In the Spanish Grand Prix Fernando Alonso led for the opening 20 laps, having started fourth. True, his tyres degraded more rapidly than the oppositions, dropping the 2005/6 world champion to fifth directly behind one of the all-dominating Red Bulls by the end, but the fact remains the red cars had the pace to run near the front, with Ferrari’s drivers matching the very best.
In Monaco the Spaniard again qualified fourth in an accident-interrupted session, having topped the times sheets during the all-important third practice session. In the race his pace and strategy ensured he was on leader (and reigning champion) Sebastian Vettel’s tail when a red flag intervened after a crash.
This allowed the German, at that stage a sitting duck after his rubber was absolutely shot, to take on new tyres during the interruption, thereafter maintaining his advantage to the end. Fernando finished a strong second, a mere second adrift of the blue car. His smile after the event said it all, particularly as this is a man to whom winning is everything.
Felipe Massa, driving the second Ferrari, too was on the pace until an accident induced by damage caused through contact with Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren - for which the Briton was handed a penalty. Felipe’s performance further underscored Ferrari’s return to form during a week which saw a technical restructure announced, with the experienced Pat Fry being appointed de facto technical director of the Scuderia.
In Montreal, after yet another red flag intervention - this time due to carnage and standing water on the slippery surface caused by incessant rain - Fernando was second, ahead of eventual winner Jenson Button, when the McLaren driver punted the Ferrari off.
Felipe Massa, driving the second Ferrari, also held second at one stage before being forced off, this time by a backmarker who lost it, then rebounded across Felipe’s trajectory, forcing him into one of the unforgiving barriers which line the narrow, bumpy street circuit situated in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway.
After a change of nose cone the hapless Brazilian returned to the track, ultimately ending sixth. Thus Ferrari took home just 8 points, having at one stage stared five times that in the face, but the message was clear even if the team had every reason to be wholly dissatisfied.
‘Today we had the potential to fight for the win, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong,’ said Ferrari Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali after the event. ‘In the end, Felipe’s sixth place is definitely a result that is hard to swallow given how the race ended. Two incidents in particular - the collision between Fernando and Button and the passing move on (Narain) Karthikeyan that caused Felipe to go off the track - leave a bitter taste in the mouth.’
It was in Britain a year ago, after a similarly disappointing run, that Fernando confirmed that his objective remained winning that year’s driver’s championship. Immediately his season picked up, with four convincing victories in the remaining nine races going his way. History records that he ultimately lost his first Ferrari title only through sheer tactical misfortune in the final showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Post-race in Montreal he made a similar pledge. Only a brave fan would bet against Ferrari with 12 races still to go...