Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Alonso’s role in Ferrari strategy revealed in pit messages

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

The discussions on the Ferrari pit wall that led to crucial decision that cost Fernando Alonso the world championship have been revealed.

The exchange of messages between Alonso and his race engineer Andrea Stella, which was not broadcast during the race, shows the team’s preoccupation with Alonso’s position compared to Webber.

It also shows how Alonso urged the team to use Felipe Massa to hold Webber up.

The radio transcript, published by Corriere della Sera, shows how Ferrari made the mistake of reacting to Webber’s pit stop instead of keeping Alonso out.

Lap 9

Alonso is 1.7 seconds behind Jenson Button and 1.4s ahead of Webber, who is 0.8s ahead of Massa.

Andrea Stella: “You gained three tenths on Webber. Felipe is closing in too.”

Lap 12

Webber pits.

AS: “Webber has stopped and Vettel is also losing ground on Hamilton.”
Fernando Alonso: “If you see that Felipe can overtake him in a lap call him in.”
AS: “We are thinking about it, concentrate on Button.”

Lap 14

Massa pits.

FA: “How did it work with Felipe?”
AS: “He came out behind Webber”

Lap 15

Ferrari tell Alonso to pit on lap 16.

AS: “OK, come in [to the pits] now.”
FA: “OK”
AS: “You will come out close to Webber. You are in front”.

Lap 17

Alonso is 1.1s ahead of Webber and 1.5s behind Vitaly Petrov.

FA: “What’s the situation?”
AS: “We have to overtake the Renault in front, he won’t stop any more. After that it’s Rosberg.”

Lap 22

Alonso is 0.5s behind Petrov. None of the cars that were in front of him before he pitted have come in yet.

AS: “I know you are giving everything but it’s critical to overtake Petrov.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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179 comments on “Alonso’s role in Ferrari strategy revealed in pit messages”

  1. Alonso was just too slow. That’s there is to it.

    1. So was hamilton behind the other Renault. Maybe trailing a Renault makes your car slow?

      1. the problem with overtaking a renault was that it had a high speed on the straight.

        1. As was the same problem for non-Renault drivers at Malaysia and other races….

          Yet RBR still complain about their engine.

          1. their speed was nothing to do with engine, but tall 7th gear & very efficient f-duct with a set-up which was biased towards sector 1 & 2. they were around 1 sec slower than Ferrari in the last sector… but that did not matter as you can’t overtake in sector 3.

    2. From what little we saw of his pace in clear air I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt he could have finished fourth, given his position at the end of lap one, had they got the strategy right.

      1. Say it again Keith, it fills me with a pleasant warmness.

        1. Alonso, Petrov is ahead of you, confirm you understand this message…

          1. that will teach him for saying that he preferred ferrari over his championships at renault

          2. This is ridicules tell him to move over. I am faster than him this is ridicules.

      2. I agree; but, of course, a championship is not determined by any one race, but, rather, by all the races combined. Alonso made myriad mistakes in the first half of the season. He did well in the second half, though, with the second best car. I.e., the strategy in the final race wouldn’t have mattered, if he had made fewer mistakes earlier on in the year.

        Lewis, in contrast, had the third best car and consequently couldn’t, by definition, make many mistakes and still be in the hunt come the final race: in fact, he made one, monza, and that was very unlucky. He didn’t lose the championship because of that mistake, either. He lost it by not having a quick enough car throughout the year: often, he was 0.5-1 sec. slower than the RBR; at Hungary, it was nearer 2.00 sec.

        Speaking of strategy, McLaren could have used Button to hold up Vettel by keeping him out on worn tyres…it might not have won Hamilton the title; but it would have helped him out.

        1. Lewis made quite a few more than one mistake, He let Alonso past twice in the last few races by going off the track.

          No doubt he did a great job, but don’t forget mid year, the McLaren was quicker than the Ferrari.

          I think Hamilton still being in the running is more a reflection of how badly Red Bull messed things up, than how well McLaren did.

      3. KC, could you establish the link to the corriere della sera were Alonso was involved? I can’t find it in the online edition, unless you receive at your door step the paper edition….

  2. Alonso was gifted 3 wins ( barhain, germany, korea). It’s Karma! Well done to Sebastian! The true champion, earned it without team order.

    1. And without doing much overtaking, either.

      Still: the points table doesn’t lie and the history books will say he’s the champion.

      1. apart from he’s not the champion.

        1. I think LewisC was referring to Vettel.

      2. A real champ should not be needing to overtake..
        overtaking is only for bad qualifiers to claw back positions they should nt have lost in the first place.

        Besides when Vettel needed to overtake because of the puncture, he did that in style.

        Vettel is the rightful champ this season and perhaps the most deserving of the last 5 WDCs except Kimi!

    2. I think we should get over this “gifted” attitude. This is motor racing and countless victories in F1, Indy 500 and other series have been decided by retirements. If you can’t accept that, go into the F1 sporting records and start defining who the “true champion” is, beginning with Ascari.

      Had Alonso won the title he sure would have been a worthy champion. But he and Ferrari fumbled with the strategy and Vettel won – no complaints, Vettel deserved it. If the right strategy at Abu Dhabi won Alonso the title it would be deserved as well.

      Without team orders? What do you think Turkey was? The initial reactions from the Red Bull staff confirmed it was team orders gone wrong. Or why else do you think Horner continues to say “both should have given each other room?” It was clearly Vettel’s mistake.

      1. I second that PT.

        Winning the title is about getting the whole package right over the season, a mix of car and driver speed, strategy, driver mistakes, technical issues and getting the right dose of luck.
        Ferrari came close this year, but in Abu Dhabi they made one more mistake, while Red Bull got it right with Vettel so he deserves the title.
        Interesting discussions, it shows again how much Alonso is part of the strategy on track (I wonder, did he always do that, or did he get more involved after Singapore 2008 to avoid suprises? – he did say he was not involved in the strategy there).

    3. oooooohhh you dont now that.

      1. BasCB, He did say? do you believe Mr. Teflonso? have you noticed that nothing ever sticks to Alonso, and that he is always unaware of his team strategies? Crashgate was the tip of the iceberg, he also denied the fact that Massa let him by, and still does… have you ever heard him concede that it was in fact a team order… i think Alonso will become a politician or a mob don once he retires…

        1. Yes, he did say so repeatedly when questioned about that at the FIA hearing.
          I was thinking back to an excellent article by Keith, where he had a look at how drivers were involved in strategy and already put a strong argument in to question, how real it would be for Alonso not to be involved in the race strategy (compared to remarks from Hamilton and others who were defenitely more involved or at least informed than that).
          I think we have seen several times this year and in the past, that Alonso is pretty active in tactical thinking behind the wheel.
          But the FIA went with his argument in this case (at least oficially).

    4. Without clear team order…

    5. Vettel should have won the championship way before the final. He had the best car by miles. He was also given preferential treatment over a team-mate who is not rated highly: I have never, in decades of following this sport, seen a team take a wing off one car and give it to the other…and that was a major team order, to all intents and purposes.

      Alonso, in the second best car, and Lewis, in the third best car, still took the title down to the wire. So these drivers did a far better job than the RBR drivers….

      1. They did a far better job than Webber. Vettel lost three wins through mechanical faults. That’s part of why he didn’t have it wrapped up 2-3 rounds earlier.

    6. Gifted 3 wins??

      Bahrain and Korea??

      Okay you could argue Bahrain and no doubt you will Korea what planet are you from?

      You could say webber was gifted monaco you could say hamilton was gifted turkey you could say and say and say.

      But to finish first first you have to finish.

  3. i believe the last quote should read AS: “I know you are giving everything but it’s *critical* to overtake Petrov.”

  4. Alonso should have focussed on the guys (Vettel, Hamilton) in front, instead of the guy (Webber) in the back.

    Q. Do you race the frontrunner or the backmarker?

    In hindsight still a strange pitcall.
    After the pitstop and getting stuck behind Petrov the title chase went into a ‘sudden death’. Game over!

    Petrov drove the Quali and Race of his life!

    1. Alonso only needed to finish 4th, he was quite reasonably concentrating on Webber, how was he to know if couple of upper midfield cars had pitted under the SC? It was Ferrari’s job to make sure they didn’t pit Alonso until they knew he’d come out clear of Rosberg and Petrov.

      1. And it’s Alonso’s job to pass the cars in front. Granted, it’s a tough job, but you can’t expect becoming world champion to be easy. I’d say there’s no one person to blame, but both parties are at fault for not stepping up.

        1. Hamilton was in an identical situation with Kubica and couldn’t do anything about it. Its nearly impossible to pass at Abu Dhabi and the Renault had super traction and straight line speed. Alonso’s shown enough times in his career that he’s more than capable of overtaking another car.

          1. I would hardly call being stuck behind Kubica identical to being stuck behind Petrov.

          2. No I guess you’re right, the McLaren’s performance advantage over the Renault was probably slightly greater.

          3. Nope Ads, Kubica is a better driver than Petrov.

    2. Webber was just seconds, if not tenths, behind Alonso when he pitted. He was right in making sure he exited in front of him, but pitting later would have made him finish fourth and finish in front of Webber.

      1. But only because the soft tyres were coming back into it at that moment, something none of them really had any way of knowing as even Bridgestone expected them to drop furter off.

    3. Spot on, it’s almost impossible to overtake at Abu Dhabi, yet Ferrari must have known he’d come out behind Petrov and Rosberg – OK perhaps they thought Petrov wouldn’t be a problem, but Rosberg? There would have been little chance of getting past him.

      The transcript shows just how much of a pawn Massa had become when they made him number 2 driver, I wonder whether his dismal run of races following Germany reflected his low spirits or simply his unwillingness to play ball? Had he been quicker there can be little doubt that Ferrari would have used him as a blocker many times during the season, so what was the point of him even trying to have a good race? Reading that transcript I’m so glad Ferrari walked away empty handed.

      1. Basically, what you are saying is: Massa is useless. I like Massa, he is a nice guy, but if he drives like after Hockenheim I must agree .. that way he is useless or even worse a waste of money and a valuable race.seat.

        1. He did not say Massa was useless. All he meant was the way Ferrari abused Massa, it totally destroyed his morale. I agree Ferrari and Alonso don’t deserve the title.

          Wether Vettel can overtake or not is a different issue, but he defenitely was in the right car and fast.

          1. Exactly! I agree with you Vishy, had Ferrari actually supported Massa at all, I think they would have won the championship. If you want a one man team, have a one man team, don’t demean and toss aside a good driver like Massa and then whine like little babies when you don’t when the championship.

            I’ve never been so disappointed in Ferrari before.

          2. We’ve been talking about Ferrari not supporting Massa since Germany.

            Im not condoning what Ferrari have done with him, but he’s just bent over and taken it! If he was self respecting enough, he would have given Monty the grand finger and walked off, hell I would have.

            This my theory alright, when you work in a big organization, you make yourself important, and you have to have key leadership characteristics for that, which is what Massa lacks. Alonso revels in this.

            You have to admit, apart from Abu Dhabi, Ferrari look a much better team during the second half of the season compared to the past couple years (post Todt) and you have to attribute that to Alonso. In 08, Ferrari should have won the title long before Interlagos, but the team was a mess.

            They seem to have got their act together. I suspect they will be a force again next season but Massa needs to grow a pair if he wants to be take seriously. And it would help if can make up the 0.5s deficit he has on his team mate as well.

        2. Massa was always going to be used as a pawn in Abu Dhabi. He couldn’t win the WDC in Abu Dhabi, nor could Ferrari take the WCC by using Massa differently. That was his purpose, just like Jenson was going to be used as a pawn to help Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. I really do not see how Jack is so shocked with his pawn status. What did you expect Ferrari to do.. put Massa on a race winning strategy from 6th on the grid?? Massa’s job was to jump Webber after the pit stops, and even though Webber was help up by Alguersuari, Massa was unable to jump Webber. If Massa was in front of Webber, we would probably see Alonso take the title this year… but.. as usual Massa has lived up to his reputation and disappointed. Since Hockenheim, it seems like Massa has tried his level best not help Alonso win the WDC.

          1. Todford, drivers should not be asked to drive deliberately slowly at any point in the season, it’s simply unsporting. I don’t mind a team a team pitting a driver so that he comes out ahead of a rival, but he should still be racing at that point, not driving deliberately slowly.

            I don’t get why people watch sport if not for the sport, what’s so great about a team (any team) winning if it hasn’t won sportingly? Red Bull were brilliant last season, they risked the title in order to allow both drivers to race, that’s how a world championship should be won.

            I suspect Ferrari were prepared to ask Massa to impede the other championship drivers as soon as he was placed in the number two role, that explains why his form was so atrocious after Germany, he had no motivation to race – there’s no point qualifying well if team orders will turn each race into an embarrassment.

            The irony is that a motivated Massa would have probably played the number two role much better, before Germany he was frequently in the mix with the title contenders, afterwards he disappeared off the radar. They didn’t need to do it, Alonso had him beat anyway.

      2. Well you say it’s almost impossible to overtake around Abu Dhabi but enough went on last year. Also the Renaults did a fair amount of overtaking, along with a few other changes of position that went on. I’d say the Renaults are ideally suited to protect themselves from overtaking, especially on a track like Abu Dhabi, which isn’t ideal but not even close to impossible.

        1. I have to agree with that, overtaking is proven to be pretty hard to do at Abu Dhabi (even in GP2), and the Renaults with their new engine for top speed and having great traction out of corners were a very tough nut to crack.

      3. Maybe they didn’t think their tyres would last the race distance so they would eventually get out of the way.

      4. theRoswellite
        19th November 2010, 4:03

        Jack, I must agree.

        Also, when you compare Alonso’s blatant directions to the team…”have Massa block”…it reminds me of other races, Singapore, and other years…the Schumacher reign at Ferrari.

        Race manipulation, of any kind, seems so cynical when compared to the Red Bull teams stated policy of adherence to not only the stated rules, but the spirit of equality and sportsmanship.

        Ferrari has no one to blame but themselves. They were basically handed the Championship, and instead of letting Alonso RACE to the points he needed they became consumed with making the right calls.

        Life isn’t much fun when you feel you need to manipulate your way to success.

        I hope the Italian press points all this out to them.

    4. I agree, I really don’t get it. Once I saw Quali it was obvious that Webber was dead in the water. After the start Fernando just needed to concentrate on Button to keep 4th or regain 3rd. Easy from the calm of the sidelines, but it’s not hindsight – in my flat we were watching the driver tracker, and as it happened we were all screaming, what the hell are Ferrari doing, have they lost their minds?
      Evidently they had.

  5. Judging from this article Alonso didn’t really have any role in the decision to pit. He obviously suggested they try and have Massa jump Webber as was common sense for Ferrari to do.

  6. Hadn’t seen until now that Commendatore tipped this story in the round-up today, so thanks to them:


    1. im sure there is more to it than that.knowing ferrari they must have edited the conversation…where is al the cursing that when on between the two?

    2. Well Keith, because I enjoy so much your amazing site (as a fellow F1 fanatic), I thought it was about time to give something back as well i.e. contribute. :)

      Cheers… ;)

  7. Such a difficult call, at the time it looked like pitting first was an advantage and it even looked like Hamilton might get the jump on Vettel, which made covering Webber the main priority.

    Had Vettel swanned off comfortably into the distance would they have kept Alonso out? Who knows.

    It’s all to easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight but even so Alonso and Ferrari broke the golden rule of giving up track position, especially to a Renault which had been a) Quick through the speed traps all weekend and b) Had strong traction away from corners all season.

    1. Absolutely bang on money. A blunder to give track position to Renaults and Rosberg when he was only a few seconds off the lead.

  8. Keith, it’s “Corriere della Sera” not Serra (which means ‘greenhouse’). :)

    1. Ah I should have known – presumably it’s an evening paper then? Fixed it, btw.

      1. Utter failure of management and communication by the team. Alonso is controlling the team’s whole strategy, for both cars, but they are giving him lousy information, and, of course, he has to drive the car. I’m fairly certain that Alonso was not aware of Petrov and Rosberg until the stop, instead of having his mind filled with sugar plum fantasies of Massa jumping Webber and Hamilton passing Vettel. The pit wall is focused on bowing and scraping and puffing him up instead of speaking truth to power.

        1. Yeah, the reference to Hamilton gaining on Vettel, suggesting he might get past, may well have stopped him realizing fully the threat Vettel posed.

        2. You may be spot on here, DaveW. You make a very good point.

        3. Alonso couldn’t know if there’re peple who already pitted if the team don’t tell him. And I think the team didn’t tell him because they just didn’t realise of that fact.

          It seems that the team realize late, when Alonso came out to the track.

          Any chance looks very sad and a big mistake.

          And, be carefull what you say. Alonso is listening to you, he knows everything and all his furious wil lay on you. :)

          What ideas you have…

      2. yes, ‘sera’ means ‘evening’.

        1. Que sara, sara…