Fernando Alonso says Felipe Massa was "perfect" in qualifying despite radio complaints
Spaniard says he was misunderstood after comments were broadcast
By Pete Gill and Mike Wise at Monza. Last Updated: 08/09/13 1:13pm
Fernando Alonso has insisted his apparent rebuke of the Ferrari team after qualifying for the Italian GP has been misunderstood.
In a dramatic finale to Saturday's shoot-out at Monza, Alonso was heard to lament "Felipe [Massa] is too far [ahead]" as Ferrari's attempt propel their lead driver up the grid through an aerodynamic tow from his team-mate backfired.
Unimpressed and furious to find himself fifth on the grid, one place behind Massa, Alonso sarcastically referred to team members as "geniuses" as he crossed the line.
In Ferrari's own press release, Alonso acknowledged making the remark, but insisted he had been misunderstood.
"Here at Monza the slipstreaming strategy is often used: having a car three to four seconds ahead of you allows you to gain a few tenths and for that I must thank Felipe, especially in Q3 when I came up behind Vergne's Toro Rosso and he waited for me," he said. "The radio messages have been misunderstood, as is often the case when you don't experience something first hand: the word 'genius' refers to the fact that we could have got out before Rosberg had gone by on his quick lap, but this should not raise any doubts about the impeccable job from the whole team."
There was certainly no hint of anger from the Spaniard when he faced the press pack immediately after the session, insisting that he had no complaints with either Massa or his team's tactics.
"It was a very good qualifying for us," the Spaniard maintained to Sky Sports F1. "We were finally fighting with the top guys after some not-so-good qualifyings. We were better today."
Massa and Alonso were seen to embrace as they entered the media pen, and the Spaniard's grievances in the immediate aftermath of qualifying appeared to be directed at his team's determination to engineer a tow - easier said than done - rather than with his team-mate.
"He [Massa] was perfect," said Alonso. "He was a little bit in front of me and helping me along the straights. It was perfect and this extra tenth or something was thanks to him."
Later he added: "The radio message? You know, they don't put the last radio message [out]: the one where I say, 'Thank you to Felipe. Thank you to the team. It was perfect at the end'."
Alonso started Q3 behind Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso rather than Massa. Having got past the Frenchman before embarking upon his final flying lap, he explained he thought that the Brazilian "was a little bit too far now, if we want to do this. So they slowed him down and we started the last attempt at more or less the same distance as always".
For his part, Massa said that, "Fernando was 3.5s behind me - the tow was completely what we predicted in terms of seconds.
"You don't need to be very close to the car," he added. "If you are close, your lap time will be slower. You need to be between three and four seconds behind another car."
In any case, Saturday's result marked a severe setback for Alonso in his faltering quest to thwart Sebastian Vettel's charge to a fourth title. While the Ferrari driver will start Sunday's race from fifth, with Massa in fourth, World Championship leader Vettel will line up on pole and seemingly poised to increase his points advantage at the top of the standings.
"It will be tough," added the two-time title winner as he considered his prospects of closing his championship deficit to the German. "We saw the Red Bull was strong all weekend, not only in qualifying but also the race pace. But we will try and get a good start and have a good strategy and see how things are in the race."