Fernando Alonso is confident that Ferrari will be able to fight for both titles this year after he produced a brilliant drive to finish 3rd behind Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the Turkish Grand Prix. Despite looking so strong in pre-season testing, Ferrari have disappointed at race weekends and amazingly Alonso’s 3rd placed finish handed the team their first podium of 2011.
However, while it may have taken until round four to get onto the podium, Alonso’s drive in Turkey was very encouraging for Ferrari. Arguably the driver of the day, the Spaniard was impressively able to match the lap times of Vettel and Webber for much of the race despite being in a slower car. Alonso was involved in a race long battle with Webber for 2nd place and passed him on lap 29 but the Australian regained the position with only a few laps remaining. In fact, in the post race press conference, Alonso said that he believed he could have fought for the win had he not been stuck behind Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg in the first stint.
Even though, Alonso currently sits 52 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel, he fully believes that he can challenge for the World Title if Ferrari can keep its momentum.
“It’s true that my current gap to the top of the drivers’ championship is much greater compared to what I had after Shanghai 2010 (11 points) but I well recall that after Silverstone we were 47 point away and we only had eight races left. Today we still have 15 grand prix to come. This shows that you can look at the same thing in two different, even completely opposite ways. What matters are results and we’ve started to make the podium; we must do that regularly and if so I’m convinced that we will again be able to fight for the title.”
Alonso will draw confidence from last year when Ferrari and the Spaniard had a brilliant second half of the season, winning four of the last eight races and coming so close to winning the championship. In 2010, Alonso was 47 points off the championship lead after round 10 of the season but came within four points of claiming his 3rd WDC. This year, he is already 52 behind Vettel but as he pointed out, there are still 15 races left, 16 if Bahrain is rescheduled. Vettel’s start to the season to the season may look ominous for the opposition but only a fool would write Alonso off at this stage of the season.
However, if Alonso is to have any chance of fighting for the title then Ferrari need to improve their car significantly in order to catch up with Red Bull. Although the team have shown some good race pace this year, they are struggling badly in qualifying and must look to improve this quickly if they are to have any chance of closing Vettel’s lead; a point Alonso is quick to highlight. In addition he believes that even though his podium in Turkey was a big step forward, the team cannot rest on their laurels and must keep pushing so they are able to compete for race wins.
“Third place was also important for the morale of the team. We were all unhappy with a start to season that did not live up to expectations and we know how much good it does to see that efforts expended every day are playing off. But we certainly can’t be happy with a third place and what matters most is that we must be much more competitive in qualifying. If we always start from the third row or lower it’s a struggle to fight for the podium. We have a lot of irons in the fire and we hope that as early as next week in Barcelona we will have new parts that allow us to take an important step forward in qualifying as well.”