Alonso: Malaysian race was an uphill climb from the start

Fernando Alonso bemoaned a gearbox problem which prevented him from moving up the order during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard’s race was compromised from the start when he developed a problem changing gear and had to drive the entire race without a fully-functioning clutch. Despite this the double-world champion had looked set to score points until, with two laps remaining, he was forced to retire with an engine failure.

This allowed Felipe Massa to leapfrog Alonso to the top of the drivers championship with his seventh placed finish.

Felipe Massa – 7th: “All things considered, we did a good job in these first three races, as proved by the fact we lead both championships. However, there are still sixteen races to go and we know there is much room for improvement in terms of car performance and in making it totally reliable. Given where we started from, seventh place is probably the best we could hope for. We tried to delay the tyre change as much as possible, also because over the past days it has always rained in the afternoon and if that had happened today, we would have been able to exploit any opportunity. Unfortunately, for once, the rain did not come. The soft tyres were quicker but probably at the start, the track was not rubbered in enough to get them working at their best, so our strategy was the right one. The duel with Button was very complicated: down the straights, he could always pull away, but when he made a mistake at the final corner, I was able to get close enough to overtake under braking for the first one. Today’s race proves the need to fight on every lap of the championship: we have a lot of work to do, so we must keep focussed and not lessen our efforts.”

Fernando Alonso – 13th: “This was a very difficult weekend. We made a big mistake in yesterday’s qualifying and today in the race, I had to retire with an engine problem. My race was an uphill climb from the start: I found I had a problem with the gearbox right from the start and I had to drive without a clutch for practically the whole race. Trying to look on the positive side, at least the engine failure only cost me two points: it would have been much worse if I had been in the lead! Seeing what happened in the previous days, it made sense to expect rain and so we made the first stint as long as possible, but unfortunately, it did not happen. Today, we gave Red Bull a little gift: if we had qualified in a normal fashion then we would certainly have given them a hard time. I am not worried about the engine failure, as our engineers have enough experience and ability to resolve this situation. Given everything that happened, we can be proud of what we managed to do in the race and we can look forward with confidence to the next Grand Prix, which we will be trying to win.”

Stefano Domenicali: “There’s no way we can be happy with the outcome of this third race weekend of the season. We came to Malaysia with very different objectives and taking home a mere seven points is a disappointment. Today’s result is down to yesterday’s qualifying: when you start that far back on the grid, it’s difficult to do better. On top of that, we had a few reliability problems which should put us on our guard: if we want to aspire to the title we absolutely have to sort this out. Fernando drove an amazing race, given that right from the formation lap, he had a problem going through the gears. To drive under these conditions is impressive and he was able to stay in the fight for points right to the end. Felipe also drove a really great race, especially in the second part and heading the Drivers’ classification is a just reward for all he has done in this early part of the season. An initial assessment after three races? Positive, because we lead both championships and have shown we are competitive at the highest level. We know where we have to improve performance and reliability but we can count on an excellent package car, drivers, team all capable of being in the fight for both titles.”

Chris Dyer: “A very disappointing race and there’s not much else to say. We had seen the potential of the car and both drivers, especially in the final stages of the race and it is a very great shame we were unable to exploit that fully, because of the mistake we made in yesterday’s qualifying. We had two serious technical problems on Fernando’s car first a malfunction in the gearbox right from the start of the race which handicapped him throughout and then, at the end, the engine failure, which caused his retirement. Felipe drove a good race and leaves Malaysia at the head of the classification: there you are, that’s the only positive note at the end of a weekend where we had definitely expected a lot more.”

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