Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali started the weekend by sending an email to his team asking them to react to the poor start to the season “with pride”.
The team came away from Shanghai empty handed again and now only they and Force India are left without a point. It could have been worse, if Adrian Sutil had held on to his sixth place, but the German driver crashed heavily five laps from the end.
However Domenicali was able to draw some pride from the way the early part of the race unfolded. In his post race briefing he was encouraged by the performance of Felipe Massa in the early part of the race. Massa got as high as third place on lap 20 before an electrical problem forced him to stop out on track. He said that water had got into his electrics and he lost the throttle.
For every success story in F1 there is always a story of what might have been and given Ferrari’s position in the table, this ‘what might have been’ tale will be particularly painful.
“It is very unfortunate because if you look at the first part of the race, Felipe did a fantastic job, ” said Domenicali. “He was really much faster than Sebastian Vettel, who was with low fuel and we had more fuel. So, honestly, in that condition it was perfect. Then unfortunately we had this problem on electronic control which made the car stop, as it was a big shame.
I am pretty sure that with that strategy, and the fact that he did fantastic laps, we would have been on the podium – no doubt.”
I’m not sure he was ever faster than Vettel, but he was certainly at times competitive with Jenson Button, who finished on the podium.
He started the race from 13th place on the grid with a one stop fuel load. His car had around 80 kilos of fuel in it, some 46 kilos more than Vettel, which equates to around 1.6 second per lap extra.
In the opening stint he drove very well, passing Kovalainen on lap 9, Raikkonen on lap 12, Trulli on lap 14, moving to fourth when Buemi pitted on lap 19 and third when Webber pitted on lap 20. At that point Felipe still had a lot of fuel on board. The safety car was out and he was right behind Jenson Button, who finished on the podium and both drivers had one more stop to make. His pace out of the slipstream of other cars was similar to Button’s so you can see what Domenicali means when he says that a podium was within his sights. He had certainly played himself into a position to beat Barrichello.
“It’s a very tough situation, “said Massa afterwards. “We are in a different position from the past but I think we can get away from this problem I’m very motivated to help the team to get away from this difficult time.
“We have two issues, we need to make the car quicker and we need to make it reliable. I feel more comfortable in Bahrain and I think we can be more competitive there and more reliable.”
Ferrari tested for a week in Bahrain in February. They put that knowledge to good use last year, let’s hope they can again this year.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 10th, despite running in front of Lewis Hamilton in the first stint. He switched from a two stop to a one stop strategy, but the timing was all wrong. His problem was that his pit stop came at a time when the field was bunched up shortly after a safety car period. He dropped right down the field and never recovered the positions.
Kimi believes that the team will start to move forward when it gets its new diffuser and floor at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
“We know that once we get to Barcelona we should take a step with the car. We probably don’t have the same downforce as the others. When we get the new floor for sure we are going to get lots of downforce and it will make the car fast.”