Bahrain GP – Another ninth place for Alonso as race takes priority over grid position. Massa fourteenth and out in Q2
One car on the fifth row and the other on the seventh: that is where the two Ferrari F2012s will line up on the starting grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place tomorrow afternoon at 15h00 local time. Fernando Alonso posted the ninth fastest time in Q3 after having been fifteenth in Q1 and fifth in Q2. The Spaniard used three sets of Pirelli Soft tyres during the session. Felipe Massa got into Q2 with the seventh fastest time and ended up fourteenth. The Brazilian used two sets of Soft and one of Medium.
Stefano Domenicali: “In all honesty, this result matches our expectations going into the session. Certainly we can’t be happy about these positions, quite the contrary in fact: we are the first to be disappointed, but our potential today is what it is and now we must try and get the most out of it. Looking to a race in which tyre degradation will be a decisive factor, we came up with a programme aimed at saving as many new sets as possible, trying at the same time to get as far forward on the grid as we could. If and how well this choice will pay off, is something we will only find out tomorrow afternoon. The aim for this Grand Prix is damage limitation, which means bringing both cars home in the points. I expect it will be a very hard race, for the cars, the drivers and the teams: whoever manages to avoid making any mistakes will already have a fair chance of getting a good result.”
Fernando Alonso: “Today, we were worth a place somewhere between eighth and twelfth, so ninth on the grid fits in with our current level. Honestly, given the characteristics of this track, which are definitely not suited to our current car, so far the weekend has not in fact gone that badly. To be in with a chance of making it to Q3, we had to use all three sets of Soft tyres available, so we didn’t have any left for the final part of the session. Doing a time on used tyres would have made no sense and would have forced us to start with a set of tyres that already had a few laps on them. Now we are free to choose either the Medium or the Soft for the start of a race that looks like being very hard, especially on tyres. To date, we have always gone a bit better on Sunday than Saturday: let’s hope it’s the same situation in Bahrain. Tomorrow, we must try and manage the tyres as well as possible, making the most of having three sets of new Mediums. The start will also be important, because it would be useful to make up some places right away, given that, for us, overtaking is certainly not straightforward. The aim? To finish in the points, around sixth or seventh place. I know, it’s not brilliant, but that’s what we can do with the car we have today.”
Felipe Massa: “Not exactly a brilliant position, but at least I have a new set of Softs for the race. It’s true that the track was improving with every passing minute, but I can’t say if using two sets of Softs in Q2 would have seen me get through into Q3. It would have been very difficult and we had decided to sacrifice something today in favour of tomorrow’s race, given that here it is very important to be able to use new tyres. That can make the difference when the track and the weather make for a high degradation level. We will try and get a good start and to use our strategy to make up positions. We know from our recent experience in Shanghai that, for us, overtaking is more complicated than for others. Here we suffer especially with a lack of traction coming out of the slower corners and that’s why I expect we will be fighting on the defensive in the race.”
Pat Fry: “Aware of our potential and the fact that tyre degradation can be expected to be very high over a long run, based on what we saw in yesterday’s free practice, we ran this qualifying session in different ways for each driver, thinking more about the race than the result at the end of this afternoon. For Fernando, our priority was to save sets of new Medium tyres, sending him straight out on track on the Soft in Q1. It was a bit risky, but it worked. Fernando managed to get through to Q3, but had to also use the last set of Softs available, because the track was improving significantly with each passing minute. In the final part of the session, we chose not to do a timed lap, hoping to induce any of our rivals who might have been following the same strategy to do a time, which would at least have obliged them to then start the race with a set of used tyres. With Felipe on the other hand, we went for a more conventional strategy, while still letting him save a set of new Softs for tomorrow, when tyre management will be important. If one can manage to do as many laps as possible with a clear track ahead, it could allow you to make up some places: let’s hope we can get both drivers in the top ten.”