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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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)”

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

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. Bartholomew
      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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

  6. just before the halfwaypoint, i think it was 28

  7. Bartholomew
    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Here you go Keith, from, 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 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.”

  10. jose arellano
    26th July 2010, 18:19

    come on people. massa struggled for half the season… if they where closely matched on points they would let them race..

    1. Precisely. Put yourself in Stefano’s shoes –

      1) The constructors title is close to impossible to win now

      2) The WDC is looking hard too, but the driver who has shown potential all throughout the season has been Alonso.

      Now you are presented with the opportunity of wining none of these titles or winning one of them. What would you do??.

      Every point matters

      1. So your saying it’s ok to contravene the rules and illegally swap your cars? Let’s not forget that whatever the motive was, it’s still a violation of the rules.

        1. Heikki / Hamilton….Hockenheim 08….

          1. I love the way everyone keeps bringing that up. The simple fact was that Heikki wasn’t ordered to do it, he chose to. Massa was ORDERED to move over. Its the same reason why nobody complained about most of the others that happen during a championship race.

    2. Barely the point since Alonso hasn’t exactly shone this season either!

  11. I really need to get these alternate video shots of the race. Without Keith pointing this out, I’d never have known about the Turn 10 Lap 35 sideways moment for Alonso. Seems the main feed left a very important part. And Star Sports doesn’t have half the features BBC offers. And BBC’s live race features can be accessed only in UK.

    Great insight Keith. I understand your disgust with what happened. I don’t support what happened at all. It’s just that as an Alonso fan I want my mind to believe that it was a deserved victory. But whenever Alonso attempts to do anything, something or the other happens to discredit the achievement.

    I too can’t understand why Alonso failed to make his move stick when he had the opportunity to do so – that would have given him praises and accolades for a deserved victory and put the “No. 1 Ferrari driver” concept firmly entrenched in the minds of spectators. Now it has just made things worse. Are his overtaking skills diminishing?

    But why did Massa submit to such a request (if it was genuinely made as seems to be the case in all probability)? To keep his Ferrari seat? Or as Ben Curly pointed out earlier to purposely create a sympathy wave towards him? And would Stefano Domenicali have had a part in it, by openly saying “sorry” on the radio and talking about his magnanimity?

    1. I’m sorry, it isn’t Stefano Domanicali but Rob Smedley – a slip of the fingers.

  12. Two things not mentioned it seems:
    1. Remember Indianapolis 2007 with Alonso going spare because he couldn’t pass Hamilton and McLaren wouldn’t give orders?
    2. I think I recall MS having a contract at Ferrari whereby his team mates were not allowed any testing while he could and did, with predictable results.

    I think the testing ban is brilliant. This year has been the most interesting season since I started watching when Newey was designing Williams. Although I recognise that F1 has become a business rather than a sport surely the teams should not be allowed to behave like BP?

  13. You´re right JOSE ARELLANO, Alonso has made a better job through the season and what happened in this race is just the result of that work.
    Also, it looks like there was a race inside another race, and even in that case Alonso was faster than Massa as F1 FAN pointed earlier.
    Also good video from HAMILTONGO, didn´t remenber Maclaren got a fine for that.

    1. What Alonso has done during the season and on Friday and Saturday don’t matter. He didn’t win because of any of those factors. He won it because SD gave it to him.
      After watching re-runs of the race, I’m not convinced he had what it takes to get by Massa; at least he didn’t do it Sunday.

  14. I like Brazilian just have to say: total Indignation! In Brazil on Sunday woke up at 9:00 in the morning, rest day to see this farce …. while the FIA not to adopt the method by a pilot team that will not change.
    Santander boss at Ferrari, that is the question ….

  15. Well…. this could be as it is…. but I don’t remeber you trying to demostrate something so deeply

    It was clear who was faster and it was clear that Ferrari didn’t want to risk too much in a battle… it’s unfair to tell your slower driver to be passed, but it would be also quite unfair to tell the faster driver not to overtake your slower mate in order not to risk….

    I don’t think that Domenicalli would have let Alonso to try again after the incident in lap 21…. it doesn’t matter if Alonso made that mistake and it doesn’t matter if Vettel was close or not…. the point is that if you don’t want your drivers to risk, you have to take the logical decision

  16. Alonso: Stefano, tell the FIA to punish Lewis for overtaking the saftey car.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonso: Stefano, tell the FIA to change the safety car rules.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonso: Stefano, give me number one status.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonso: Stefano, give me a Maserati.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonso: Stefano, Let me pass Felipe.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonoso: Stefano, lie about team orders.

    Stefano: Done.

    Alonso: Stefano, give me a unicorn.

    Stefano: Done.

    Felipe: Stefano, can I have a unicorn?

    Stefano: Of course not!

    Michael Schumacher: I agree.

    Felipe: ….

    Rob Smedley: Sorry, good lad.

    1. Love it. Hilarious.

  17. Alonso is poison, nothing but

    Whatever team he goes to he always brings trouble. I remember he had this problem with Fisichella in China 2006 then began his trademark whinging at the next race.

    I don’t even need to mention 2007.

  18. people perception of alonso is making very difficult for him to be judged unbiased. People don’t like him, and even though he did nothing wrong this time, he is being punished by the mayority of the fans anyway. He didn’t do much wrong this weekend, and his performance was good. It was a team decision. He sure agrees with it though.
    Massa on the other hand, was set for a victory, but his mediocre season cost him the chance of victory. But remember he got resigned for another year, without deserving it. So he became a second driver by his own choice.

  19. This will not be popular (I’ve read the polls), but let’s look at what went right and wrong impassionately. FYI, I’ve been following F1 since I was a teenager in the early 1950s and do *not* have any favourites or prejudices.

    First, Alonso was fastest all weekend (FPs, qualy) by several tenths. In the last 17 laps of the race – once ahead – he pulled away from Massa by 4.2 seconds, or again 2 to 3 tenths per lap.

    Second, Massa was told the truth by his engineer, that Alonso was faster. That is not a “team order” unless one accepts the conspiracy theory that this was “coded”. Smedley did not help with his tone of voice in “can you confirm?” and dumb comments like “Sorry” and “magnanimous” without which the team order saga might not have even started.

    Next, whether we (the fans) think it’s right or wrong, F1 is a team sport, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested by the teams, who have contracts with their drivers (conditions not published) who are, after all, just two out of dozens or hundreds of other employees doing what’s best for the team and the salary that the team pays them.

    Rule 39.1 is (since 2002) clear *if* a team order was given, rather than Massa acting in “team spirit”. Massa was quoted (Autosport) as saying: “For sure we don’t have team orders in the team. You just do the race you can and if you cannot do the race you can you have to think about the team.” As for rule 151(c), if the media weren’t all over this overtake like blue flies in a cow pasture, it wouldn’t even have crossed the FIA’s mind.

    It’s a storm in a teacup; Ferrari should read Smedley the riot act and then we can all get back to enjoying F1.

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