A couple of days have passed since the Chinese Grand Prix and I am still in Shanghai attending various events in a city which I find I enjoy more every time I come here. I had a very good race on Sunday, running strongly and getting involved in a lot of fights. The result should have been a bit better than my eventual sixth place, but I was very happy with how it went and I hope I can continue to fight at a higher level for the coming races.
For sure, we need to qualify better so we can start further forward on the grid which helps in the race, even with the talk of grid position being less important this year. In China actually my grid position, sixth, was not too bad and then I gained one place immediately after the start which moved me up to fifth. Most importantly though, if you look at the pace of the car, it was good enough to allow us to fight with the leaders. That meant I had a very interesting race, being able to make up several places because effectively, the car we had in the race was completely different to the one we had the day before in qualifying. It definitely worked well, because I even led the race for a short while at one point and I held a genuine second place for quite some time. Unfortunately, those who were three stopping for tyre changes caught us up much faster than we had expected in the closing stages and, on tyres that were in much better shape than mine, they were able to get past.
It’s easy to say, having seen how the race evolved, that I should have been on a three stop rather than a two stop strategy, but in fact, I am not completely sure this would have been correct, because the main problem I had was much poorer performance than the other cars experienced on the hard Pirellis, which meant that, when these tyres were fitted, the car had a pace more similar to what we had seen in qualifying and we definitely had more problems than the others. Up until then, the car was quite competitive. People have pointed out that Webber drove a fantastic race, which involved three pit stops, but you have to accept that, because he failed to get further than Q1 on Saturday, he had plenty of new tyres: everyone would want to be in that position, but you must remember he has a very good car, the quickest of the year so far. Nevertheless, we are always learning at this stage of the season and we should analyse everything very carefully to see if we should adopt a different approach, maybe modify our qualifying strategy to have some fresher tyres for the race. But after three Grands Prix it is still too early to say what is the best way to work with all these new rules, because in China at the weekend, you saw many different combinations of strategies and tyre useage and many of them seemed to work well. Nothing is one hundred percent clear yet and at Ferrari, we have to work out what is best for our car. It is possible that we could see very different strategies in the next few races, depending on the characteristics of the circuits.
In Shanghai, it was good for the sport of Formula 1 that Lewis won the race, so we don’t have the same car winning every time. However, we must not forget that Sebastian still finished second which is a very good result, which still keeps him in a good position for the championship. We have three weeks now during which everyone at Ferrari has to push hard to try and arrive at the next race, or more specifically the next qualifying, in a stronger position, so we can continue to take the fight to these guys. After Shanghai, we must also consider Mercedes as being part of the fight for the top places. They definitely have a quicker car than us for qualifying, but it’s not yet a match for Red Bull. But it is also true that the Red Bulls suffer more than most in a performance drop off from qualifying to the race, so this could see Mercedes continuing to be very competitive now in the races.
I am now preparing to leave Shanghai for home in Monaco. On Monday, I attended an event for a personal sponsor, Richard Mille who manufacture watches and in the evening I was at a dinner for Ferrari owners. Then before flying home, on Tuesday morning I was at the Shanghai Motor Show, making an appearance on the Ferrari stand, doing some press interviews and unveiling the Ferrari FF, the recently launched four wheel drive car, seen for the first time now in China. I am looking forward to this slightly longer than usual break at home before heading for Istanbul and I will be following very carefully the work going on at Maranello during this period.