Alonso keeps Ferrari sweet with second
Fernando Alonso gave himself an early birthday present, and kept Ferrari sweet, after finishing second in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The result was the Spaniard's best result of the year, after a third place in China, and came at the circuit where he took his first win in Formula One with Renault back in 2003.
Last year Alonso earned himself a rebuke from Maranello on his 32nd birthday, the day after he finished fifth at the Hungaroring and told reporters he wanted the car the other drivers had.
Asked at the same time what he planned to do over the August break, the Spaniard had replied: "I will pray".
Those remarks led to a sharp telephone conversation with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, in which the driver's ear was officially 'tweaked', and came after speculation about Alonso's future with the team.
The double world champion can expect a more effusive conversation with the big boss this time after steering well clear of any such controversy on Sunday.
"I am extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the job we did today and very, very happy," declared the Spaniard, whose 33rd birthday is on Tuesday.
"This podium means a lot to me and the whole team, because after so many difficult races, we managed to get the most out of everything, also taking a few risks and second place seems like a win.
"To do 31 laps at the end on used soft tyres was a great challenge. At that point, the strategy suggested that if we had made a third stop, we could have finished fourth, but we decided to run to the flag instead."
Asked what he might wish for his birthday this year, he recognised that his words had caused a stir in Italy last time round.
"So, this year, I will not wish anything about the car and I will wish a happy day to everyone inItaly," he said.
Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci, who replaced Stefano Domenicali in April, sounded happier already than he has been in a while.
"Fernando's second place is a confidence booster and a sign that the major effort everyone is making to bring Ferrari back to the top is moving in the right direction," he declared.
"However we have to be realistic about it. Here, the weather and the track conditions levelled out the performance differences and that's why we must not delude ourselves. Now we must just go back home, set on always doing better."