Ferrari hit back at criticism of race strategy

Ferrari race review

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Ferrari faced criticism for their tactics as Fernando Alonso lost the world championship in the final race of 2010.

One Italian politician went so far as to demand Luca di Montezemolo’s resignation over the strategic mistake that dropped him from fourth to seventh in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

That prompted a strong reaction from the Ferrari president.

Felipe Massa Fernando Alonso
Qualifying position 6 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’40.202 (+0.41) 1’39.792
Race position 10 7
Laps 55/55 55/55
Pit stops 1 1

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Felipe Massa

Believed he had not crossed the line soon enough to start his final lap in qualifying and backed off. Unfortunately he was wrong – and missed the best opportunity to improve his grid position:

I reached the exit of the final corner, I saw the red light and, instinctively, I thought I had not got there in time to do the flying lap.

In fact, I had made it, but I did not push immediately as hard as I could have done, so I came back to the pits when I realised I would not have improved my time. It?s a real shame because I could definitely have done better and therefore started further up the grid.
Felipe Massa

The team pitted him early in the race in an attempt to get him out ahead of Mark Webber. It didn’t work – and he spent the rest of the race stuck behind Jaime Alguersuari, finishing tenth.

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

Fernando Alonso

The strategic mistake that decided Alonso’s race has been picked apart in detail here:

While that tactical error was costly, just as big a part of Ferrari’s problem in Abu Dhabi was that their car was not as quick as the McLaren.

It was all Alonso could do to split Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in qualifying to start third on the grid – at that advantage was gone within a few seconds of the start.

Alonso’s frustration got the better of him on the way back to pits and he gesticulated at Vitaly Petrov, who had kept him behind for 39 laps.

Alonso had gone off on three occasions as he tried to pass Petrov, nearly hitting the Renault on lap 23.

After the race he said:

It?s a shame to get to the end of the season and then lose the title at the final moment, but that?s racing, that is sport. Everything went wrong today, from the start itself to the strategy.

With hindsight, it would have been better not to pit so soon, but it?s easy to say that when you have all the facts: however, it was definitely not an easy decision.
Fernando Alonso

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

Team principal Stefano Domenicali said that error in Abu Dhabi should not be singled out as the only reason for them losing the championship:

We must not forget that we were up against a car that was better than hours, there?s no doubt about that. Yesterday we simply gave Red Bull a present but we didn?t lose the championship here ?ǣ or at least not just here. I could cite other races where we left important points on the track, without counting grands prix like Valencia and Silverstone where there were certainly unfortunate episodes.

It?s easy to curse those who miss their penalty on the last day of the championship but, perhaps, someone else let in a calamitous goal at the first match of the season. The points are always worth the same, whether it?s the beginning or the end of the season.
Stefano Domenicali

He apologised to Alonso for the team’s mistake:

I would like to thank Fernando again for all that he has done in his first year with us. We knew his talent but having had the chance to have him in our team has made us appreciate his qualities as a man and as a leader.

I can understand what he has gone through in these last few hours and I?m very sorry for the error that the team made. He?s believed in us to the end and he?s been exceptional about placing his faith in us. Yesterday we didn?t manage to win the title together that we?d chased until the end with great tenacity. But we will do everything to manage it next year because Ferrari has only one magnificent sentence to endure: to win.
Stefano Domenicali

The team have faced stinging criticism in Italy, not least from one politician, Roberto Calderoni, who demanded the resignation of Luca di Montezemolo. The Ferrari president responded saying:

When the statesman will achieve in his life 1% of what Ferrari has done for this country in terms of industry and sports, then he’ll deserve an answer.
Luca di Montezemolo

Enzo Ferrari’s son Piero Ferrari, who was present to watch the team in Abu Dhabi, added:

I’m astonished and saddened by certain statements some politicians and a minister of the Italian Republic made after yesterday’s race.

It has never happened in my entire life at Ferrari that politicians intervened during good and bad moments in our life in motorsport, and I want it to stay like this. But if we want to have a look at how much Ferrari has done for Italy’s image around the world, then I can only say that it is definitely much more than certain politics have done.
Piero Ferrari

2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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119 comments on Ferrari hit back at criticism of race strategy

  1. Bartholomew said on 15th November 2010, 21:42

    Before the qualifying and race, Ferrari had to choose between two downforce setups : one that was faster in the straights, and another one that was better for the curves.
    They ended up choosing the “curves” setup, in the belief that it was the only way to qualify well. The problem then is that they had not enough speed to overtake in the straights.

  2. That some Italian politician uses the opportunity to launch a blow at Montezemolo is natural in Italy, I think. Most of them feel very strongly about F1 and Ferrari, and in a way it is an honourable thing for Ferrari, that their failure causes Italian Politicians to lose their temper – or try to become popular by demanding heads to roll at Ferrari for the failure. If Ferrari was much less important it would never be mentioned in this way.
    Personally I think that with this immense influence on the Italian public Ferrari should never never have cheated and used TO. Instead they could use the enormous attention and influence to set better standards for sporting conduct and fair play.

    • David BR said on 15th November 2010, 21:59

      Ferrari are quite right to reject politicians cashing in on either their success or failure. But I find all this defensiveness by Ferrari over their strategy at Abu Dhabi kind of strange. Why not just admit they got it wrong? As far as I can tell, they’ve been at pains to say it was a team decision (so not Alonso’s fault on track for being passed by Button and then failing to get past Petrov?) – but it wasn’t really a mistake (so not Ferrari’s fault off track for pitting Alonso when they should have just tracked Button?). Sounds like a team trying to keep a lid on some internal tensions…

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th November 2010, 22:02

        Why not just admit they got it wrong?

        They did, look at Domenicali’s comment, he apologised to Alonso and called it a “mistake”.

        • David BR said on 15th November 2010, 22:23

          It’s a fair cop! I was thinking back to some of the post-race remarks and forgot the Domenicali quotes at the top of the article. Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to see how this first year of Alonso ‘comes out in the wash’ at the start of next year’s season, particularly in relation to Felipe Massa.

  3. I was impressed with Ferrari’s quality and Alonso’s season after Spa – where I had the pleasure of seeing his crashed racer passing us sitting on a Lorry on the way back to the pits. After this he seemed unbeatable – he made no errors, used any good opportunity and maximized the points available with the car. But for the final race he went to defensive, he and Ferrari only wanted to control Webber, to keep him behind. Had he been aggressive, I’m sure he would have been champion again.
    I’m so happy that Vettel got it and that so many drivers and teams did all they could to support this, even if they probably just drove to maximize their outcome.
    Now we just need Kimi back next season and Schumi up for speed, then it will be yet another grand season, especially if FIA can decide for themselves if they want to Judge according to the rules they have, or change the rules to what they can judge against Ferrari;-)

  4. I am an ALO supporter and I am recovered yet. I am sure that He and Ferrari are also recovered yet, analyzing all the mistakes and the right decisions from them and the other teams, and preparing the next seasson. There is no time for cry.

  5. icet925 said on 15th November 2010, 22:26

    In a sense the Italian politician was right.
    This was a strategic error from the Ferrari team.

    If Alonso had pitted in the right time, then he would’ve scored some more points in the race.

    • icet925 said on 15th November 2010, 22:32

      But, I don’t believe it’s right to criticize what the team thinks its the best for them.

      It’s not like the politician is an expert on racing strategies.

      Politicians should focus on their acting.

  6. this may not be the correct place for these comments, but why isn’t anybody talking about the Yas Marina track? What a horrid place to race! Alo was catching Pet at 8 tenths per second, then was “stuck” behind hom for approx 38 laps. We saw similar episodes all over the place. Absolutely ridiculous! I hated every second of that race due to sheer frustration. Passing makes for a good race, and this was the worst race I’ve seen since last year’s race here. Even Monaco is more appealing. My opinion is that they should raze that ridiculous (POS) track and start over with somebody that has half a brain.
    Anybody else out there agree with me?

    • icet925 said on 15th November 2010, 22:54

      I don’t really agree here, the track is perfectly fine.

      They shouldn’t raze it down

      • DASMAN said on 16th November 2010, 20:32

        I agree – the track is *****!! For F1 at least. Its appaling, the track showed up all the defeciencies with F1 as a formula. For starters they need to leave out the chicane at turn 5…

  7. leotef (@leotef) said on 16th November 2010, 1:47

    Well, it’s boring to hear and hear again that Alonso has almost won the title despite in the 3rd best car, far inferior to McLaren and Red Bull sort of stuff. Interesting that when he fall bebind it’s due to his poor Ferrari or other stuff and when he put himself upfront, it’s his awesome skill?
    Better be objective. He may be one of the finest driver these days, but not more than that and less than that, prone to make mistake as anybody else. Only difference in this rank shall be probability of making mistake is relatively less than those other guys.
    Just wondering if LH, SV or FA are to race in Torro Rosso or HRT?
    What’s really annoying with FA is his lack of maturity. Well, he is still young fella and believe he will grow up as time goes. But it will fatally flawed if those despicable behaviors are hailed and tolerated only because he is commercially representing Spanish Italian market.
    Maybe too harsh for him, but guess he got to rethink the system as a whole outside of his small begotry ego.

  8. You can ruminate about it till the cows come home but essentially had Alonso pitted later in the race as did Vettel, he would have won the title because he would not have been stuck behind a driver that he could not pass. It is that simple. There was absolutely no good reason to pit early. That was the only reason Alonso did not win his third title and it was a major team error. Pity.

    • Maciek said on 16th November 2010, 14:54

      “There was absolutely no good reason to pit early. That was the only reason Alonso did not win his third title”

      No, it was just the last of many reasons accumulated over the season.

  9. Abhijit said on 16th November 2010, 8:21

    One should not forget that Ferrari has done a lot for Italy. Italy is also known as “Land of Prancing Horses” because of Ferrari. Ferrari may have lost the driver’s title but they always had the second best car this season and still they were in the hunt till the very last race. Alonso drove his heart out in the second part of championship, pushing the car to its limits. I am a die hard Ferrari fan and I truly support the team in its tough moments. Ferrari will be back as winner very soon…..

  10. troutcor said on 16th November 2010, 11:39

    Only 16 comments over on the McLaren page, but 86 here on the “We Hate Fernando Forum.” High praise for Fernando and Ferrari, indeed, when your rivals hate you more than they love their own team! Or maybe it’s just that none of you Butto . . . er, unbiased Brit fans want to talk about the failures of their own heroes this year! (Anyone care for a wager on how far Putt Putt Button falls down the time sheets next year?)
    See you all next season!

    • Troutcor: Button seems to be a very nice guy, fair and honest. I’m not his fan, but I like his posture about it and he delivered some support for Hamilton even if the car wasn’t up to it for many races this autumn. The other top drivers all have something in their baggage which have caused criticism, but none of them have a baggage like Alonso – directly suggesting his Team to break the TO rule and they did.And Keith gave a spot on number of reason why many of of see Alonso as we do: The victory in Singapore: Alonso’s strategy in that race only made sense, if he knew the safety car would come out early. Otherwise it would have been directly stupid to pit as early as he did – far earlier than anyone else. I simply don’t believe he didn’t know. The TO thing in Germany sort of confirms a small suspicion that Alonso actually was the brain behind the Singapore stunt, back then. He also read and commented the documents from the spy scandal, instead of telling the team that it was illegal, unsporting and unworthy to obtain this kind of material in this way. In both cases he escaped punishment – how I still don’t understand.
      Alonso is a gifted driver, but maybe he lacks empathy – I have never seen any kind of evidence that he can be empathic, on the contrary…Reminds me of a boss I once had. Couldn’t feel a thing for other people, but felt very sorry for himself when it was his ass on the grindstone…

      • troutcor said on 17th November 2010, 14:39

        Wait a second! McLaren steals documents and that’s Alonso’s fault because he did not tell McLaren that they shouldn’t steal documents?

  11. HounslowBusGarage said on 16th November 2010, 12:30

    Tragic for Massa that he thought he’d missed the end of the session. I suppose there is no automatic way of reassuring a driver – green light on the dashboard if he starts the lap in time, that sort of thing. I can’t remember as he started that last lap, was there traffic in front of him on their slowing down laps already?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th November 2010, 12:38

      I thought it was strange he didn’t just keep his foot in and hope for the best.

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 16th November 2010, 17:44

        I suspect he was already feeling a bit defeated and deflated, and thereby thought he’d missed the opportunity. Sort of ‘glass half empty’ effect.

        • bosyber said on 17th November 2010, 9:04

          The trouble of most of his season it seems, especially after Germany. That is what ensured Ferrari couldn’t fight for 2nd in the WCC, and also meant Massa never was in a position to help Alonso after Germany. I sometimes wonder if that last bit was on purpose, although thinking seriously, I doubt it.

  12. The Limit said on 17th November 2010, 5:03

    The one important point about Alonso’s defeat in Abu Dhabi has been missed here. His, and indeed Ferrari’s strategy going into the grands prix was an over cautious one.
    With a lead in the points standings going into the race, it was obvious that Alonso and Ferrari were not going to take any unnecessary risks. At the start, Jenson Button passed Alonso without the Spaniard putting up too much of a fight. I am convinced Button realised this himself, he had nothing to lose if he made contact with the Ferrari trying to pass, but Alonso had everything to lose.
    Going back to Brazil 2008, ‘all’ Hamilton had to do was finish fifth or better. It sounded easy on paper, but Hamilton came desperately close to losing the championship that grands prix, from a result that most suggested would be ‘easy’ to attain.
    Ofcourse Ferrari’s decision to pit Fernando early played a huge and decisive factor in the loss, but it proves just how hard it can be for any racing driver to play a ‘defensive’ strategy. Hamilton, Button, and without doubt Sebastien Vettel had nothing to lose and went out fully to attack as hard as they could from the get go.
    By the time Ferrari, and especially Alonso realised their error, it was too late. I agree with Keith that the argument that overtaking in Abu Dhabi is ‘impossible’ is completely false and a lame excuse. Its just that some took bigger risks than others were willing to take.
    As for Alonso’s past, I also agree with Keith. There is a clear common thread in many of the major scandals of the last several years. They all involve, in some context, the same racing driver. I often think that Fernando has a firesuit made of teflon, as nothing bad seems to stick to him. Spygate, Crashgate, Hockenheim, all involved him but he was either looking the other way or not in the loop. Believe that if you will!
    Keith was bang on. After the furore of Singapore 2008 Fernando Alonso could, and should, have denouced the Renault team and his former superiors far more vigoriously than he did. That itself, spoke volumes.
    To me, he did not come across as a man ashamed of how his team had aquired victory, nor did he sound surprised.
    Now, can you say he is the dirtiest driver ever? No is the answer. We all remember Senna and Prost crashing into each other to both win world championships. Both men, when push came to shove, were ruthless when it came to stamping their authority on the racetrack.
    Michael Schumacher could have and handbook written about how to ‘achieve one’s aims at any price’, and is, like Senna and Prost, rightly considered a legend.
    So Alonso is in good company there isn’t he! I think what angers some is his ability to dodge bullets and still come out of it smiling. Mr Nice Guy, which to be honest, the others do too with varying degrees of success.
    I thought Martin Brundle summed it up best with his ‘get real son’ comment on Fernando’s petulance towards Petrov. I for one, remember Alonso in 2005 doing the very same to Michael Schumacher at Imola so what goes around comes around. He is though, despite his tantrum moments, still one of our sports best drivers and a big draw to many. Just don’t expect him to win Sports Personality Of The Year, and to be fair, thats not what hes being paid for is it?

    • RaulZ said on 17th November 2010, 8:33

      Speaking about F1, yes, he was in a defensive strategy, that was the right one at the begining, but the SC made it inutile. The wall mistake made the rest. And yes, it’s easy to overtake in Abu Dabi, but it isn’t when you have a car configured for curves and the only points to overtake are the straights, and the renault was configured for speed. Many things against the defensive strategy. A big mistake to remember as well as the great victories.

      About the rest you’re saying, and coming back to defend Alonso, I have to say that we have to believe in proofs, at least, being unbiased.

      Alonso could have been behind all the scandals, but he could be perfectly inocent of everything. Speaking about being sportive, remember that in the spygate Alonso gave the emails to the authorities. Yes, he was required, but, what about Hamilton, who almost win the championship with that copied car? wasn’t he around there?

      Why are you asking to him to return the singapore price because of that? Did anybody in the F1 history who made that after being discovered in a fraud?

      Why should we suspect about him being around and why don’t we think that hamilton movement in Valencia was deliverate? I speak about Hamilton but maybe because it’s because he is also in the focus.

      wouldn’t RBR swap positions in the last race if necesary? is it better in the last race? so can’t you disregard the rules if you are not in the last race? I think the point of the last race have the same value that the ones in the first race, haven’t they?

      It’s true that all this riot would finish and we’d remember the epic of his victories and not this things. Well, only if English/German Media doesn’t make with him an evil who eats children and we forget that he’s just like the great champions: selfish and arrogant.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2010, 8:36

        Did anybody in the F1 history who made that after being discovered in a fraud?

        Did anyone else in F1 history win a race because his team mate was ordered to crash?

        • bosyber said on 17th November 2010, 9:17

          Maybe, but then the were clearly better at pulling it off so we haven’t found out yet :-p

        • RaulZ said on 17th November 2010, 9:52

          I’ll answer you when you tell me why don’t you link Hamilton with the spygate or when you ask/contribute for the same public lynching to McLaren team.

          And as the statements said in singapore gate… wasn’t the crash a Piquet idea? You give value only to the statements you like. Piquet father, what a person, Alonso is a saint next to him.

          Yes, Alonso is not Hill, a gentleman, but I think this is going too far. Don’t you think that life has been fair with this issue making Alonso lose the championship?

          What goes around comes around, Keith. One day you’ll have to talk about someone else about similar things and you won’t be so hard. Well, you’re not really hard, but insistent.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2010, 9:58

            What happened in Singapore was specifically engineered so Alonso could win. Both Hamilton and Alonso benefitted from ‘spygate’ – and only Alonso was directly implicated.

          • David A said on 18th November 2010, 17:07

            When you say Hill, you must mean Graham or Phil. Damon rammed Schumacher off twice.

          • David A said on 18th November 2010, 17:10

            Oh, yeah, and Damon still didn’t come close to the title that year.

  13. Alex 3 said on 17th November 2010, 11:59

    My view is that Ferrari got it wrong from the git go with their final gear ratio selection and wing set up was not the issue. I also speculate that Red Bull made the same error with Webber.
    The inability of either Alonzo to close on Petrov and Webber on Alonzo down the straights when they were both faster in qualifying suggests to me that in a one lap situation and their skill sets both these drivers were ahead of Petrov but over the race distance they just could not keep up on sheer speed because they topped out on revs at lower speeds. Petrov drove very well for him, made no mistakes and the Renault was well set up with the same engine as the race winner and Webber.
    Yaz Marina is a fine line between set up and final gear ratio and get the gearing wrong and you will do well in the twisty bits but give up top end speed and that is what happened to Alonzo, Massa and Webber. Renault did better.

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