Fernando Alonso couldn’t have made a better start to his Ferrari career, instantly earning the adulation of the ‘Tifosi’ with his win in Bahrain. Alonso passed teammate Felipe Massa at the start and then took the lead from Sebastian Vettel when the German suffered an electrical problem that cost him power.
“Obviously any victory means a lot,” said Alonso. “There is a lot of work for any victory coming from the team, coming from everybody also the drivers. We have been preparing ourselves physically, mentally for a lot of months, testing a lot in the winter. You arrive at the first Grand Prix on a Thursday, a lot of stress, media attention etc. and then come to Sunday and it is time to deliver, so winning means a lot and especially with Ferrari, the first victory. It will be very special and difficult to forget today.”
Despite his obvious satisfaction Alonso is not getting carried away.
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“I think it is not very important and I always repeat the same thing. The first three or four races of the championship are not, in my opinion crucial for anything. You just need to take some solid points for the team, to get used to the new regulations, to understand a little bit better the tires, the races itself, so at the end it depends on how competitive your car is to you get more or less points. But from a driver point of view it is not a crucial part.
“It is nice to be here, first position, but to be honest this is thanks to a fantastic car we had. We have been a little bit better than the others in the first race, so we managed to finish first and second. But I think the key to being World Champion will be the development during the season. We have a very good base but we need to keep working. This is only the start.”
Fernando said that there was no great mystery to the strategy, and in the end all the top runners more or less followed each other into the pits. “We knew that we had to do qualifying with the soft as they were quicker. I did a lap so-so in Q3, so I started third and it was not a perfect position but anyway it was good enough to be in the fight. Then we have been really open in terms of our strategy. Now there is not a clear lap to stop. You have fuel enough to finish the race, so the engineers and the strategy tells you when to stop.
“Then after that we switched to the prime but also to unknown territory as well. We did not know how many laps the prime will do in good shape but the car was so good that it managed the tire very well and we finished the race with the perfect conditions with the tire.”
Although he was helped by Vettel’s problem, Alonso insisted that he still believed there was a chance to pass him on pure speed.
“I was thinking of winning the race at that time. I knew that it was a very difficult thing to do: overtaking Vettel. I think that it was a very difficult thing to do but I was waiting for the opportunity. I knew that our car maybe manages the tires in very good way, we saw that in the winter, so I was getting some relaxed laps behind and then maybe waiting for the last ten laps to attack, but then we were lucky with Vettel’s problem to overtake a little bit earlier and winning the race. We’ve been lucky; in all the victories you need some luck and this one was lucky as well.”
Adam Cooper notched up his 25th season as a racing journalist in 2009. He began freelancing for Autosport magazine in 1985 and was on the fulltime staff from 1987-92. He then went freelance again, initially spending two years in Japan before following the 1994 Champ Car series from a base in Indianapolis. He has not missed a Grand Prix since Suzuka ‘94. He has written about F1 for SPEEDtv.com since 2005.