FORMULA 1

Alonso accepts “realistic” ninth place in China Grand Prix

Ferrari proves to be well off pace as Spaniard loses championship lead

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso leaves after a pit stop during the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso leaves after a pit stop during the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. ALY SONG (AFP)

A lowly ninth place at Sunday’s China Grand Prix saw Spanish Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso lose his lead in the championship, with McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton taking top spot thanks to his third third place in as many races.

The thrilling race in Shanghai was dominated by tire choice and pit strategy, although the extremely close times seen in Saturday’s qualifying were reflected in practically non-stop dicing throughout the field toward the closing stages of the race.

In the end it was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who took the win, the German driver claiming his maiden victory, as well as that of its team in its most recent incarnation. McLaren’s Jenson Button was second, the Briton also taking that spot in the championship, with Alonso now in third overall.

After the race Alonso said he thought he could have managed sixth had he not been held up in traffic, but also admitted that Sunday’s performance better reflected the true pace of Ferrari.

“This is probably a more realistic position than what we saw in Australia or Malaysia especially,” the double world champion said, in reference to his unexpected win at the latter Grand Prix. “But I’m convinced that in a race without traffic or with some clean air in front the car would have been quicker than it was, because we couldn’t do a single free lap.” Alonso’s teammate, Felipe Massa could only manage 13th place.

Doubts have been hanging over the next race, which is due to be run in Bahrain on April 22. However, despite the civil unrest in the Arab kingdom, Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said the event will go ahead.

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