• Bahrain GP - Two Ferraris in the points

    Ferrari F2012 Bahrain GP 2012For the first time this season, we can state that we placed both our cars in the points, as Felipe Massa, performing respectably close to his team-mate’s pace, finally broke his duck, picking up two points for ninth. Fernando Alonso drove another gritty race, finishing the gruelling 57 lap Bahrain Grand Prix in seventh place.

    Once again, both drivers were able to make good use of the F2012’s ability to get off the line very quickly and as the red lights went out, they were able to make up several places – Fernando up five to fourth, Felipe up six to ninth. From then on, making three pit stops each, as predicted they had to drive keeping an eye on the rear view mirrors for faster cars behind. In recent races, the Scuderia pit crew have been the kings of the clock, pulling off the fastest wheel changes in the pit lane: this time, although some were excellent, a couple were less so and one of Felipe’s saw him lose a place to Rosberg’s Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel converted his Saturday pole into his and Red Bull’s first win of the season, while behind him, showing blistering pace, the other two podium places went to the Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean: for the Finn it was his first podium since taking his rallying “sabbatical” and for the Frenchman it was his first ever.

    Like the vast majority of drivers, the Prancing Horse duo made a total of three pit stops, which was only to be expected given the high tyre degradation at this track. Felipe was the first of them to pit on lap 8, making his next stops on laps 22 and 38, while Fernando’s came on laps 9, 23 and 37. Both the Ferrari men had interesting battles with the McLarens while Fernando also had to contend with being pushed very wide by a defensive Nico Rosberg. At the end, Fernando and Felipe secured their finishing positions after Jenson Button had to make an additional stop with a puncture in the closing stages.

    At the front, Vettel never really looked troubled, apart from between the second and third pit stops when Raikkonen got close enough to take a look alongside the German a couple of times. However, after that, the lead trio stabilised. In the second Red Bull, Mark Webber seemed to spend the afternoon in the desert on his own on his way to fourth place. Fifth was Nico Rosberg for Mercedes, while Paul di Resta was the only driver to convert a two stop strategy into points, bringing his Force India home in sixth place. In between the two F2012s, Lewis Hamilton was eighth, with Michael Schumacher in the other Mercedes, collecting the final point for tenth.

    Fernando is still in touch in the Drivers’ championship, just ten points off the leader Vettel, while Felipe finally has a score next to his name. But as the teams head back to Europe, everyone in the Scuderia knows the time for fighting simply for points is over if it wants to be a contender this year. Everyone has been working flat out in Maranello and while there is a three week gap to the Spanish Grand Prix, before then comes a three day test for all teams in Mugello: a good opportunity to bring some new ideas to a race track, in preparation for the next real challenge at Barcelona.

    Stefano Domenicali: “Honestly, what happened on the track today is only of secondary importance for us. We are very sad to learn of the death of Matteo Vignali, a young man who worked in the Gearbox department, who suffered a heart attack. He lost his life at just thirty two years of age, something that leaves us in a state of dismay. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and because of this, I find it hard to comment on our actual race result. What I can say is that what has been a very tough first run of races for us has now come to an end, although this is just what we had expected. We managed to limit the damage, at least as far as the Drivers’ championship is concerned. Now we must look to the future and make a step up in terms of quality which should allow us to fight for the podium and not just a points finish. That’s what I have been asking our engineers for several weeks and by Barcelona, I expect to already see the results of the effort we are expending in every area.”

    Fernando Alonso: “It went a bit better than we feared and we managed to limit the damage. We had arrived here eight points down on the championship leader and we leave only two more points adrift. To finish this run of four races in this situation is positive, even if there is no point in denying that we cannot be happy with it in general terms. Now, it’s clear we have to make a step forward, because we cannot always count on the failings of others. For example, we closed the points gap to McLaren, something which I certainly would not have believed possible if it had been suggested yesterday. At the same time, we finished the race almost a minute behind the winner, which had never happened so far this year. I expected Lotus to be very competitive because they have been all weekend. So far it’s been good that there hasn’t been just one driver picking up the maximum points, as happened for example last year. As for the race, I can’t say anything I didn’t say already a week ago in Shanghai: the car is practically the same. At some points we were strong, in others much less so, all dependent on tyre behaviour. We lack top speed and when you are in a tight duel, that is penalising. As for the incident with Rosberg, I can only say that if, instead of such a wide run-off area there had been a wall, I’m not sure I’d be here now to talk about it. A shame that I was missing one more straight to get past Di Resta in the end: we could have picked up a few more little points which would have been handy. I said it earlier, we have to improve the car as quickly as possible: in Barcelona, we will have some major updates but so will the others and how good a job we will have done we will only discover on track at Montmelo.”

    Felipe Massa: “It was definitely not a very easy race, but in the end, we managed to do a good job and, for the first time this year, finish in the points. It’s a nice result at this time, but we are well aware that it is not Ferrari’s style to be happy with a ninth place. Having said that, it is a performance that gives me confidence for the rest of the season. Clearly we have to improve the performance of the car as soon as possible to be able to fight for worthwhile positions. In Barcelona, everyone will bring major updates and we will have had to do have done a better job than the others because we have to make up the ground lost at the start of this championship. As for the race, I think the decision to save a set of new Softs yesterday was the right one. A shame I lost a place to Rosberg in the pit stop: if I had managed to stay ahead of him, maybe I could have got a better result. I suffered especially with the rears and, in the end, I was not going flat out because I did not want to end up in trouble with tyre degradation.”

    Pat Fry: “This result is in line with our current potential: we certainly can’t be pleased, but we knew this first run of races would be an uphill struggle for us. The start and the opening lap represented one of the best chances of making up places and we managed it with both drivers. Then, Fernando and Felipe had reasonably linear races, dictated mainly by the behaviour of the tyres and the situation on track. Maybe on paper, the perfect division into stints could have been different to make the most of the sets of new tyres available in the end, but we also needed to cover what the drivers directly ahead of us or directly behind were doing, so as not to lose places which would then be difficult to retake on track. Sometimes we managed it, sometimes it was less successful, and there were also a couple of pit stops that were less than perfect, even if others were very quick. Honestly, I don’t think that we could have done anything different in terms of strategy. Today, more than at the other races, the behaviour of the two types of tyre was very similar: between a set of Mediums with three laps on them and a set of new Softs, the difference was really minimal. We limited the damage in these four races, but clearly we must make significant progress compared to the others in the coming ones if we want to really fight for the title. We are working hard, on all fronts and we hope we will soon start to see the results of all these efforts. It won’t be easy, because we have strong competition and they will also make progress: we must do a better job than them.”