x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Alonso's joy at British Grand Prix turnaround

Ferrari pick up their first win of season while controversy hits Red Bull camp as Webber admits to ignoring team orders in late battle with Vettel.

SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND // The Prancing Horse is starting to gallop. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari's Spanish driver, capitalised on a pit stop error by Sebastian Vettel, the world champion, to secure the top step of the podium at Silverstone yesterday after an enthralling British Grand Prix.

It was the Italian manufacturer's first race win since the Korean Grand Prix last October.

Having failed to bolt at the season opening race in Australia, and arguably operating at a canter up until Monte Carlo, Ferrari are now showing signs of having genuine race-winning pace.

Had Vettel not suffered problems in the pit he arguably would have won yesterday, but for Stefano Domenicali's team two second-place finishes and a victory in their previous four races is a remarkable turnaround.

"Very proud of the team," Alonso said. "Very proud of the recovery we did. Three or four races ago we were 1.5 seconds behind and now we were leading the race and pulling away."

The 29 year old, who finished 16.5 seconds ahead of Vettel, said "it is difficult to have any prediction of what would have happened without the problems of Sebastian".

But he was in no mood to have his party spoiled, especially as his victory marked precisely 60 years since Ferrari first won the British Grand Prix.

"Every year [ we are] competing in Formula One right from the beginning," he said. "[Yesterday] we won on the same circuit, with the same passion, with the same group of people working for this fantastic team. The passion, the victory and the love for competition [is why I am] very happy to drive this car and achieve this success again."

And yet for all Ferrari's achievements, it was Red Bull Racing, the dominant force in the first half of this season, that remained the talk of the paddock.

Mark Webber, while pushing teammate Vettel for second place on the final lap, was told to "maintain the gap" by Christian Horner, his team principal.

The Australian ignored the orders, but was unable to pass and finished third.

As the three drivers appeared post-race and the Red Bull pair were grilled on team order ethics, Alonso could be seen smirking, apparently revelling in the turn of tables he was witnessing.

He had been embroiled in a similar situation last year in Germany when his teammate, Felipe Massa, was ordered to let him pass to claim victory and ignite his championship challenge.

Webber, for his part, remained tight-lipped, but conceded he was "not fine" with the instructions given over his team radio. "If Fernando retires on the last lap, we are battling for the victory," said Webber, who revealed the team gave him four or five similar messages.

"Of course, I ignored the team as I want to try and get another place. With four or five laps to the end, they started to chat to me about holding my position. They want the points, but I also need to try and get some more points as well."

Webber now trails Vettel by 80 points in the drivers' standings. Alonso moved up to third, 92 points behind the leader, who admitted he did not deserve to win.

"You have to accept fair and square Ferrari beat us," the 24-year-old Vettel said. "There has been a bit of a trend over the past couple of races. They have been very strong on race days, so it shows us we need to keep pushing and improving the car.

"It was not just us being unlucky and finishing second because of a mistake. Fernando was very competitive."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae