Tag Archives: Fernando Alonso

Alonso To Miss Australian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso will miss the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on the advice of his doctors.

The 33-year-old, who this year makes a return to his 2007 team McLaren, suffered concussion after a high-speed crash during the final day of the second pre-season test, on February 22nd. The Spaniard was admitted to the ICU unit of a local hospital as he underwent precautionary scans and tests, but was released a day later.

Today, though, Alonso announced that, following advice from his medical team, he will not race at the Australian Grand Prix on March 15th.

A McLaren team statement released this morning read: “Fernando’s doctors have recommended to him that, following the concussion he sustained in a testing accident on February 22nd, for the time being he should seek to limit as far as is possible any environmental risk factors that could potentially result in his sustaining another concussion so soon after his previous one.”

While Alonso will miss the first race, he should be fit to race at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks later, on March 28th.

McLaren reserve driver Kevin Magnussen will replace Alonso on the Aussie grid. The Dane raced alongside Jenson Button at the team last year, but was appointed reserve driver to facilitate Alonso’s return to the Woking outfit.

Image courtesy of McLaren. 

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Vettel Confirmed At Ferrari

The worst kept secret in Formula One has been officially confirmed today, with affirmation from Ferrari that four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will partner Kimi Raikkonen at the team next year.

Vettel rose up through the junior formulae under the guidance of the Red Bull Young Driver programme, but this year announced his departure from Red Bull. And with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner announcing that Vettel would be a Ferrari driver at the Japanese Grand Prix in October, the resulting drawn-out wait had an inevitable end: official confirmation from Ferrari.

That confirmation came today with the declaration of a three-year contract alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who currently holds a contract until the end of 2016. Reportedly, Red Bull reserve driver and reigning World Endurance Championship Champion , Sebastian Buemi, will also move to Ferrari as a reserve driver, at the request of Vettel.

“The next stage of my Formula 1 career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari,” Vettel said in a Ferrari statement this morning. “And for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true.

“When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari. I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means, when I took my first win at Monza in 2008, with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello,”

Ferrari Team Principal, Mario Mattiaci, added: “In Formula 1 terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us, as we aim to be front runners again as soon as possible.

“With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write together a new winning chapter in the history of Ferrari.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso remains tight-lipped over his future. McLaren, the team many expect him to return to, this week decided to prolong their driver announcement until after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and subsequent Young Driver Test. If not returning to McLaren, another suggestion which has gathered air is that Alonso could follow in his friend Mark Webber’s path, and leave F1 for the WEC.

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Vettel Leaving Red Bull, Joining Ferrari

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Sebastian Vettel will drive for Scuderia Ferrari in 2015.

The Red Bull star’s departure was announced at a press conference ahead of Free Practice Three this morning at the Japanese Grand Prix. Vettel broke the news to Team Principal Christian Horner last night.

Of his motivation to leave the team, Horner said: “Obviously Ferrari have made him a very attractive offer. I think the lure of Ferrari, a window has opened there with whatever is going on and he has decided the timing is right for him.

“That is his choice, and he has been around long enough to know his own mind. He doesn’t have a manager and doesn’t have people that surround him. He has made this decision and we respect that.”

Vettel brought Red Bull to the front and helped them secure a string of World Championships since 2010. But this season he has been overshadowed by Daniel Ricciardo who was promoted from sister team Red Bull to fill Mark Webber’s seat after the veteran racer moved to the World Endurance Championship.

Red Bull also announced today that Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat would follow in Ricciardo’s footsteps and join him in the senior team in 2015. This leaves a vacant seat at Toro Rosso beside Max Verstappen, which looks likely to be filled by Carlos Sainz Jr.

Vettel is expected to partner Kimi Raikkonen at the Prancing Horse next season, with Alonso reportedly returning to McLaren, where he famously fell out with Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh while team-mates with Lewis Hamilton. If Alonso does indeed return to McLaren, Jenson Button will likely get the boot, leaving Alonso to partner impressive rookie Kevin Magnussen.

As of yet, however, Ferrari have yet to comment on the rumours, instead shooting down queries about the morning’s news.

Alonso has been a driver with Ferrari since 2010 but has failed to secure a Championship with the historic team, and he is reportedly dissatisfied with the changes made by new Team Principal Marco Mattiacci. Although Alonso has a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2016, he allegedly asked former Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, to release him as a departing gift.

Another theory floated, although unlikely, is that Alonso will stay at the team, and will partner Vettel and Raikkonen in a three car team, should the three car system be introduced for 2015.

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images. 

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Still Not Good Enough

Fernando Alonso celebrated his second podium (and best result) of the season today when he crossed the line second behind Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard had held the led for most of the race distance, after a wet start and two Safety Car stints threw strategy and order into the air. He lost his lead however, when Daniel Ricciardo breezed past him into turn 1 with three laps remaining. He managed to fend off Hamilton though, which saw him equal his best result since the Singapore Grand Prix last season.

Fair enough, Fernando drove what must have been an exhausting race, particularly towards the end where he fought hard to keep Hamilton and Ricciardo behind him. So celebrate away Fernando and Ferrari – but tomorrow, the fun stops and the work commences. Or at least it should, because there is no real reason to celebrate in Italy.

Looking at the result on face value, one could say that Ferrari are finally getting their act together – Alonso’s last five results read 5th, 6th, 5th, 6th, 2nd. It looks like the Scuderia are on for a strong second half to the season if they can keep their act together. Maybe they could even win their first race under Marco Mattiacci before the season is out.

Wrong.

Today’s result does not signal an improvement for Ferrari, or show that they now posses a race winning car. All today proves is that when a track is very wet, one of the fastest cars on the grid starts from the very back, when two Safety Car periods wipe out huge advantages accumulated by two different leaders and when Ferrari happen to be at the right place, that they can finish second. Not even first!

The reason Ferrari finished on the podium today is a mixture of damned good luck on their part, bad luck on the part of several others, and the fact that Fernando Alonso is such a talented driver. To prove my point, Raikkonen finished only sixth in the same car. I’ve made no secret of my absolute belief that Alonso is the most talented and capable pilot in Formula One, so you’ll have to trust that I’m not being biased when I make these points.

Ferrari still haven’t given him a race winning car. Inheriting the lead, almost accidentally, and then managing to fend off the fierce competition from the cars behind, was down to driver talent, rather than the dog of a Ferrari that Alonso has been given to operate with.

I’m reminded of the scene in Rush where Daniel Bruhl (as Niki Lauda) returns to the pits and promptly says “it’s terrible – it drives like a pig!”, much to the disgust of the Ferrari worker who replies with “you can’t say that – it’s a Ferrari!”. So given the aura around Ferrari, and the team’s history and prestige, it’s with sadness that I write about how bad the Ferrari is. Of course, I should temper that by saying that “bad” for Ferrari means not podium material. “Bad” for another team would mean not points material.

But for a team with the resources that Ferrari have, including the estimated €400 million budget that they have to play with every year, it’s incredible that they can continue to miss out on podiums, never mind wins. Granted, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even still it seems like Marco Mattiacci has had little effect on the team he was brought in to lead to greatness once again. Then again, having never managed a motorsport team before, his appointment was always going to be questionable.

I think Ferrari need to do several things. Firstly, (if they haven’t already done so), they need to get on the phone to Ross Brawn (the same man who revived Ferrari in the 90s and brought Mercedes to the front) and offer to give him whatever he wants to come out of retirement and rejoin to the outfit. Secondly, they need to offer the same to Adrian Newey. Rumours suggest that they have already reached out to Red Bull’s aerodynamic guru, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears. But with Red Bull supposedly back-benching Newey from next year, however, Ferrari should be pushing with all their might at dragging Newey to their team.

Thirdly, they need a huge overhaul in their aerodynamic department. Ironically it was Jules Bianchi using a Ferrari engine who put his Marussia through to Q2 on Saturday, knocking Raikkonen out in the process. Alright, so it’s not a fair match, rather a cocky strategy call gone wrong, but Marussia are doing wonderful things with their Ferrari unit (on a much lower budget) so surely it’s not a problem with the engines. Finally, they should be putting their next World Champion, Jules Bianchi, in the car next year. Although Kimi has a contract until 2016, and Alonso a contract until even longer, both will have performance clauses in their contracts which mean they can leave if Ferrari are not performing well. Although Fernando will understand the prestige of Ferrari and the huge honour that would come with winning  a Championship with them, for four years running they have failed to give him a Championship winning car. Like I said already, talent on the driver side is not the issue. If one of their drivers does not leave at the end of this year, then they need to push one of them, probably Kimi, and give Bianchi the seat.

What Ferrari really need to do is buy another engine. Abandon their pride and, until they can get the package together in other departments, they should run with a Mercedes or Honda. This won’t happen, however, because of the pure, but admiral, stubbornness of the Scuderia to do it all themselves. And, of course, it would look bad if the most famous car brand in the world needed the help of another brand to win a race….

The bottom line is that, until Newey or Brawn goes to the team, or they can have some other radical reform brought in, they are going to continue to struggle behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams in a spectacle which is both embarrassing and painful to watch.

Photo courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Ricciardo Victorious In Enthralling Hungarian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo took victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix this afternoon, in a race affected by rain, stopped by two Safety Cars, and with a myriad of race leaders. Ricciardo had gained the lead after the first Safety Car, but lost this lead when a crash for Perez prompted the Safety Car again. Alonso led the race from that point on, but Ricciardo was unstoppable and pulled two late overtakes, on Hamilton and Alonso, to secure his second Grand Prix victory.

The rain that was expected to interrupt the race arrived early, soaking the track about fourty-five minutes before lights out. The track was still wet at 2pm local time for the race start, so all drivers started on the green intermediate tyres. At lights out, Rosberg maintained his lead as the drivers behind him battled through the spray thrown up by the tyres. Valtteri Bottas started well, as per usual, and jumped second-placed Vettel into turn 1. The entire grid emerged unscathed from the first corner while Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton and Daniil Kvyat set off from the pitlane – Magnussen and Hamilton opting to start from the pit lane following qualifying, and Kvyat starting from the pitlane after getting stranded on the grid.

Nico Rosberg leads at the start (c) Red Bull/Getty Images

Hamilton was keen to start cutting his way through the grid, but with cold brakes on his Mercedes, he spun at turn 3 and dropped behind the grid. Back at the front, Rosberg was leading with a comfortable gap to Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who were sliding around in the slippy conditions.

Rosberg’s lead looked solid, and only set to increase dramatically, when Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson spun out of turn 3 and speared the barriers, destroying his car which swiveled to a halt on the side of the track. The Safety Car was deployed for the incident but Rosberg was too far past the pits to act on the news, meaning that those in the top four had to do another lap with reduced speed while the rest of the grid pitted for dry tyres. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo inherited the lead, ahead of Jenson Button on the inters tyres and Felipe Massa. Then, as the Safety Car was preparing to pit Romain Grosjean lost control of his Lotus in the same spot as Ericsson, hitting the barriers and spinning to a halt on the opposite side of the track. The Safety Car subsequently stayed out for longer as the wrecked Lotus was cleared away.

Second time around, Ricciardo led Button on the restart, but with the McLaren driver on the wet tyres, he swept clean past the Aussie and into the lead. But on the very next lap the tables were turned as Button was told that the expected rain would not materialise, and that he would need to pit soon. By the end of the second lap after the restart, his tyres were dead and Ricciardo had regained the lead.

Further down the order, the Force India duo were scrapping for position when Nico Hulkenberg locked up into the final corner and t-boned his team-mate, spinning himself out of the race. At the same time, Maldonado was getting too eager on the brakes and slid into Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, t-boning the Frenchman and spinning himself. Unlike Hulkenberg, however, the Venezuelan recovered his race and lived to fight another day.

Just as Hulkenberg’s car was cleared from turn 14, his team-mate spun out of the same corner and hit the barriers on the start/finish straight, throwing debris all over the track. Although Ricciardo had accumulated an impressive lead to this lead, his advantage was annihilated by the reappearance of the Safety Car. As Kobayashi parked his Caterham on the side of the track, the rest of the grid were led away by Fernando Alonso when the race restarted.

With the mixed-up order from two Safety Cars, Alonso now led the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne who was celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix. The Frenchman was keen to keep his place on the podium and acted as a rolling roadblock for third placed Nico Rosberg who, incredibly, couldn’t find a way past the slower car. This allowed Sebastian Vettel to close up on the Mercedes, and was soon joined by Hamilton and Ricciardo who slotted in behind. The collection of race winners and Championship contenders behind Vergne didn’t faze him and he continued to lead the duo. Although Vergne didn’t make a mistake, Vettel spun out of the final corner as Rosberg pitted, mirroring Perez’s crash at the same spot. Luckily for Vettel, he missed the pitwall by inches, but unluckily for Rosberg, the spin had freed Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen fights with Pastor Maldonado (c) Scuderia Ferrari

Hamilton made short work of Vergne when given the chance, pulling a ballsy move on the Toro Rosso around the outside of turn 4. Meanwhile, Alonso pitted from the lead and Gutierrez became the sixth retirement of the race when he parked in his garage. Hamilton also pitted, and although he maintained his lead over Rosberg, a slow stop had put him behind Alonso. His position wasn’t solidified though, as his team began to radio him to let Rosberg through, as they were on different strategies. He consistently refused to, however, as Rosberg was not close enough behind him, meaning he would lose time to Alonso ahead of him if he slowed to let Nico through. Although Rosberg continued to ask why he wasn’t being let past, Mercedes eventually gave up trying to enforce their team order.

Ricciardo pitted from the lead of the race, and was soon followed in by Rosberg, who had still not passed his team-mate. Rosberg came out further down the order, but Ricciardo was flying on his fresh softer compound tyres and was catching Hamilton at an almost unbelievable pace. He was soon on the back of Hamilton who himself was up the gearbox of a struggling Alonso, but nobody could get past each other and Alonso maintained his lead.

After several laps of shutting down overtake attempts, Hamilton went wide at turn 1 and allowed Ricciardo to challenge him into turn 2. Pushing Ricciardo offline, Hamilton handed him the inside line for turn 3, where Ricciardo squeezed up the inside and up to second. With the faster Mercedes cleared, Daniel set his sights on the Ferrari ahead – breezing past him at the end of the pit straight. Ironically, he took the lead of the race with three laps remaining, as he did at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this season.

Hamilton failed to get past Alonso, and Rosberg closed up on the rear of the the battle, leaving Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg to cross the line with the smallest of gaps between them. It was fifth for Massa whose race wasn’t overly exciting, but will come as a welcome relief after three faultless retirements out of four races. Sebastian Vettel finished the race in seventh, but knows he could have placed much higher had he not spun on the straight. Jean-Eric Vergne marked his fiftieth Grand Prix with ninth place, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

As a result of the race, Hamilton has cut Rosberg’s lead in the Championship – an unbelievable feat given their respective qualifying performances. Now, the two must face a month with just their thoughts as F1 enters it’s one-month summer break. The next race is the Belgian Grand Prix on the 24th of August.

Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Fernando Alonso
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Felipe Massa
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Sebastian Vettel
  8. Valtteri Bottas
  9. Jean-Eric Vergne
  10. Valtteri Bottas
  11. Adrian Sutil
  12. Kevin Magnussen
  13. Pastor Maldonado
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Max Chilton
  • Esteban Gutierrez
  • Kamui Kobayashi
  • Sergio Perez
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Marcus Ericsson

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“My Best Race Of The Season” – Alonso

Fernando Alonso has labelled the Austrian Grand Prix as his “best race of the season”, due to the limited distance to race winners Mercedes in a Safety Car-free race.

The Spaniard was speaking a day after Qualifying fourth, the best Quali result for Ferrari so far this season. Starting fourth, Alonso lost the place to Hamilton on the first lap, but managed to maintain fifth to finish the best of the rest – behind the Mercedes and Williams drivers.

“I think that I can consider this to be my best race of the season,” Alonso said “Because finishing eighteen seconds off the Mercedes in a race without a Safety Car or any particular incidents, is a good result.

“It was impossible to keep Hamilton behind me and fifth place is really the best we could do today, because the first four cars were quicker and therefore deserved to finish ahead of us.

“We pushed hard all race without any problems, which means that little by little, we are improving. Sure, there’s still a long way to go but the aim is still to do well and score points. Each track is a different story and we will always try our best.”

Alonso’s words come as Ferrari have reportedly offered him an extension to his contract which expires at the end of 2016. Since Alonso joined the team, they have won no titles due to the dominance of Red Bull and then Mercedes, but Alonso was a close challenger in both 2010 and 2012.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Alonso Leads Hamilton In FP2

Fernando Alonso beat Lewis Hamilton to the top of the time sheets during today’s mixed-weather FP2 session. The Spaniard put in a late fast lap to beat the morning’s fastest man by 0.4s. The pace may not be representative, however, as Hamilton set a fastest first sector before meeting a slow Nico Hulkenberg and abandoning his lap. On his second attempt, he came across Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham in the barriers before the tunnel which caused him to abandon that lap too. His third attempt moved him to second, behind Alonso. Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull, seven-tenths behind Alonso, and three tenths ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne who took fourth for Toro Rosso. Valtteri Bottas was the first man to take to the track this afternoon and ended the session in fifth.

Bottas’ one lap run was after a fifteen minute wait as the teams waited for someone else to go out and dry up the track following a pre-session hail storm. After Bottas’ installation lap – and his unhappiness with the conditions – a twenty minute wait followed as no one dared venture out. Finally Adrian Sutil took to the track but returned without setting a lap while the Toro Rosso drivers came out. Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne had the circuit to themselves as they got to work beating their team-mate’s fastest lap, until the Ferrari’s also joined them. Raikkonen wasn’t out for long, however, as he exited Rascasse and couldn’t select a gear. He nursed his ill-sounding Ferrari back to the pitlane where his team confirmed that his gearbox had failed. As it was a practice unit, he will not be penalised.

In contrast to the quiet start to the session, the last ten minutes of FP2 looked like a Q3 session as each driver worked to get their run in. Traffic is always a problem in Monaco and, as I mentioned, Hamilton was affected twice in three laps. Alonso managed to get a particularly impressive lap down which Hamilton could not better. Rosberg, who shadowed Hamilton in the morning session, finished in twentieth. Despite the low result, it still seems that he could be involved in a four way battle for pole during Saturday’s Qualifying session. Will it be Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso or Ricciardo starting Sunday’s race from the front?

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Fernando Alonso
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Jean-Eric Vergne
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Sergio Perez
  7. Nico Hulkenberg
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Daniel Ricciardo
  10. Kevin Magnussen
  11. Felipe Massa
  12. Daniil Kvyat
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Esteban Gutierrez
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Kamui Kobayashi
  18. Jules Bianchi
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Nico Rosberg
  21. Marcus Ericsson
  22. Kimi Raikkonen

Image courtesy Scuderia Ferrari. 

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