Fernando Alonso: “With Felipe it was not a fight…”

Fernando Alonso says that fifth place was the best he could have achieved in Abu Dhabi, and the result was good damage limitation given Ferrari’s lack of pace during the weekend.

“I think I did my maximum,” he said on Sunday night. “The car in front was 20 seconds ahead. It’s true that I lost a little bit of time with the traffic, but 20 seconds is a lot of time, but we didn’t have the pace to be in the top four. And top five is the maximum. We have one Mercedes in front, one behind.

“We have one Lotus in front and one behind, obviously, with the DNF of Kimi. So I think my job is done after a very, very tough weekend, very difficult, not having the pace, we still finished in front of one Lotus, one Mercedes. We need to do better in Austin, but this time I think we minimised the damage.

“With Mercedes it’s true that we need to do better. There have been some weekends now that it’s not only Mercedes that worry us. It’s Lotus, Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso, McLaren, so are dropping a little bit too much, and we need to do better. Obviously the car will be the same in Austin and Brazil, so we need to do better here at the track, in the set-up every weekend, optimise circuit-by-circuit, the drivers must do better, doing perfect laps all weekend, because we need to beat Mercedes.”

Alonso made some interesting observations about his battle for position with Felipe Massa.

“With Felipe it was not a fight, I followed what the team tell me to do. The first stint the team told me to back off, to have a little bit of free air in front of me, to cool down the brakes, that they were too hot. In the second they told me to close the gap to Felipe, maybe we go for one or we go for two stops. I closed the gap, and then told not to attack, Felipe will pit soon. Then Felipe pitted and I had the opportunity to do some laps and overtake Felipe and the Toro Rosso in those laps. Then at the end with the soft tyre I had a shorter stint which was very good in terms of pace. It was the best part of the race.”

In that final stint Alonso set a series of fastest laps despite having no chance of catching the car ahead. Asked by this writer if he was just having fun, he said: “I was having fun. It was the first laps that I had no traffic in front, and the team told me to push. In other parts of the race they told me to cool the brakes. Now that I had the brakes in condition I could finally push.”

Alonso was keen to play down the incident with Jean-Eric Vergne, which resulted in no action from the stewards after they accepted that the French driver hadn’t seen the Ferrari and had given Alonso no choice but to go off track.

“I was going out of the pit, I was alongside the Toro Rosso, and we didn’t have the space to both go on the track. At that point you are invisible or you are going to be forced to be out of the track. The rules say that when you have a car alongside you you cannot use the full width of the track. I was forced to go out, and I think it’s clear. I think he didn’t see me, that’s what he said now, so that’s it. I think it’s very clear. I think it’s a minor thing of the fantastic race we did.”

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