Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2011

Alonso shines as Ferrari falter in 2011

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2011
Alonso led at Monza but it couldn't last

It did not bode well for Ferrari’s season that it took them three attempts just to come up with a name for their new car. The original title ‘F150’ was dropped following objections from Ford, who sell a pickup truck with the same name.

The 150??? Italia, as it was eventually named, may not have had the handling properties of a truck but nor was it a car with which Fernando Alonso could avenge his 2010 championship defeat.

There’s no disputing where Ferrari placed the blame for their lack of performance. While Alonso inked a long-term deal to stay with the team until 2016, technical director Aldo Costa was fired two days after the Spanish Grand Prix.

This had been a particularly humiliating race for Ferrari: a new rear wing was tried in practice, only for it to be swiftly banned by the stewards.

In the race Alonso brilliantly wove a path to the lead at the first corner and improbably stayed there until lap 18. But he finished a lap down as the 150??? Italia struggled on Pirelli’s hard tyres.

Ferrari team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 1st (1)
Best grid position (number) 2nd (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 4 (2/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,148 (94.79%)
Laps led (% of total) 77 (6.8%)
Championship position (2010) 3rd (3rd)
Championship points (2010) 375 (396)
Pit stop performance ranking 4th

The phenomenon recurred at most tracks: the Ferraris hovered around the third row of the grid, unable to get heat into their tyres quickly enough for a flying lap. On race day they generally fared better until they had to switch to the harder tyres.

Silverstone was a significant exception, and one which may provide an pointer to their 2012 form. At the race where the exhaust-blown diffuser restrictions were temporarily made much more stringent, Alonso took the lead and held it to the end of the race.

He may have been gifted the lead thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s slow pit stop, but Alonso was pulling away from his pursuers late in the race. With exhaust-blown diffusers significantly restricted next year, this bodes well for the Scuderia.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2011
Another year to forget for Massa

Even when the car wasn’t up to the job Alonso was at his tenacious best. He consistently produced top-drawer performances and regularly put his Ferrari in among the McLarens and even the Red Bulls. He finished ahead of Mark Webber on several occasions.

Ahead of the Korean Grand Prix Alonso said he was “extremely happy” to have Felipe Massa as a team mate. Despite the gulf in performance between the two, Ferrari seem content to keep things that way for at least another season. Massa was out-scored by Alonso even more comprehensively this year (257-118) than last (252-144).

Massa had some misfortunes in 2011, not least the numerous collisions with Lewis Hamilton, most of which were not his fault. But they do not explain him scoring less than one-third of Ferrari’s constructors’ championship points.

Last year Massa’s problems were explained away by him not being happy on the Bridgestone tyres. But the switch to Pirelli this year appears not to have been the cure-all he was hoping for. He often had to use up an extra set of the soft tyres in qualifying, which further hindered him on race day.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2011
Just one win: Alonso at Silverstone

With the championship a lost cause, the team used the final races of the year to develop their 2012 car.

Among the most conspicuous changes was a new front wing which vibrated violently at times, though seemingly only when fitted to Massa’s car. This prompted speculation Ferrari were trying to catch up ground lost to Red Bull in developing wings which move under pressure.

Ferrari have struggled to come to terms with the new-look Formula 1 – this is the second time in they’ve ended a season with a single win in the three years since the overhaul of the rules on car design. President Luca di Montezemolo has railed at the restrictions on testing and what he believes is excessive reliance on aerodynamics.

But with little change coming in those areas next year, Ferrari will just have to beat Red Bull at their own game.

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Images ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo