Time to catch-up for Ferrari at China

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F1 Grand Prix, GP China, Shanghai International Ciruitcn

The Formula 1 circus does not get a moment to catch its breath with this back-to-back schedule in the Orient. With the first leg done and dusted in Malaysia, now it’s China’s turn, with the third race of the season taking place at the Shanghai circuit.

And there is even less time to take a breather if, like Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and its drivers, one finds oneself having to play catch-up in both championships. The points haul of 18 from Sepang matches that from Melbourne, even if it was amassed differently: in Australia, Fernando had finished fourth with Felipe seventh, whereas in Malaysia, the Brazilian finished fifth and his team-mate came home right behind him before picking up a 20 second penalty, which actually had no effect on his final position. The team thus finds itself with exactly half the points of Red Bull, while Fernando and Felipe are fifth and sixth in the Drivers’ table, 30 and 34 points down on the leader Vettel.

The result of the Malaysian Grand Prix confirmed what we had already seen in Australia, namely that in qualifying, the 150º Italia is not able to fight for a place on the front two rows, given there are at least two cars clearly quicker than it, whereas in the race, only Vettel’s Red Bull is out of reach. That explains why last night, Stefano Domenicali and Pat Fry were not exactly delighted with the 18 points as they do not reflect the potential on display in the race.

There were two incidents that badly affected the race for the two Ferrari men. A failure on car number 5 meant the rear wing went from moveable to immoveable, thus preventing Alonso from easily passing Hamilton when he was behind the Englishman. Fernando thus had to take some risks in overtaking and that led to a collision between the two on lap 46, which wiped out his hopes of a podium finish. It was a real shame, because the Spaniard’s race pace was always up there with the best. Felipe also ran very competitively, but a problem when changing the left front wheel at the first pit stop cost him precious seconds and places, which probably cost him a chance of fighting for the top places towards the end. This incident also shows just how frenetic is the activity in pit lane now during the race. There are many more pit stops than last year and, unlike in the past, these are no longer dictated by the amount of fuel on board or to be taken on, a factor which meant it was easier to estimate suitably early when the stop would come and also allowed more time for the tyres to be changed, because it always took longer to refuel. Today, the chances of making a mistake are much higher. In Melbourne, Ferrari got the benefit of a mistake at Webber’s pit stop and yesterday it was the boys in red who paid the price. However, of the seven pit stops for the team, only Felipe’s first one can be classed as a failure: the others were pretty much within the norm, while some, including Alonso’s final one when the nose was changed, were very good. Clearly a team like Ferrari must always be excellent and so logically we can expect more effort going into achieving better performances on a more consistent level.

The team has already arrived in Shanghai, ahead of all the equipment making its way from having been used up until yesterday in Malaysia. The FOM cargo is currently on its way to China and it will only be around lunchtime on Tuesday that the packing cases will be available at the circuit, also allowing for the time required to clear Customs. Some of the team however, already set off for Italy last night. Domenicali, Costa and Fry are actually expected at Maranello this afternoon, in order to keep a close eye on the car’s development programme. The number one priority is still naturally enough, an investigation into the aerodynamics and on finding out why the cars’ performance on track does not match the numbers produced by the wind tunnel. It is a very tricky operation, with consequences for every area of the development process: better to follow it first hand, to push it along a bit further. That way some updates planned for later races might actually be available earlier, hopefully starting here in China.

Source Ferrari