Just about the only consolation Ferrari have at the moment is that their long-standing rivals McLaren aren’t fairing much better in the new order of Formula One.
One week on from seeing both their drivers retire in Melbourne the Italian team is bracing itself for more bad news after Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa qualified ninth and sixteenth for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Raikkonen was lucky to take part in the top ten shoot-out at all after Ferrari’s strategists, seemingly happy that their drivers had done enough to progress into the second qualifying knock-out session, elected not to send their drivers on final runs in Q1.
But a flurry of activity in the closing stages of the session – in which several drivers lifted themselves out of the drop zone – saw Massa demoted to sixteenth, while Raikkonen just scraped through.
Massa believes the team will have to change their approach to qualifying to stop the same thing happening again.
“We did not react in time and lost the chance to have another go,” the Brazilian driver explained. “No one person is to blame: we are a team and we lose or win all together.”
“We have to change our approach and tackle qualifying in a different way to the past. There is no room for error and we have to give it our all, right from the first session.”
“Nevertheless, I am very motivated. It won’t be the first time I will have to tackle a race starting way down the order and I know I can count on having a strong pace. We will have to try and exploit every opportunity to make up places.”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed that Ferrari will review their approach to the first qualifying session.
“This result is definitely not up to our expectations, even if we knew it would be a difficult qualifying,” reflected the Italian.
“However the aspect that really leaves a bitter taste in the mouth is the way in which we tackled the first part of the session. We made a false assumption that cost us dear with Felipe, who was immediately out, failing to make the first cut.
“Tomorrow, it will be a long and difficult race, with a question mark over the weather which can change really quickly.
“We will have to make the most of our race pace and the start: in Australia, we saw that anything can happen and we will have to be ready to pounce on every opportunity, with the obvious proviso that we cannot make any more mistakes.”
Ferrari, like rivals McLaren, were forced to develop their cars deep into the 2008 season as a result of their title bid. That has put them on the back foot in 2009.
“Honestly, the main problem is that, at the moment, we are not quick enough to fight for the top places, admitted Raikkonen.
“The car is not lacking in any particular area, but we do not have enough grip to be as quick as those who finished ahead of us today. Tomorrow’s race will be very tough. We will try to make the most of the start.
“In Australia, it was very good but there was nowhere to go, whereas here, the straight is long and the track is wide. Furthermore, as we saw yesterday, our pace is competitive.
“We have to improve our performance but obviously, it is important to have the regulations clarified as quickly as possible, to understand in which direction to go. Both types of tyres work well over a distance and we will try and exploit that.”