'Damage limitation' says Alonso
Ferrari ace relieved to salvage fifth place
By Mike Wise in Melbourne. Last Updated: 18/03/12 11:09am
Fernando Alonso: Salvaged fifth place for Ferrari in the Australian Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso admitted he was relieved to finish fifth in the Australian Grand Prix as Ferrari salvaged a respectable result at the end of a difficult weekend.
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Having started 12th on the grid after spinning out of qualifying, the double World Champion made a fast start at Albert Park and ended the day the top runner behind both McLarens and Red Bulls.
"Obviously I'm very happy with the result. I think it was damage limitation, let's say, in terms of the number of points we get from this weekend," he said. "It was a tough weekend from Friday and qualifying both cars out of Q3 was not the best result for us.
"Then in the race we did a good start and a good strategy and to finish fifth behind the two McLarens and Red Bulls is for sure the best news from the weekend in terms of the team."
The result came at the end of a weekend in which Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa were seen to be struggling with the handling of Ferrari's F2012 chassis.
Both drivers complained about the car, with Alonso saying that it lacks downforce. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the race, the Spaniard seemed at a loss to explain the improvement.
"It definitely was the same car, the FIA didn't allow us to change anything," he quipped. "It was a very good race for us in terms of preparation for the race.
"Ferrari is Ferrari - there are cars that are maybe quicker than us now, but it's like when Manchester United or Chelsea play one bad game but they still win 1-0."
Alonso may have been happy with the result but with Ferrari's chief rivals already established themselves in familiar territory at the front of the field, he called on his team to redouble their efforts to improve.
"For sure there is a lot of work to improve the cars in the next couple of weeks. Let's say one second off the pace yesterday in qualy is too much and hopefully in the next couple of races we'll improve tenths," he said.
"The difference here is that one second is maybe 12 or 14 cars, so if you improve two or three tenths it doesn't mean anything. Maybe you are five positions better next race - it's something that we need to improve very quick."
A feature of Alonso's race was his late battle with Pastor Maldonado, which was settled decisively when the Williams driver crashed on the final lap.
However, Alonso reckoned the situation was always under control.
"I felt sorry for him - it was a shame for him fighting for fifth or sixth place to lose the position six corners to the end. But at the same time it was eight laps with a very close fight," he added.
"It was not too difficult to defend to be honest. Using the KERS on the main straight and after Turn 1, obviously you have it available because you cross the line and have the 100 per cent again available.
"The two DRS zones, for the car in front you use two times 100 per cent of the KERS, so it was made a bit easier."
While Alonso made strides in Melbourne, it was a different story for Massa. The Brazilian climbed as high as eighth place during the early laps before falling away again.
Massa lost places to both Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen on lap 27, with his race ending 20 laps later after a collision with Bruno Senna's Williams.