Returning home with plenty of desire for redemption
Shanghai, 18 April – Today one of the longest journeys of the year came to an end. After the trio of Australia, Malaysia and China, the team left Shanghai this afternoon en route for Maranello. For many mechanics it means a return home after a month away, given that many of them had left on about March 20 for Melbourne, the venue for the year’s first race.
No one at Ferrari is happy with how things have gone in the first three races of this championship. Fifty points are certainly not the haul that was expected and hoped for before the season. But it’s wrong to be saying that everything needs to be completely overhauled. It’s true that the gap to the Red Bulls in qualifying is too big but it’s also true that in the race the situation is different and much closer, as we saw yesterday in Shanghai. Furthermore, as President Montezemolo declared to our site, it needs a quick reaction in order to be more competitive by the Turkish Grand Prix on May 8.
The mechanic who was struck down by an aneurism last Thursday, Paolo Santarsiero, has clearly remained in Shanghai to recover at the Rui Jin hospital. His state of health is progressing in a positive manner and he was joined by his wife yesterday. Today Santarsiero received visits from his colleagues and then from Amedeo Felisa, the Managing Director of Ferrari. He is in Shanghai visiting the Salone dell’Auto, which has a press day tomorrow that will also be attended by Felipe Massa.
A deep analysis of the first three grands prix shows that the much-reviled 150° Italia battled for the podium both in Malaysia and China. In particular, the Shanghai race saw the gap to the front-runners reduce by practically 50 percent. Felipe took the flag 15 seconds behind winner Hamilton and eight seconds behind third-placed Webber at the end of a race that had no anomalies such as retirements (23 cars made it to the finish out of 24 starters). People will point out that the Brazilian still finished sixth, beaten by two McLarens, two Red Bulls and one Mercedes, but that again shows how the cars are much more evenly matched on Sunday than Saturday. Yesterday afternoon there was just one partnership that was head and shoulders above the others in terms of pure performance: that of Mark Webber and his Red Bull, who started 18th and ended up on the third step of the podium. But it should be underlined how, despite the extraordinary performance of the Australian, the fact remains that he had all three sets of brand new soft tyres available for qualifying and the race.
After the race plenty of strategies were debated, with praise for those who chose three stops and mockery for those who chose two stops, among them the two Ferrari drivers. In the heat of the moment, Felipe was not completely convinced about the choce made together with the pit wall. It’s easy to understand the frustration of the Brazilian driver who fought alongside McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes for most of the race and was still in third place eight laps from the end, only to see himself overtaken by three cars in the final moments. By yesterday evening, having further analysed the detail of the situation, even Felipe agreed how, for Ferrari, the difference between the two strategies would not have been huge in terms of finishing positions. It’s logical that it should be like that: when there are such small gaps you don’t need much – tyres that last a couple of laps more, a passing move here or there at a critical moment – to change the outcome of a race. This year’s Formula 1 is much more unpredictable, you just have to think about the different performance of the same type of tyres on two identical cars or between one race and another.
All these considerations are valid but no one wants to use them as a scapegoat to hide the fact that a quicker car is still needed. At Maranello everyone knows that and they will do the maximum to give Fernando and Felipe a 150° Italia that can fight for victory as soon as possible.