Ferrari picked up just two points in Shanghai today after Fernando Alonso could finish only ninth at the Chinese Grand Prix and Felipe Massa once again failed to finish inside the top ten.
Alonso still sits third in the drivers’ championship standings, but thinks that his team will struggle even more at next weekend’s grand prix in Bahrain.
“We knew this would be a difficult race and that's how it turned out,” said the Spaniard. “We were always in traffic, without an opportunity to exploit the car's potential and when you are behind other cars, the tyres get worn much more easily.
“Choosing to do three stops clearly meant we would be forced to do some overtaking, but with the top speed we had, it turned out to be almost impossible on the main straight, so I had to invent some overtaking moves at other points on the track, where I could make better use of the car.
“Obviously, this does not leave me very optimistic for Bahrain, on a track where traction and speed are vital, exactly the areas where we are weakest. Once again next week it will be mainly a case of damage limitation. I don't want to think of the classification because the priority is to improve the performance of the F2012. This does not mean however, that I have lost hope, quite the contrary.
“Last year, we believed all the way to Spa and there's no reason not to at the moment, when we are third in the classification, just eight points off the leader. Sure, we definitely need to make a good step forward to make the car quicker.
“In Spain we will have major updates but so will the others and so it's not that I'm expecting a miracle of going one second quicker than the others.”
No matter how dispondent Alonso feels, that is nothing compared to how Massa must be fairing. After three races the Brazilian is still yet to score a single point and, although he did momentarily lead the grand prix today, things are still looking bleak for the man who was almost world champion in 2008. However, Massa is taking some small positives from this weekend.
“I tried to do my best in a very close fought race,” he said. “Sure, thirteenth place is not something I can be happy about, but I think that as far as my race was concerned, this was a step forward compared to the first two races of the season. At least I managed to run a normal race and I know I did everything that I could.
“The decision to make two stops was the right one, given my position, but maybe, in the light of how the race went, it would have been better to stop at different times: however, that's easy to say now, after the chequered flag. Each and every time I found myself in traffic and paid for the lack of top speed, one of the major problems with our car at the moment.
“The Sakhir circuit, for the next round of the championship, does not look like being very favourable for us, given how things have gone so far. For me, it is a race where I have always done well, but I'm not under any illusions. As always, we will try and give it our best shot.”
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali again acknowledged that all is not well with the F2012, and agrees that the team will still be on the defensive in Bahrain next weekend.
“There's no point denying we are disappointed,” he said. “We had the potential to get a better result than this, but we did not manage it.
“The lack of top speed, one of the weak points of this F2012, prevented Fernando especially of making the most of a strategy, which at one point, had put him in a situation where he could fight for a place in the top five. Felipe went for a two stopper, counting on others having higher tyre degradation, but this only turned out to be the case for a few cars.
“It was quite an unusual race, as indeed was qualifying, which still delivered some surprises compared to what was being predicted and I think it is worth analysing the way it went in depth to try and understand how best to tackle the next round.
“In Bahrain we will again have to be racing on the defensive but that doesn't mean we will go there in a resigned state of mind. We have seen three different winners in three races, with performance levels of some cars changing very significantly from race to race.
“At this stage, we must do the maximum on track and exploit every opportunity, but the most important work is that done in Maranello, especially on the aerodynamic development. We need to accelerate the introduction of updates and change gear. This is very long and unpredictable championship, where things can change very quickly.
“Finally, I'd like to congratulate Nico Rosberg on his first win in Formula 1 and Mercedes for a return to victory after a gap of 57 years.”