Alonso: Interesting tire conundrum, shocking Maldonado

Fernando Alonso qualified 5th for the Singapore Grand Prix today and while Ferrari felt this is where they may be in terms of outright pace, the 2-time champion thinks that the tires may be an element that could salvage a podium finish on Sunday.

“Today, pole position was absolutely out of our grasp: Hamilton was on another planet… We must settle for this fifth place but that doesn’t mean we are not hoping to improve on it tomorrow: our target is the podium. The result pretty much matches what we expected after yesterday, given that right from the afternoon we were not particularly brilliant. The only surprise this evening was Maldonaldo and it was really unexpected to see him on the front row”.

The key, says Alonso, may just be in the tire compounds and the delta in performance between the “Prime” or soft compound and the “Option” or super soft compound:

“Here, the performance difference between the two compounds is probably the highest of the whole championship; between one and a half and two seconds, which could be an important factor tomorrow also. It’s true the Softs can last longer but it’s also true that, with such a significant difference, the Supersofts could also be an interesting option. I expect a lot of pit stops, specifically because of the tyre degradation. Honestly, before arriving in Singapore, I expected more, but we soon realised we would be tackling this Grand Prix on the defensive. The race will be very long, very hard physically and mentally, because you need to always concentrate to the maximum, with no margin for error: the slightest mistake can carry a high price on a track where the barriers are very close. Reliability will be very important and the number one priority will be getting to the finish in the best possible position.”

For Felipe Massa, it wa a qualifying performance to forget:

“It was a very difficult qualifying. I really struggled to put together a good lap, suffering particularly in the final sector, where the rear tyres were sliding and, as a result, were degrading. It’s a problem I’ve had since yesterday and we did not manage to fix it. Let’s hope we can do something for the race, otherwise it will be really hard. We must look carefully at the strategy, starting with which tyre to use for the start of the race: there’s a lot of difference in speed between the two compounds, but both seem to degrade significantly. The aim will be to finish the race in the points, which definitely won’t be easy, but we’ll give it our best shot. Not all the updates we brought here worked as we had expected and hoped for, which certainly hasn’t helped. So we must understand why with a view to the rest of the season.”

Can Ferrari achieve a podium with creative strategy? A lot of that may depend on the tire choices, position on track and the Safety Car which has been deployed in every Singapore Grand Prix to date. As for the team? Pat Fry feels they got what they could from Qualifying and it’s really up to the race to develop a points-scoring position:

 “Honestly, it would have been difficult to expect more from this qualifying. Of all the updates we brought here, the only one we did not use was the rear wing, which still needs more development: that means we must improve still further the quality of our work if we want to meet our targets. Clearly, the circuit characteristics alone are not enough to explain the difference in performance between us and those who have been quickest in this part of the season, between Monza and Singapore: today we saw a driver-car combination that was absolutely out of reach. We managed to improve the handling of the F2012, but not enough to get Felipe into a position from which he could make the most of the potential he had: unfortunately for him, thirteenth place on the grid means he is in a particularly difficult position for tomorrow’s race. A lot of factors will affect the final outcome of this weekend, starting with tyre behaviour over a long distance. Last year, we struggled a lot in this race and we tried to prepare for it differently this year, even if it’s never easy to find the right compromise in set-up between the single lap and a long run. Other elements to consider will be reliability and strategy. This race is very tough on machinery and the high temperatures definitely don’t help. Then we have the unknown factor of the Safety Car that has always featured in this Grand Prix. To sum up, there are a lot of variable to consider when aiming for a useful result for both championships.”


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