Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Italian GP – Felipe has podium in his sights, Fernando has a mountain to climb
Monza, 8 September – Felipe Massa secured his best grid position since last year’s race in Canada, when he set the third fastest time in today’s qualifying for Scuderia Ferrari’s home race, the Italian Grand Prix, which takes place at Monza tomorrow afternoon.

It’s only right to start with the best part of the Prancing Horse’s Saturday performance, even if what happened to his team-mate is what will make the newspaper headlines tomorrow. Fernando Alonso has been in fine form all weekend, showing that he and his F2012 had shaken off any lingering effects of their first corner retirement in Spa seven days ago. That dominance continued for the first two parts of qualifying, when the Spaniard again topped the time sheets. As silence fell over the Monza Park, you could sense the tension and excitement in the home crowd as they began to dare to hope to see a red car on pole position. It was not to be, as a mechanical failure – a problem with the rear anti-roll bar that plays an important part in the balance of the back end of a race car – meant that Fernando had no chance of competing with the other nine drivers on level terms and was in fact classified last of the top ten.

Felipe has often said he dearly wants to see his recent improved form get translated into a podium finish at least. If he wants to do even better and win tomorrow, then he will need to do something special, as he has not one but two McLarens in front of him. Lewis Hamilton was in fact fastest today and shares the front row with Jenson Button. Alongside Felipe on the second row will be his former team-mate, Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes. Actually it was Paul di Resta who set the fourth fastest time, but the Englishman will drop five places, lining up next to Fernando, as his car required a gearbox change. Behind the Brazilian will be the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes, starting from the sixth spot.

So tomorrow we have 53 very fast laps of Monza, which will offer the Scuderia a variety of scenarios. Felipe Massa knows his main role for the rest of the season is to bring home as many points as possible in the Constructors’ championship, while also taking points away from Fernando’s nearest rivals in the Drivers’ classification. It seems that tomorrow is his best opportunity so far to do just that. As for Fernando, we know that his disappointment today will turn into determination tomorrow.

Italian GP – Two sides to the story of qualifying
Scuderia Ferrari’s assault on pole position was wiped out in a most awkward fashion in the Italian Grand Prix. Having been fastest in both Q1 and Q2, Fernando Alonso was unable to defend his chances in Q3 because of a problem with the rear anti-roll bar on his car, ending the session tenth. Proof that the F2012 is in fine form came from a great third place for Felipe Massa, for whom this is the best qualifying result since Canada 2011.

Stefano Domenicali: “What happened to Fernando this afternoon is a real shame, because today we could have gifted pole position to the fantastic Monza crowd. Felipe drove a great qualifying and we are very happy that he is finally back fighting for the top places on Saturday too. All the signs were there for a nice afternoon, but if you don’t have 100% reliability, then you pay a high price and today that was confirmed yet again. First of all, we need to understand what happened to the back end of Fernando’s car, but above all, we must immediately put behind us the disappointment we are feeling right now and prepare as well as possible for a race that looks like being very tough, from every perspective. 53 laps of Monza is a lot and everything can still happen. I remain convinced that we can still bring home a strong result in terms of the two championships, but clearly, if everything had gone smoothly today, we would have a much stronger chance.”

Fernando Alonso: “I think I could have got pole today, but instead I find myself tenth. A real shame, because the car was very strong, but these things happen. It’s maybe fifteen years that something like this has happened, but it has and there’s no point in crying over it. The problem will be fixed for tomorrow, but of course this result changes everything as far as the race is concerned: we had the chance to increase our lead over our closest rivals, but now, it’s likely that at least some of them will make up ground on me. I don’t think the failures we’ve had over the past couple of days can be linked to a speeding up of the development on the car, because they have not involved components on which we are pushing to extremes. Tomorrow, we will try and pick up as many points as possible, maybe getting ahead of some of my direct competitors. We have to accept that problems like these can occur even if, when it does happen, the first reaction is disappointment. Having said that, it’s a case of better Saturday than Sunday, because then, you have no chance of remedying the situation! Risks starting in the middle of the pack? Given how the points table looks, it’s more a case of the others having to worry about coming away with another no score…”

Felipe Massa: “I am very happy with this qualifying, the best in a long time for me. This is a very important race for Ferrari and I will do my best to get a good result. I feel sorry for Fernando, as he had been very strong all weekend: we both have a good car and I’m sure that tomorrow we will be able to bring home a good points haul for the championship. We have a chance of beating McLaren, even if they are very strong. For me, getting back on the podium, here in front of our fans, would be wonderful! It’s my second home race and racing here is always a fantastic feeling. We tried to make as much use as possible of the slipstream, which requires a lot of concentration, but it’s true that in the end, I got my best time when I had no one in front of me.”

Pat Fry: “We are very disappointed with what happened to Fernando’s car this afternoon. A problem with the rear anti-roll bar was spotted at the start of Q3 and cost the Spaniard dear, as he never really managed to put together a proper timed lap. A shame, because Felipe’s third place, a few tenths off pole, showed that we had all the potential to aspire to a great result in front of our home crowd: the Brazilian drove an excellent qualifying and deserves this result. We need to look into exactly what happened, but clearly, problems like these cannot occur if one wants to fight for the targets we have set ourselves. Fernando will face an uphill battle tomorrow, while Felipe will be able to exploit his grid position to go on the attack. Tyre performance will, as usual, be very important, especially as at this track the best strategy seems pretty clear. Obviously the priority is reliability and this weekend, we have already paid a high price on that front and we cannot afford to have further problems.”

Qualifying session

Q1 ALO 1st 1.24.175 6 MAS 6th 1.24.882 6
Q2 ALO 1st 1.24.242 4 MAS 5th 1.24.505 4
Q3 MAS 3rd 1.24.247 6 ALO 10th 1.25.678 6

Weather: air 30 °C, track 43/42 °C. Sunny.
Chassis: Alonso 296, Massa 294

Italian GP – Massa 3rd, problems for Alonso
Monza, 8 September – At the end of a very closely contested qualifying session, Lewis Hamilton took pole position in his McLaren for the Italian Grand Prix, with a fastest lap of 1.24.010. He will share the front row with his team-mate, Jenson Button, second in 1.24.133. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa produced a great performance to round off the top three with a lap in 1.24.247. Fernando Alonso however was very unlucky: having been at the top of the times in the first and second parts of qualifying, the Spaniard was unable to do a quick enough lap in Q3 because of a problem on his car, thus wiping out any hope of a pole position that was very definitely within his grasp. He was therefore the slowest of the cars in Q3 and starts from the fifth row of the grid in tenth place. Nevertheless, the fact that both F2012s have proved to be very competitive this weekend leaves the Reds optimistic for the race, that starts as usual at 14h00.