Fernando Alonso delivered a standout performance during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to secure both his and Ferrari’s first podium finish of the year.
In shades of his form in 2012, when the Spaniard regularly punched above his weight in the difficult F2012, Fernando Alonso drove a fine race to third on the podium, coming home a respectable seven seconds down the road from Nico Rosberg in the dominant Mercedes, to secure his and Ferrari’s first rostrum finish of 2014.
Having started fifth, the Spaniard was involved in a dramatic moment off the start line, when the fast-starting Felipe Massa attempted to force his way past both Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, a move that led to contact between the Williams and the Ferrari man.
Fortunately for Alonso it was his ex-team-mate that came off the loser in the clash, the damage caused to the Williams’ left rear wheel, coupled with a blunder latter ruining Massa’s hopes of a points finish.
As the field settled down after the initial drama, Alonso found himself running in third, behind the race leader Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and somewhat crucially as it would later turn out, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull machine.
Courtesy of an early stop, Alonso used the undercut to clear Vettel following the opening stint, but could offer little resistance to the advances of a recovering Nico Rosberg later in the race, the Mercedes man passing the Spaniard for second with ease on lap 43.
Despite a late charge from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo – still hunting for a first career podium finish after his Melbourne exclusion – the Spaniard came home third to secure a first podium finish of the year not only for himself, but for his Ferrari team.
Alonso’s podium is the first of the new Marco Mattiacci era, the Italian having only been appointment as Ferrari Team Principal on Monday, after former boss Stefano Domenicali stepped down from the role after six years, taking responsibility for the Scuderia’s early season struggles.
However, it was not all smiles at Ferrari, as Kimi Raikkonen rounded out a weekend he described as “painful” on Saturday, with an anonymous drive to eighth during the race. The Finn, who struggled with a gearbox issue on Saturday, came home a worrying one minute and 20 seconds adrift of eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton. A gap that is sure to raise concern amongst the Ferrari top brass.
Despite the positive result in China, Fernando Alonso remains unconvinced that Ferrari have made the breakthrough needed to regularly challenge Mercedes, or nearer still Red Bull, over the course of the coming races.
The Spaniard currently lies third in the drivers’ championship, behind only the dominant Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who between them have won every race of the season so far. His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is 12th, with a mere 11 points after four races. Ferrari sit fourth in the constructors’ battle, two points adrift of Force India in third.
Images courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari