Crucial mistake delayed Alonso’s pursuit of Massa (Ferrari race review)

Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Hockenheimring, 2010

After failing to score at Silverstone Ferrari bounced back with a one-two at the Hockenheimring.

But the race will only be remembered for their controversial decision to order Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso by to win.

That might not have been needed had Alonso not made a crucial mistake which cost him an opportunity to pass his team mate earlier on in the race.

Felipe Massa Fernando Alonso
Qualifying position 3 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’14.290 (+0.497) 1’13.793
Race position 2 1
Average race lap 1’18.553 (+0.063) 1’18.491
Laps 67/67 67/67
Pit stops 1 1

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Felipe Massa

Massa went from third on the grid straight into the lead as Sebastian Vettel was preoccupied with trying to keep Alonso behind.

When Alonso pitted Massa was 1.5 seconds ahead, an advantage which was cut in half as Alonso enjoyed the benefit of pitting first.

In fairness to Ferrari, they had to do that to protect Alonso from Vettel’s pit stop one lap earlier. Still, given what happened later, you have to expect they wouldn’t have been disappointed had it also put Alonso in front of Massa.

In light of Ferrari’s later explanation that Alonso was faster than Massa and they were concerned Vettel might pass them, it’s worth paying close attention to the variations in their lap times and gap between them.

For the first six laps after Massa’s pit stop Alonso was all over his team mate and clearly being held up by him. The Brazilian driver struggled with the switch from super-soft to hard tyres and was locking his brakes at the hairpin.

Then from lap 23 to 27 Alonso suddenly dropped back and Massa increased his lead over his team mate to 3.4 seconds. Vettel also dropped back, because Massa had improved his pace: he set fastest lap on laps 23, 24, 26 and 27.

After that Alonso began to catch Massa again but it took until lap 41 for him to get the gap down to a second.

Compare Felipe Massa’s form against his team mate in 2010

Fernando Alonso

There is no doubt which of the two Ferraris were quicker in qualifying – Alonso was almost half a second faster than his team mate. The gap was a lot closer than that during the race.

After being delayed by Vettel, Alonso’s best opportunity to pass his team mate came on lap 21 when Massa had to pick his way past Bruno Senna at turn two.

Alonso slipstreamed up to his team mate, pulled alongside him on the outside as they approached the turn four hairpin and had his nose ahead for a few hundred metres.

Massa kept the inside line and held the position but Alonso emerged from the corner with his front nose underneath his team mate’s rear wing. But he chose to try to pass on the inside of the fast right-hander that followed – which was never going to work – and squandered his opportunity.

After that exchange Alonso appeared to back off and let Massa get away a little. At the time I wondered if he was saving fuel in order to be able to run to the end of the race on a full-rich mixture.

It seems he chose to do this at a time when the pair weren’t fighting their way through lapped traffic – which, as we’ve often seen, can present drivers with the best opportunity to overtake.

Alonso appeared to be in control of how far back he fell from Massa and how close he allowed Vettel to get. He then began to catch Massa again as the pair closed in on more lapped cars.

But on lap 35 Alonso’s Ferrari snapped sideways at turn ten. He caught the slide, but it put him onto the run-off area. This moment was not shown on the main television feed but was seen on the onboard camera channel.

That allowed Massa to increase his advantage to 2.7 seconds and, crucially, he was able to lap the Virgins before Alonso had reduced the gap again. For Alonso, what could have been a significant opportunity to get past his team mate was lost.

By lap 40 they’d both gone past Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi. Now Alonso sat around a second behind his team mate, matching his lap times.

But he was not under pressure from Vettel. The Red Bull driver caught Alonso by just 0.285s from lap 40 until the moment Massa was told to let Alonso pass.

Compare Fernando Alonso’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 German Grand Prix

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195 comments on Crucial mistake delayed Alonso’s pursuit of Massa (Ferrari race review)

  1. Dianna said on 26th July 2010, 14:48

    Will anyone ever take Alonso’s hysterical outbursts seriously again? I was actually beginning to feel sorry for him lately,but now this!!!!!!!!
    Alonso you act like a spoilt brat and deserve to be remembered for what you did yesterday to Felipe.

    BUT,there again,I wonder how much Felipe was paid with a back hander.Any Guesses??

    “Nice new 50 bedroom house,large swimming pool,full gymnasium OH!! nearly forgot to mention the new Ferrari on the drive, and the personal use of a bright red private plane!!.

  2. DaveW said on 26th July 2010, 14:51

    This is a great analysis, especially for those of us who were doomed to watch on FOX, which showed little but commercials for DirectTV, and the rest of the time we saw Michael Schumacher battling for 12th place. Or we saw some lousy music video with CG twinkles in the old man’s eye.

    The sum of this analysis is that Massa was the better racer yesterday. He capitalized on his start, he held off a major pass attempt. He cracked off the fast laps at the right moments to foil Alonso’s attacks. Meanwhile, Alonso made two or three crucial errors that put and kept him behind Massa. Alonso was faster, at certain times, but he is basically demanding that Massa be handicapped for his errors.

    Let’s recall Nurburgring in 2007 when, after coming together as Alonso made the pass and took the win in a brilliant drive, Alonso nonetheless confronted and berated Massa before TV cameras in the garage for the incident.

    Massa needs to look at Hamilton in 2007 and choose his moment to gouge Alonso’s massive ego. Alonso will crack just as he did at McLaren. Massa may want to end his career at Ferrari but he is destroying his reputation and his prospects going forward if he can’t. Alonso is a bully and Massa needs to remember that all bullies are at heart insecure cowards desperate for approval.

    • mfDB said on 26th July 2010, 17:03

      hahahahaha, DaveW, you’re first paragraph is spot on…

    • Adam Tate said on 26th July 2010, 18:16

      Dave W! That was perfectly said!

    • joc said on 30th July 2010, 13:06

      Alonso cracked in 2007? hahahah That´s funny considering Alonso and Hamilton were level on points at the end of the season with the whole team backing Hamilton (read Ron Dennis comments before the last GP) It was pretty clear that Hamilton cracked not Alonso that´s why he lost a championship that he should have won by a mile instead of giving it away!!!

  3. xabregas said on 26th July 2010, 14:58

    I think Ferrari did what they needed to do to try to preseve their best interests wich are, by the way, fight for the championship, alonzo and massa know very well that the team comes always in first.
    It was Massa who have putten himself in this position with so much lack of pace all year long, so why try to spoil all ferrari efforts at least to have one driver fighting for the championship.
    Didn´t Raikonen gave his position in Shangai to keep Massa fighting for the championship back in 2008, don´t remenber this controversy back then.
    Put Maclaren and Red BUll in the same situation and the result would be the same.
    Ferrari did shoot itself in his feet,( not handling the situation before the race in such a cenario) but letting Massa win the german grand prix instead of Alonzo would have been also shooting in his feet again not letting Alonzo have the 25 points for the victory.
    So, if FIA obliges teams to have tatics with tyres why can´t the teams have tactics with their drivers.
    One more thing, this is a TEAMS EFORT SPORT, there´s a lot of money involded in that so, if you wont to see no team orders you should try Indy car or Nascar, they are good at it and provide a good show, i like it but also understand that F1 is different.
    IT has been always like this why try to change it.

    • Skett said on 26th July 2010, 17:19

      They’d be shooting themselves in the feet if they didn’t do it? I don’t see how! Massa was not drastically behind Alonso in the drivers championship, and Alonso would still haul in a decent number of points.

      They did it for one reason and one reason only, to appease the crying baby.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 15:03

    For me, what’s probably the most galling thing about this was Alonso had a decent chance to pass Massa fair and square, and he failed.

    On lap 21 he had such a good overlap on Massa when they came up to the hairpin that – even though he was on the outside – I reckoned he would probably get him either on the way in or as they came out of the corner.

    Massa defended his position well and it’s to his credit, even though he wasn’t the fastest drivers on the day.

    He shouldn’t have had his win taken off him by the team. I was very disappointed with them.

    • Jonathan said on 26th July 2010, 18:06

      Me too! Are you going to say this loudly in an opinion piece?

    • Alex said on 26th July 2010, 18:07

      Keith, I have to find your reaction to this situation a bit disproportionate, especially given what you said a couple of seasons ago when Kovalainen let Lewis by:

      “Kovalainen wasted no time in letting his team mate past. Hamilton quickly went by – and Heidfeld shortly emerged from the pits behind Hamilton, showing the McLaren driver would have had an even tougher time had he not passed his team mate so quickly.”

      And even what Lewis himself said during the press conference:

      ” I have to say a big thank you to Heikki, he was a great team-mate. He didn’t put up a huge fight and saw that I was quicker and enabled me to get past quicker. And so a big thank you to him. ”

      I didn’t see any entries on manipulated races then, and I don’t think we need to now either.

      As i see it, Massa’s engineers were very vocal in the laps leading up to the pass, about letting Felipe know that he had to push to the limit so that Fernando wouldn’t close the gap. However, once Alonso clearly did, they had two options:
      1) Alonso could have had a go or three at overtaking Massa, and risk 42 points a la Webber and Vettel, or 2) Felipe could move over and avoid the risk altogether. I submit option 2 was much more reasonable for a team struggling for points as Ferrari is at the moment.

      Let’s all chill a bit about manipulations please.

      • mfDB said on 26th July 2010, 19:05

        Alex – I agree, well said…

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 26th July 2010, 19:58

        First off all, a win is something quite different from giving up a 4th place to allow your teammate to have a chance to win it.
        Especially when Heikki was clearly slower there.

        Alonso did have a try, Massa blocked it off and was finding speed again, second time he had a small of and was to far away. Sure the team feared they would do a Vebber crash. But they could have just told Alonso to keep his cool and follow Massa after he blew 2 chances to get past.

        The fact it is actually a year after the Hungary accident made having to give up his win even worse for Massa and Ferrari. Their back to being a team only for fans “functional winners”, as Joe Saward called it in his blog.

        • mfDB said on 26th July 2010, 20:52

          No it’s not…not at all different. giving up a position for your teammates advantage is what we are talking about.

      • DaveW said on 26th July 2010, 23:06

        At the end of the day its about appearances. Austria 2002 stands as a historic event because Ferrari decided that they would make a purposeful, obvious show of what has gone on with a wink and nod forever. It was damaging to the sport, bottom line, because perceptions matter.

        And in this case, appearances take on a special emphasis: Fresh in the FIA’s memory, after Valencia the FIA told Ferrari to shut up about “manipulation,” primarly in private, after hearing them campaign against the integrity of the sport for several days. So now we Ferrari again challenging the FIA’s basic authority over how races are run and making the FIA look like its not in control of things. The FIA is not going to let it go with another private talk this time. Even Ferrari cannot make a living by twisting the FIA’s tail.

      • Regis said on 26th July 2010, 23:50

        Very well said Alex, i couldn’t agree more !

      • “Lewis was nearly one second quicker and when he [Kovalainen] was told Lewis was quicker he just let him past. It was a tremendous sporting gesture.”

        Dennis then concluded:

        “True teammates do these things because that’s the way they are.”

        - Ron Dennis after the 2008 German GP

    • kriyuk said on 27th July 2010, 2:23

      well Keith .. you’ve done a very good job of being part of marketing industry. good work mate! I think Ferrari should start to think the same way too, get a nice-looking driver with diplomatic ability and let the critics flow through fan-site despite having a natural driver whose direct in conversation. the debate over team orders have gone to the level that separate men with boys now. and marketing will always work better with boys. there will be no end when we’re talking about team orders – every team does that. it looked very clear to be honest.

  5. tharris19 said on 26th July 2010, 15:25

    Most of us work everyday to make a living and we expect to be rewarded for our labor. Why shouldn’t FM expect the rewards for his drive at the German GP? P1 wasn’t handed to him by Alonso or Vettel he took it in a sporting fashion that was appreciated by the fans. But he gave it up (team orders) in manner that defy the spirit of competition.
    I am sadden that he allowed himself to be manipulated by Farrari in this manner. I am even more disgusted with Farrari management and Alonso having no shame for their actions. What I saw was a rape in progress and the end results were all over Massa’s face at the end of the race.
    What a sad sad day for Formula 1 and Filipe Massa.

    • mfDB said on 26th July 2010, 22:22

      He works hard…for Ferrari, which is a F1 team and car manufacturer that puts A LOT of money into Formula 1. At the end of the day, Ferrari wants Championships and Massa’s reward is a very big paycheck. At the end of my day, for all my hard work my reward is a paycheck too, not a shiny trophy. If my boss asked me to step aside for another employee I would either A) step aside for the better of my company and job and deal with the issue like a man, or B) not step aside and confront my boss to let him know why I am the better man for the job…..Massa did not do either of these. I am a big fan of Massa, but his behavior here is **** poor (both letting Alonso past in a very obvious, media craving way and then sulking about it). If he cares that much, then go win the race. If he knows he should step aside, then step aside and ****. Alonso’s behavior is equally **** poor. He should not have cried like a baby saying ‘this is ridiculous’…like KC has said here already, make the pass….if it is too risky for the team, then get on the radio and say I’m faster than Massa, don’t want to wreck your cars, what should WE do…..

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 22:29

        He should not have cried like a baby saying ‘this is ridiculous’…like KC has said here already

        I don’t believe I said anything like that…

        • mfDB said on 27th July 2010, 2:19

          Not what I was saying. It is supposed to read, like KC was saying…make the pass.

          In other words, at least try to pass a few times before your screaming over the radio. I do believe you said that he should have tried or did try to make the pass and failed….

      • tharris19 said on 26th July 2010, 23:01

        @MfDB
        While I agree that if Massa believe he could win the race he should have stood up for himself. However, Farrari is still the 800 pound gorilla in the room. They manipulated this race and turned it into a fiasco. They didn’t do for the team points because they had them wrapped up no matter who won. They did it to insure FA got the maximum WDC points.
        Every driver in formual 1 competes for every point they can get and when they feel cheated by teams and officials bad things happen. I could name numerous incident both recent and past to illustrate, but that’s not necessary because we have all seen enough races to understand the nuances of this business/sport.
        However, that does not mean we as paying fans shouldn’t expect everyone driving a car to compete. That’s what we pay a lot of money to see.

      • carldec said on 26th July 2010, 23:56

        ok.

        you were making great points until you got to “He should not have cried like a baby saying ‘this is ridiculous’…”

        For crying out loud man…. think for a minute about what your saying. Alonso is driving a car at 200 miles per hour! While trying to keep a very talented young german with a faster car at his home race from passing him, while trying to pass Flippy Springhead and draggin’ a canoe behind him! (sorry…. thats from an old song)

        We got to hear about 1% (IMHO) of the radio traffic between Alonso and his garage during the race Sunday. But as Douglas Adams said, “it was the best 1% (sic)”.

        You gotta believe if you work for the FIA you will hear more of that conversation than what FoxTV gave me here in Austin tx. I am sure the entire thing will be public when some author writes a book a few years from now. But don’t judge Fred on what he said in the heat of the moment.

        And another thing…. when he said the line “thats rediculous” it was probably about the 10th time Alonso had tried to do a friendly pass on Massa. And this was against Massa, his team mate who was slower while Alonso is in 5th in the WDC standings, mind you. Really smart, coordinated athletes (ie. Lance armstrong) sometimes have trouble riding a bike at speed and talking on an iphone. Hell, I have fallen off a mountain bike at 5 mph while trying to send a text message.

        Before you denigrate Fred, think about how hard it is to do what he did Sunday. Talking on the radio while driving in NASCAR is hard. What he was doing and what he did is amazing. Very few people in the world could do it at all. Alonso did it well enough to win. (Which is his ONLY job, BTW.)

        If I was in the left hand seat of a production Ferrari that Fernando Alonso was driving at Hockenheim I probably wouldn’t be doing anything but screaming and loosing my lunch.

        • mfDB said on 27th July 2010, 2:21

          Well I’ve heard him and many others keep their cool on the radio. I completely disagree with your argument, he was saying what he said and how he said it out of frustration not because he was scared and can’t handle the car.

  6. David-A (@david-a) said on 26th July 2010, 15:29

    Maybe now, all the Alonso fanboys will quit ragging on Schumacher.

    • Adam Tate said on 26th July 2010, 18:20

      Hahaha they should! If anything Alonso is proving to be even worse than Michael was! I’m just waiting for when he will punt a rival off track!

  7. xabregas said on 26th July 2010, 15:31

    Just read Schumacher´s opinion and couldn´t agree more.
    Everybody knows Ferrari likes Massa very much and what goes aroud comes around, maybe next year it will be the other way around.Lets not forget it was Massa who put himself in this poor position in first place.
    Those 8 points can be crucial by the end of the championship, let us see then who was right.
    With both Maclaren and RBR drivers fighting for the championship and Ferrari putting all their eggs in Alonso maybe we can have something like 2007.
    We know RBR wonts Vettel as his maine contender as Hamilton for MACLAREN so they will soon or later do the same thing FERRARI did.
    One more thing, it was the TEAMS who built this SPORT, not the drivers, they come and go, but the TEAMS stay.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 15:38

      Everybody knows Ferrari likes Massa very much and what goes aroud comes around, maybe next year it will be the other way around.

      How did that work out for Barrichello then? I don’t remember Schumacher having to support too many of his championship efforts.

      • Well, no, but then Rubens never put himself in position to win a championship, did he? We saw Schumacher let Irvine by in Malaysia to help him towards the ’99 title.

        And more recently, Massa helped out Raikkonen in 2007, only to have the favour returned the following year. So, if the situation was reversed Massa would undoubtedly benefit from team instructions.

    • Bartholomew said on 26th July 2010, 17:06

      FIAT sells a lot of cars in Brazil. Maybe when Chrysler starts taking off with all the new product they are working on, we will have Fast Fred and then a second driver that will be American.
      The future of Ferrari is in America. Lou diMonty will convince the Indy Cars people to allow different kinds of engines in the cars, not only Honda. This will be good business for everyone.
      Sorry for aleways being off topic ! cheers

  8. xabregas said on 26th July 2010, 15:56

    Back then Ferrari knew the only way to get to the top was getting the best driver and give him all the tools needed to be up front. Barrichelo allways was a good tool bringing goods points back home, that was his job.
    As i said before, Ferrari is in F1 because they wont to win, they only wont the drivers to bring there cars first,
    it´s their philosophy.
    They don´t care if it is Alonso or Massa, what they really wont is Ferrari first and the drivers must know that.

  9. The aero package in F1 is so bad, that faster drivers can’t pass slower drivers. If they don’t change this,just more boring racing.

  10. Patrickl said on 26th July 2010, 16:43

    Keith what do you make of the comment from Smedley that Massa should push and that he could still win the race. It was around the time that he was setting those fastest laps.

    Is there some indication that Ferrari might have set Massa some sort of ultimatum? For instance a minimum gap that he needs to pull to Alonso to make sure the team won’t order him to let Alonso past?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 16:46

      Roughly what lap was that? I’ll have a look on the video.

    • Jonathan said on 26th July 2010, 17:01

      I noticed that too. The TV commentators didn’t pick up on it.

      He said “3 seconds ahead… we can win this. We need everything now.”

      I was thinking, “Why does the margin matter? If he’s ahead, he’s ahead, right?”

      Evidently, something was going on. Maybe the instruction was “If you can increase your lead to x seconds we won’t swap the cars”.

      An alternative explanation is that Massa had to build up a lead while Alonso was in fuel-saving mode to have any chance of holding him off.

      • Hollus said on 26th July 2010, 17:21

        I think Alonso stopped the first attack on Massa on the implicit agreement that then Massa would stop defending, so both could pull away from Vettel. I read that message at the time as “Massa, you can just run normally now, no defending needed as you won’t be attacked, but we need fast lap times for the strategy”. And indeed, Massa’s laps got faster after the message, as did Alonso’s.

  11. Kimster said on 26th July 2010, 16:55

    just before the halfwaypoint, i think it was 28

  12. Bartholomew said on 26th July 2010, 16:57

    These debates add a lot of excitement to the days between races. In previous years we had Max, Flava, Bernie and Lou all fighting, to keep us riveted to the news.
    If there where only clean races with no politics and quarreling, this would not be enough fun.

  13. Phil T said on 26th July 2010, 17:52

    I disagree completely, it should be about the racing, I am sick to death of all the BS, and it always seems to centre on FA, F1 would be better off without the demented crybaby.

  14. F1Fan said on 26th July 2010, 18:17

    Keith, you have not done your homework on this one:

    ” … Then from lap 23 to 27 Alonso suddenly dropped back and Massa increased his lead over his team mate to 3.4 seconds. Vettel also dropped back, because Massa had improved his pace: he set fastest lap on laps 23, 24, 26 and 27. After that Alonso began to catch Massa again but it took until lap 41 for him to get the gap down to a second.”

    Domenicali very clearly stated after the race that the team had told Alonso first, then Massa, to turn the engine revs down a bit in order to preserve the engine for a few laps and also save a bit of fuel. Alonso did this first, laps 23-27 or so, Massa did it a bit later. There is no mystery here and not a case of Massa suddenly finding extra speed. Alonso was faster throughout the race, and in fact all weekend.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 18:39

      Have you got a quote on that? As usual I looked at quite a bit of material before writing this but didn’t see that particular one from Domenicali.

      • F1Fan said on 26th July 2010, 21:38

        Here you go Keith, from Autosport.com, dated 7/25/10 at 16:58 GMT. ” … we had some laps with the same situation for both drivers …” is what you are looking for here. I was watching live timing on F1.com during the TV broadcast, as I do with every race. After lap 20-something, Alonso suddenly started lapping by almost 4-5 tenths slower, then he started picking up and Massa slowing down. This is clearly what Domenicali is refering to below.

        ” Q. Felipe said in the press conference that the reason why the pass happened was because he was struggling with the hard tyres. But how do you explain that at the beginning he was struggling, then he built a gap of 3.5 seconds and then Fernando caught up?

        SD: We wanted to control the race. We gave them certain targets in order to control and respect the pace from behind without any risk. We saw Vettel coming up; we informed our drivers that both were catching up. We were also managing that in order to protect the engine we had some laps with the same situation for both drivers, to have a little bit of saving on the engine. When we saw Vettel coming again, we said okay let’s go up and push it because they are getting close. That is what we did in terms of management.”

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