As the Formula One circus continues to occupy Malaysia’s Sepang circuit, a big question hangs over the reliability of the Ferrari engine, specifically, Melbourne winner Kimi Raikkonen’s. While the Finnish driver dominated the season opener in Australia, the Ferrari power horse suffered a water leak and concerns have been growing all week and a decision to replace the engine or not will soon have to be made. With this issue hanging over the current leader of the championship, Raikkonen is being cautious about his chances of extending his points haul this weekend.
Should Ferrari deem the engine change to be necessary, Kimi will be penalised ten grid slots after he has qualified on Saturday. This will surely scupper his chances of repeating the win, although Felipe Massa has already shown the F2007 pace by coming back from the rear of the grid after his engine was replaced in Australia.
There is some concern. We had a slight leakage of water during the last part of the [Australian] race and the team told me to slow down, writing ‘Cool’ on the sign next to the pitlane, as the radio didn’t work because of a problem with a plug.
The engine has since been checked in the works and they also did some simulations. Now the technicians have the data. Obviously we hope that the engine will make it through the whole weekend and that we don’t have to change it before the qualifying, because we want to completely use our chance.
In case we have to change it, obviously it would be a bit different for us: everything would be much more difficult as we had to start ten positions back regarding the result of the qualifying.
Then the aim would be to reach a good result, the best one possible. But in any case we will give it all. Kimi Raikkonen.
With potentially two very hot races in Malaysia and Bahrain, it is difficult to know when to strategically change the engine. If Ferrari replaced the unit now, they would be running in Bahrain with a one-race-old engine. Alternatively they could leave it in and hope it makes it to the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix, in which case the Finn will be allowed a fresh unit for the next race.
We will know more when the teams start running on the circuit on Friday, but be rest assured the Scuderia will be mulling over this decision long into the nights ahead.
Would you replace the engine just before the race? Or would you let it run and cross your fingers?
Personally, I would check the engine very, very carefully. If there was a reasonable chance of it finishing Sepang, I would have it run the whole GP, even if this necessitated a few tenths’ worth of extra cooling. Kimi can get on the podium with a car slightly slower than usual, but if the engine type won’t make a cool-hot race combo, it certainly won’t make a hot-hot race combination. Getting the engine to work correctly in race conditions surely has to be Ferrari’s top technical priority right now.
If the data showed that Kimi’s engine was very likely to blow during the Malaysian GP weekend, then I would change the engine at the end of Saturday practise at the latest. It simply isn’t worth the risk that Kimi lose the unit in qualifying and be sent to the back of the grid (whereupon a P4 or P5 would be very likely) or explode in the race.
Either way, Ferrari will need to check the data very, very carefully. The wrong decision either way could be costly.