Two sides to Malaysia for the Scuderia
Sepang, 20 March – The history of Scuderia Ferrari at the Malaysian Grand Prix can be divided into two phases. The first, from 1999 to 2008, was full of success, some of them astonishing: like Michael Schumacher in the wet in 2001, the inaugural race with the same Schumacher who played good cop bad cop in qualifying and the race to let his team-mate Eddie Irvine win, then in 2008 with a simply mighty Kimi Raikkonen. But from the Finn’s success onwards a wretched period began for the Prancing Horse in the furnace of Sepang: no points in 2009 and just sixth place for Massa in 2010, a feat repeated last year by the same Brazilian who beat team-mate Fernando Alonso to the flag. It’s true that all three of these grands prix have been characterised by unusual episodes – rain in the 2009 race and in 2010 qualifying, then contact between Alonso and Hamilton in 2011 – but it’s also true that in recent years the Scuderia has never been competitive at the highest level in Sepang. Fernando has many happy memories of this track too: in 10 races the Spaniard has secured two wins, four podiums, seven finishes in the top ten and two pole positions. Less fortunate has been Felipe Massa who, despite finishing in the top ten in eight out of nine appearances, has never finished higher than fifth position. Above all he didn’t manage to convert his two consecutive pole positions of 2007 and 2008 into victories. It will be difficult to turn that around in 2012 because the Scuderia will have to be on the defensive in Malaysia as well: it could be no other way given that the F2012 will be the same car that appeared in Australia.
Felipe has certainly been the target of criticism after the race in Albert Park. But the Brazilian driver is used to this situation and remembers well 2008 when after two races – Australia and Malaysia – he had a zero in the points column and many of the media were calling for him to be fired on the spot. Many of those commentators had to change their minds given that only a few exceptional circumstances – from the piston in Budapest to the pit stop in Singapore to cite the most striking examples – denied him the world championship. Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia. For example work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season. This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park.