A ragged final lap was enough to deliver Fernando Alonso the seventh-fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, heading the charge of non-Mercedes runners in a session dominated by the German engines.
“I was completely on the limit,” he said after qualifying 1.3 seconds off the pace of pole winner, Lewis Hamilton.
“I had two runs in Q2 and two runs in Q3 and I did four identical lap times, so I could put 100 sets of tyres on and I would do identical lap times. It was the maximum.
“It was positive for me because I see two Mercedes, two Williams, two McLarens, one Ferrari, two Red Bulls [in the qualifying results].”
The Spaniard indicated that fifth place in Sunday’s 53-lap race would be the maximum that he could hope to achieve, assuming no one from the Mercedes or Williams camp strikes trouble.
“There is a group of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull quite close – one or two tenths of a second – so hopefully we can lead that group. Mercedes and Williams are a little bit too fast,” he added.
“Tyre degradation will also be important in the race. We will probably have to make a lot of laps with the soft [Medium] and a lot of laps with the Hard tyre so we just need to have everything under control if possible.”
Alonso’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen was once again the barometer of the two-time World Champion’s efforts after failing to reach Q3 for the sixth time this season. The Finn qualified twelfth-fastest and complained of unexpected balance issues.
“We changed the car a little [after FP3], but it’s hard to believe that those changes made it as difficult as it was,” Räikkönen shrugged afterwards.
“We had a good weekend on this side and we had no issues. Things were running smoothly, as they should do, and then we had difficulties in getting grip in qualifying. For some reason I kept locking the front tyres.
“It was a bit of a surprise for me, an unpleasant surprise. We will have to try to look into the details.”
A distraction to Ferrari’s on-track troubles was the speculation surrounding the future of Ferrari chief Luca do Montezemolo, who denounced speculation that he was set to quit his position at the Scuderia.
“I said I was ready to accept last March three more years to my shareholders and my people in Ferrari. They are the most important part of my life and I took a commitment with them,” the flamboyant Italian explained during a packed open media call outside Ferrari’s motorhome.
“If and when there will be some news about me, I will be the first – I emphasise the first – to let you know.”
Image via XPB Images