Just as I did following the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, I once again feel compelled to discuss the hopeless start to Ferrari’s 2009 championship campaign. As reigning constructors champions, with one of the largest budgets in the sport and with the skill and experience within the squad, one has to seriously wonder what on earth is going on at Maranello. Tactical errors were avoided during Kimi Raikkonen’s and Felipe Massa’s races today, but the severe under-performance from the F60 is very worrying.
The last time the Ferrari team failed to score any points in the opening three races of the season was way back before I was even born. The third race of the 1981 season took place in Argentina on April 12th, and it was the third double DNF for the squad. Ferrari would go on to finally score in San Marino, and Gilles Villeneuve even won in Monaco and Spain.
To find out when Ferrari failed to score in the opening four rounds is an impossible task; Gestione Sportiva have never endured a season-start as bad as that. They have come close on occasion though. In 1964, John Surtees grabbed second place at Zandvoort, the only points from the first four races. In 1969, Chris Amon managed third, also at Zandvoort and also the only points from the first four. Ignazio Giunti did just the same in 1970, although his points came from Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.
If Ferrari fail to score any points in Bahrain next weekend, 2009 will officially become the worse start to a campaign by the sport’s oldest running and most successful team. Is it likely though that the Scuderia would have such a drought?
It is perfectly possible. Although Bahrain will be hotter and therefore more in tune with the characteristics of Ferraris in general, the car won’t be changed that much. The new parts that will hopefully see an improvement in pace are not due to be implemented until the first European leg of the championship in Spain. And while leaving the Shanghai circuit in China earlier today, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali refused to rule out writing off 2009.
I think for sure we will see after Spain where we are. In that period we will see really what can be the situation – so when we come back to Europe basically. Stefano Domenicali.
When asked about the controversial diffuser that has seen Brawn, Williams and Toyota all significantly improve, Domenicali was adamant that this device isn’t the only thing that is making the difference.
That device will give you a benefit. But it would be wrong to believe that it is the only key. We have seen, for example, the Red Bull car has done a really great job.
They had more time, they switched their project much earlier than us and that is the reality and we need to consider it. The other thing that we have to understand well is that today in certain conditions, look at the first part of the race, our car was not too bad at all. So we need to understand a lot of things.
We need to stay cool. It is not easy, I know, but we need to stay cool because there are too many things that can change very quickly. The priority number one is to move from zero points. Stefano Domenicali.
Felipe Massa was upbeat heading into the Chinese Grand Prix, insisting that the title race is far from over. Indeed, even speaking after his retirement, the Brazilian was still hopeful of a turnaround from the team.
The car was going well, except when running behind the Safety Car: at those times, there were a few moments when the power seemed to drop. Then, without warning, the accelerator would not work and the car went quiet. I would say to our fans that they should not give up on us, as this is a difficult moment, but the championship is still long. Felipe Massa.
However, Kimi Raikkonen has pretty much admitted that he has given up all hope of securing a second title this year, and now the team is on the verge of doing the same.
If Ferrari did refocus their efforts on the 2010 challenger, then they would likely do a Brawn and start next year with a great advantage, but such is the way Formula One is, you cannot go about winning every other year. There has be a middle ground from which the teams can work and develop. And undoubtedly, the ban on in-season testing is really hurting the teams and preventing them from sorting these issues out.
What would you do if you were in charge of Ferrari? Give up now (or after Spain if there is little improvement) and focus on 2010? Or would you persevere with the F60 in the hope that it comes good at some point this year and will provide a better foundation for next year’s model? And what of the rumoured Alonso-to-Ferrari deal? If it’s true, do you think Fernando will try and back out of it now, and if it hasn’t already been signed, do you think Gestione Sportiva still hold a special place in the Spaniard’s heart?