Ferrari hail performance step
Team boss upbeat despite Alonso's late surrender
By Mike Wise at Silverstone. Last Updated: July 8, 2012 9:28pm
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was upbeat despite Fernando Alonso's late surrender at the British Grand Prix as he thinks they have made a definite step forward.
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Having led for the vast majority of the race from pole position, Alonso was passed by Red Bull's Mark Webber just five laps from the end of the race at Silverstone.
The Spaniard retains the lead of the Drivers' Championship in spite of his disappointment but with team-mate Felipe Massa finishing fourth - his best result since 2010 - Domenicali himself was far from unhappy.
McLaren struggled in what, surprisingly, turned out to be a dry race, with Ferrari jumping to second place in the Constructors' Championship behind Red Bull.
Lotus remain third overall but McLaren have dropped to fourth after Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished eighth and 10th respectively.
After their difficult start to the season, the result was the Scuderia's best so far. Domenicali acknowledged as much, yet he remains wary of the competition.
"It's very tough but it's great to see Fernando still in the Championship battle. From the sporting point of view, it's good to see Lewis losing some points, (third-placed) Sebastian (Vettel) too.
"But it is also good to see Felipe having a good performance today because we have jumped the classification on the constructors' side and that is very good.
"If you look at the situation of the day with the first four cars, we have done a step for sure in the right direction from the performance point of view.
"But it is a very open Championship. I don't believe honestly that the others will stay behind. McLaren will come back, the others were very close today - I was impressed by the pace of Lotus, it was very, very quick.
"The competition is very high but the more we go ahead in the Championship, the more drivers are falling behind.
"If you are able to keep that pace in terms of scoring points in each grand prix, it's all open at the end."
Alonso appeared in control for most of the race but was hauled in and passed by Webber after changing to soft compound tyres at his final pit stop.
The double World Champion was alone among the top seven qualifiers in starting on hard tyres but struggled with understeer after the mandatory switch to the option rubber.
Domenicali defended the decision to start Alonso on the prime, even though the trouble he had at the end of the race confirmed a problem they had first encountered in practice on Saturday morning.
That was the only chance teams had to evaluate slick tyres after the first two sessions on Friday were washed out.
"The thinking was because we had Saturday morning, when we found with Fernando some problems with the soft tyres with much lower fuel," Domenicali explained.
"We wanted to make sure that the first stint was not too short, that was the thinking behind that choice. And I think it was correct because it was really a great pace with the hard."
The Ferrari boss revealed that they had considered keeping Alonso out as long as possible on the hard tyres but had to change to softs to try and cover the Red Bull drivers.
Despite both now being on the hard tyre themselves, both Webber and Vettel were starting to make up ground - with the Australian in a position to do something about it.
"We discussed it but we wanted to 'mark Mark'," Domenicali added. "Because in this situation you never know what is going to happen.
"Then, because we had calculated the length of the stint, it would have been okay because considering what Felipe had in the first stint, we were assuming that length was all right.
"We wanted to first of all mark Vettel, that was our primary objective. Then also there was Mark - we had trouble with Mark."