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

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

  1. jose arellano said on 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..

    • Todfod said on 26th July 2010, 18:39

      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

      • Invoke said on 26th July 2010, 18:54

        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.

        • mfDB said on 26th July 2010, 19:07

          Heikki / Hamilton….Hockenheim 08….

          • Skett said on 27th July 2010, 11:49

            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.

    • Skett said on 27th July 2010, 11:47

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

  2. PT (@pt) said on 26th July 2010, 18:21

    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?

  3. 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?

  4. xabregas said on 26th July 2010, 18:55

    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.

    • tharris19 said on 26th July 2010, 19:13

      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.

  5. Jeferson said on 26th July 2010, 19:11

    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 ….

  6. Luiti said on 26th July 2010, 19:37

    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

  7. Flippy PK said on 26th July 2010, 19:43

    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.

  8. A Singh said on 26th July 2010, 19:44

    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.

  9. kowalsky said on 26th July 2010, 20:01

    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.

  10. Paul A said on 26th July 2010, 20:17

    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.

  11. Fran said on 26th July 2010, 20:33

    Its simple, before the race Alonso is 47 points under Lewis and Massa 72. Alonso is the only ferrari driver who can win the drivers championship. If both are in P1 and P2, its a simple decision if im team manager.

    Less hypocrisy because the F1 will always have team orders. For exmaple, Button fighting with Lewis(Turkey GP) radio, “please save fuel”, come on!

    • PT (@pt) said on 26th July 2010, 20:44

      That’s right. Speak up! Paul A and Fran. We need more sane voices like yours to drown the mostly biased and prejudice-driven reactions of most fans and the common media.

      My point is this – if Ferrari is guilty, so are McLaren (Turkey 2010) and Red Bull (Turkey and Silverstone 2010) whose team boss Christian Horner is pretending to hate all this while he himself (or the powers-that-be at Red Bull)has been accused of favoritism.

  12. Damon said on 26th July 2010, 21:12

    I’m trying to think of ways we could stop this happening, Getting rid of the incar radio? By scrapping the constrictors championship and introducing a new scenario? Because let’s be honest team orders will always be around the way the sport is nowadays

    • Quite an appropriate freudian slip there! I like the sound of that: “Constrictors Championship”. The team that hobbles their driver the most wins ! No reliability concerns with that championship, with RBR comfortably leading ;)

  13. Gusto said on 26th July 2010, 21:47

    I think the point were missing is that Alonso tried and failed to overtake Massa, Alonso then moans to the pit, Massa is then ordered through an obvious an gut wretching radio message to let Alonso through, Massa then lets Alonso through in a blatent `there you go boss` hope you choke on it manner, Massa then stays in front of Vettel who was the worry all along of ruining a Ferrari 1-2…

    If you cannot see the damage this has done to F1 then you are truly a Ferrari fan through an through.

    • Paul A said on 26th July 2010, 22:38

      You write “Alonso tried and failed to overtake Massa.” Possibly, but fans, FIA, FOM and FOTA (alphabetical order) while all suggesting that overtaking is one element that is missing, are fully aware that current aerodynamics are not exactly conducive. Also, Alonso – please remember that he is an experienced driver but involved in three recent overtaking incidents (Schumacher Monaco, Hamilton/safety car Valencia and Kubica Silverstone) – might have thought that “discretion is the better part of valour” and that he did not want to repeat an RBR incident of just a few races ago.

      • Gusto said on 26th July 2010, 23:12

        Overtaking numbers are up on previous years, an Button starting 14th at Silverstone and finishing 4th does seem to confirm that overtaking can be done. As for Alonso`s overtaking incidents, Monaco was Schumacher pulling a fast one, Valencia was just a case of wrong place wrong time and how He moaned all the way to the finish line instead of racing and Silverstone was obviously gonna end in a drive through as He didnt return the place. I just find it hard to respect a driver who moans a driver out the way. And the look on Massa`s face after the race was the look of a broken Man.

  14. Damon said on 26th July 2010, 21:56

    Has anybody got any suggestions on how to stop these things happening because the way things are it will never change. I’ve got some crazy ideas lol

  15. xabregas said on 26th July 2010, 22:03

    It leads us to one thing:
    Such regulations that forbide team orders shouldn´t exist in the first place.
    Teams will allways give orders, it´s as simple as that.
    IS FIA going to police the teams even when they are in their factories when meeting with the drivers ? Of course not, it can´t be donne so better stop with this nonsence, it leads to nowhere.
    FIA should worries more trying to find solutions to improve the show instead of going after the teams.
    Why couldn´t Vettel even try one time to overtake Massa?
    Or Alonso only 1 time to Massa, or Button to Hamilton, or Webber to Button and Hamilton ?
    The problem is here, find the solution and no team orders are needed, and the show will be much better.

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