Category Archives: Grand Prix News

Fernando Alonso: “I gave back one position because I thought that was more or less fair…”

Fernando Alonso dropped from second to fourth after the safety car in Singapore, and yet the Spaniard still pronounced himself happy with how the weekend unfolded for Ferrari.

His race started with a trip across the first corner, after which he ceded a place to Sebastian Vettel.

“I made a mistake in the first corner and I went straight,” he said. “I gave back one position because I thought that was more or less fair. I was waiting for instructions from the team, on lap two they told me that race direction was OK with only one position, and we kept pushing all the race through. We were probably secure in second position after the second stop, with a good margin and a good pace. The safety car probably didn’t come in a good moment.”

Unlike the Red Bulls Alonso had to pit as he hadn’t yet used the soft tyre, and he felt that he could have have extended his previous stint, as Lewis Hamilton did before making the switch.

“With Hamilton it worked to stay out with the strategy, but he has two seconds margin, and it’s easier to open the gap with that margin. Probably we could not make it. I think the strategy was good, probably a little bit unlucky with the moment.

“But fighting with the leaders is something that we normally miss this year, so definitely a step forward this weekend. We have to have our feet on the ground, knowing that we’ve been not competitive this year. It’s not that from our race to another we will become competitive. If we are moving in the right direction, yes. Not enough probably, but I’m quite happy.”

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Mercedes still perplexed by reliability issues

The ongoing reliability problems at Mercedes have given the team a lot of cause for concern, and team boss Toto Wolff insists that everything is being done that could be done to address the issues.

Mercedes has a group of engineers focussed on improving reliability, and Wolff has faith in their ability.

“We have a great reliability team,” he said. “This is a group of people who are really dedicated to quality, and I’m really proud of their department. Considering that fact it’s even more astonishing that we keep continuing to have those issues.

“If we could make anything more to stop the DNFs, we would do it, I would break my arm again in order to stop the reliability issues! We just have to get on top of the problems.”

Inevitably Mercedes is concerned about how the eventual championship will be perceived, especially if one of the drivers suffers another critical retirement.

“We don’t want to have the spin in there that the championship was decided because one car let the driver down, so we need to refocus, and keep our heads down, and keep concentrating and finding out what we can, what the utmost is which can be done to prevent DNFs and reliability problems.”

Regarding his pep talk with Rosberg he said: “I told him that I was sorry for having let him down. We are doing this in both directions, you need to be just open and have that philosophy in the team that whoever f***s up, you need to take that on you, and he was OK. But there’s not a lot you can do in that moment. It was just important as a team member you shouldn’t be over the moon following the other car that’s in the lead, and one breaks down, you don’t want to have that. You want to balance that.”

Rosberg’s problem in Singapore could not be solved by changing steering wheels.

“It looks like it was a broken loom within the steering column, a loom that was within the duty cycle, it was not something which was going towards the end of its life cycle. It just shut the whole thing down. The only thing which functioned was the gearchange, and then the radio came back. There was no hybrid energy any more.

“When we called him in we changed the steering wheel, tried to get it going, but it wouldn’t. The only way of getting it going would have been to put first gear and high revs, and this is when I said stop. We didn’t want to have a jack flying out of the rear of the car and hurting somebody.”

“The whole thing is going out of the car, it’s going with us to the UK tonight, and we are trying to analyse it in a really forensic way to try to understand where our problems started and why it appeared when he went in the car and was just about to leave the garage.”

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No team orders at Red Bull to help Ricciardo, says Horner

Christian Horner says there is no consideration of team orders at Red Bull, despite the ongoing Mercedes reliability problems keeping Daniel Ricciardo within striking distance of the main title contenders.

In Singapore Ricciardo finished right behind team mate Sebastian Vettel, and he would have gained three points had they been swapped. Given that the German still has a mathematical chance – albeit a remote one – the team let them race.

“They’ve both mathematically got a chance, but it’s a long shot,” said Horner. “It’s down to them racing each other on the track. It would be wrong to interfere with that in the situation we’re in, so we let them race, as you saw. Dan knew before the race, not just before the race, but some time ago, so he’s totally comfortable and happy with that.

“If there was a realistic chance of Daniel winning, and Sebastian was mathematically out of the championship, then of course we’ll do the best that we can for the team. The situation that we’re in at the moment, it’s a long shot. They’ve got an enormous advantage at this point. We’ll take it one race at a time.

“Both of them are still just in this championship, and both of them have taken a chunk of points out of Nico. Okay, Daniel’s conceded three points to Seb, but is that going to make a difference? It’s impossible to say at this stage, but at the moment it doesn’t make sense to interfere with team orders.”

Singapore was only the second time, after Germany, that Vettel has finished ahead of Ricciardo. Horner agreed that it was a boost for the World Champion.

“I think it’s great for Seb to have had a solid weekend,” he said when asked by this writer. “It’s good for him to be back on the podium. He’s been quick all weekend, he’s had good tyre degradation, so a lot of positives out of the weekend.”

Regarding the prospect of catching Mercedes he said: “On this type of circuit we can get close to them, but the reality is the horsepower difference that we have is still a big factor. So whilst we’ve closed the gap here, some of the other tracks coming up, Abu Dhabi and maybe Sochi, it’s going to extend again. So the key for us is the work we do over the winter, and how we come out of the starting blocks next year in terms of really closing that gap.”

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Nico Rosberg: “It was just all over the place…”

Nico Rosberg’s Singapore GP was ruined by an electrical loom problem in the steering column that in effect meant that the controls on the wheel were not communicating with the rest of the car.

After starting from the pit lane and running some slow laps at the back of the field he retired at his first pit stop.

“The toughest day for me this year, definitely the case, even worse than Silverstone, for example,” he said. “It was probably a connection in the steering column, between the steering wheel and car, but not at the steering wheel, so even changing the steering wheel didn’t make a difference. None of the steering wheel functions worked, I had no hybrid power, no DRS. The gear paddles sort of worked, which was strange, but they would always upshift two gears at a time, so I had no fourth gear, I had no sixth gear, it was just all over the place. And that’s why I was also very, very slow.

“And my brake balance was completely in the wrong place, because I couldn’t brake properly, and I couldn’t change that. Even coming into the pit stop I didn’t have the pit limiter, I couldn’t go into neutral, I couldn’t do anything. So they were going to jack me up, I have to go full speed, and then they drop the car and I go sort of thing. Then they decided it was too dangerous, I don’t know what, and we called it a day.”

The frustrating thing for Nico was that when the car was warmed up with a mechanic in the cockpit, there was no sign of a problem.

“[It started] as I got in the car in the garage. They’d sat in the car five times just before I got in, doing all sorts of checks, everything was OK, then I got in the car, and it didn’t work any more. Which is crazy.”

Rosberg was off in the pace in the few laps he did, but said he hadn’t given up: “Even then I still had hope, because if all of a sudden things had come alive, then even then I still I had a race, with safety cars and everything. Until they switched my car off and pushed it in the garage I still believed in doing a good race.”

Rosberg admitted he was disappointed with reliability: “From a team perspective reliability is our weakness, and we need to get to the bottom of today, and just keep on pushing and try and improve on that. That’s the key thing for us.

“It’s clear that that is the point that we need to focus most on, because the performance is there, again in the race today, very strong, it’s just reliability that needs to be improved.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I didn’t really know what to expect today…”

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Singapore put him in the lead of the World Championship with five races to go, albeit by the slender margin of just three points over team mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton had to work hard for his win however after the safety car cost him his advantage, and left him with the job of building up a gap after the restart.

“Coming here and to the last six races with a great race in Monza, knowing that we had a car to compete here, obviously yesterday in qualifying it was very close between everyone so I didn’t really know what to expect today,” said Hamilton. “But I got off cleanly. Of course it would have been a hardcore race if Nico was in the race with me, as the car was feeling very good and we would have been very strong.”

Lewis admitted that he wasn’t sure how the strategy would unfold after the safety car, when he had to build a gap and pit for the prime tyre, while his main rivals could run to the flag.

“I think for me I was a bit unaware of what I needed to do. That second-to-last stint, I extended it as long as I could and then they said ‘we need 27s.’ And that was still six seconds I needed more, and my tyres were dropping off, so I didn’t really understand why. And I was also nervous that, if the Safety Car came out, would that cause me big problems? So anyway, fortunately we got to where I needed to go and we pitted.

“I came out, and I saw Sebastian going past but straight away I knew they were obviously doing a two-stop, I would have good pace. So, took it easy the first lap. It was actually a bit of a tight gap, maybe I should have overtaken him somewhere else. but fortunately Sebastian was very fair and I got by. After that it was quite straightforward. Amazing job from the team and the guys back at the factory. The car was really spectacular in the race.”

Regarding the championship he said: “I came here hoping to really gain those seven points, and anything more than that was just a bonus, so today, of course, those extra points are a huge help. That’s several DNFs we’ve had now on either car and we want to continue getting those one-twos still.

“I know that the team will not be 100 percent happy today because we want to win collectively, we want to get those one-twos, we want to be the dominant team all together, so by not getting that result, they’ll be going back to the drawing board trying to figure out what happened. They’re constantly coming up to things and perhaps other people are starting to be a bit more reliable than us so that’s an area that we can still definitely improve on.”

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We can fight for a podium, says Alonso

Fernando Alonso qualified in a familiar fifth place in Singapore, but the Ferrari star is in upbeat mood since in terms of time he was much closer to the front than usual – and he is confident of enjoying a good race.

Alonso, who was second in Q1 and third in Q3, was only 0.226s from pole man Lewis Hamilton in the final session.

“Normally in qualifying we lose ground,” he said. “But it didn’t happen today, we remained competitive also qualifying, two-tenths from pole position, which is quite a big news for us. I’m very happy, and hopefully tomorrow we have an opportunity to race with the leaders, something we are not used to do this year.”

Despite retiring in the last race Alonso is not worried about reliability: “No, not really. Obviously problems are always there, and we are at the limit in many things. But tomorrow is a demanding race, here in Singapore for the mechanical side it’s quite demanding, so we need to make sure we cross that line. If we do that I think the podium’s possible, because we have the pace, we have probably the good tyre degradation. If we do a good start, good strategy, we can be there.”

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Charlie Whiting: “We believe a driver should drive the car alone and unaided…”

DSC04016The FIA’s Charlie Whiting has emphasised that the climbdown on radio restrictions was done in the interests of fairness, because some teams would be more affected than others by a short term change.

For this year the FIA will focus on driver coaching, and postpone restrictions on techncial discussions until next year.

The main problem is that teams use one of two dashboards, one of which carries less information than the other. The teams affected can ‘upgrade’ for 2015.

“We believe a driver should drive the car alone and unaided,” said Whiting when explaining the restrictions. “He shouldn’t be told that he’s going a bit too deep into this corner, should take a tighter apex on that corner. It’s for him to decide, not for his team to tell him how he’s comparing to his team mate, for example, so that’s the basis of it.

“It was becoming apparent that more or more was being done for the drivers, and quite simply that is at odds with article 20.1 of the regulations. We felt that this should extend to both car performance and driver performance related parameters, but when one looks into it in more detail it became quite clear that some teams will be at a disadvantage compared to the others, not just in their know how or ability to react in the short term, but also with hardware choices that were made a year ago, for example.

“I think you are familiar with the two types of dashboard that are available to the teams, one would simply show a great deal more than the other. In the interest of fairness we felt with the benefit of hindsight it would be have been better to introduce it in two stages, which is what we’ve done.

“The plan is to make it more far-reaching, to take in the technical elements of it as well, the technical assistance that drivers are getting about the performance of the car as well. It will inevitably be more complex, but I think that is how the sport is. I think it is going to be very hard to make it simpler, unless one was to remove radios from the car. Very simple. But I think that might not be very well received.”

Whiting said that eight people are listening to radio when the cars are running. Regarding possible penalties he said: “It’s not for me to say what the penalty will be, because it’s a matter for the stewards of course.

“What I would do is report to the stewards a possible contravention of Article 20.1, who would then decide what the penalty would be. I think it would have to be a sporting penalty, as opposed to a monetary one. If it happened it might be, I emphasise might be, a 5s time penalty for example if it happened in practice it might be a grid position or something like that.”


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