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

Browse all 2010 German Grand Prix articles

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