit stops this season, also had every reason to be pleased with a change of tyres for Button completed in a Formula One record time of 2.31 seconds and described by Whitmarsh as “unbelievable.”