|Circuit||Shanghai International Circuit
|Distance||305,066 km / 189,600 miles|
|3||Fernando Alonso||F138||299||Scuderia Ferrari||1.|
|4||Felipe Massa||F138||300||Scuderia Ferrari||6.|
Maranello, 15 April –This Monday morning had something different about it as the Ferrari workforce turned up at the factory. Their arrival coincided with the first signs of springlike sunshine and the Italian flag was flapping in the wind alongside the one of the Cavallino on a yellow background, just like the one Fernando Alonso waved after taking victory in the Chinese Grand Prix. The flags are part of a longstanding Ferrari tradition to mark every win for the Scuderia in the Formula 1 World Championship. President Luca di Montezemolo was the first to congratulate everyone from the Gestione Sportiva, sending a message to all the men and women who work in Maranello: “Congratulations to all of you for this great win achieved with a competitive car. I am pleased for all of you, as this is just reward for all your work. We know we have to improve, we know the championship will be long and difficult, but we want to be contenders. Let’s continue like this, putting even more effort and determination into it and more success will follow. My thanks to all of you.”After the inevitable celebrations, the Shanghai triumph was put to one side pretty quickly, given that in just a few days it will be time to get back on track at the Al Sakhir circuit in Bahrain. All the mechanics worked late into the night to pack all the case and the two F138s, which are now on their way to the Middle East. Despite the strong showing in China, no one in the team is taking their eye off the ball and in fact, the win simply serves as further motivation for everyone to keep giving their all. After the first three races of the season, it’s clear that this championship features a very high level of competition. Casting an eye over the classifications shows that no less than four teams are in the fight for the wins at the moment, which is a longer shortlist than in 2012. Winning in China confirms that Scuderia Ferrari is part of this group, clearly capable of fighting on all fronts. However, there is still a need to keep focussed and pushing on in the same way, maintaing a high work rate at the track and in Maranello.With so many competitors capable of aiming for the 2013 world titles, the race results are even harder to predict. As usual, going into every race, teams will have to take into account how best to adapt their cars to each track, the temperature variable and tyre management. Looking at those first three rounds, it seems that playing the consistency card will also be an important key to this season. On this front, Alonso and Massa have demonstrated that the F138 was well suited to the three tracks already visited on the championship trail. In qualifying in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai, all held in very different weather, the two Ferraris were the only cars to always make it to the top 5. As for the races, some unpredictable incidents played a part, but as Alonso pointed out after winning on Sunday, of the two races he finished, he has come home with a win and a second place.
Luca di Montezemolo: “I was very confident going into this race and today I am very happy, especially for Domenicali and for everyone in the Scuderia who has worked so hard and so well at the track and in Maranello, as they really deserve this victory. Fernando Alonso drove a great race and Felipe Massa brought home points that are important in the Constructors’ classification. Winning in China is very satisfying for Ferrari and it is also a source of great pride in Italian technology. Now we go on, but with our feet firmly on the ground. A thank you to the fans: it was very nice to see so many Ferrari flags in the Shanghai grandstands and to feel so much enthusiasm here in Italy”.
Stefano Domenicali: “I am pleased with the result for the team as a whole today and clearly with winning a race that looked like being a difficult one from many points of view, starting with tyre management. After what happened in Malaysia, I am particularly happy to see Fernando on the top step of the podium, because it’s the best possible turnaround and it’s down to a great job from the guys here at the track and in Maranello. However, I am sorry for Felipe who, because of graining, was unable to make the most of his potential, nor to secure the result he could have aimed for after his great start. This is only the third race and in a few days we will already be back on track to take on another challenge in Bahrain. In this first part of the championship it is harder than ever to come up with an accurate evaluation of the hierarchy in the field: between qualifying and the race we have seen contrasting performances for some teams and therefore we must concentrate very hard on improving the car over the single lap in qualifying, while maintaining the performance level we have seen over the long runs”.
Fernando Alonso: “It couldn’t have gone better than this today! I hadn’t won since Germany and this has a special feeling because it was a tricky race full of action. Along with the second place I got in Australia, this result shows that the car is competitive and that we are working in the right direction to always be in the fight for the podium. For that, I have to thank the team for the huge efforts it has made both here and back in the factory. They have worked so hard to put me in this position from which I can fight with the others on equal terms. We had a good feeling all through the weekend and qualifying third gave us the possibility of fighting for the top places. On top of that, maybe we were owed some good luck. Along with that all the important factors worked perfectly, such as set-up, strategy, calling the pit stops and the stops themselves. All together it produced a win that wasn’t easy at the end of a race in which we made the most of our pace and did a good job of managing the tyres, which was definitely the most dangerous aspect. With no one dominating the Championship, it makes it extremely interesting, even if we are aware this is only the third race. We are under no illusions and we must continue to concentrate and do all we can to improve still further”.
Felipe Massa: “It’s difficult to understand exactly what happened today, because the start went very well. I was immediately quick and the car was working perfectly. At the first stop, I fitted the Medium tyres and after a few laps I began to suffer with graining on the front. That meant I lost ground to other cars and it was probably down to a problem linked to the track conditions and my driving style. All weekend, I haven’t felt comfortable with these tyres and in the race, any attempts I made to save them was useless. But for this problem, I would certainly have been in the fight for the podium, but I am still confident because, all the same, I was able to bring home a good points haul which is important in a season that has only just begun”.
Pat Fry: “The great start from both cars was certainly the best way to begin the race. We knew the Mercedes would have a slightly higher degradation than us and the double overtaking move on Hamilton at the start of Lap 5 meant we got into the lead immediately. We also knew that we would rejoin in traffic after the first pit stop, without knowing if we would have been able to overtake the cars that were on the Medium: the move paid off for Fernando with his stop on the sixth lap, while for Felipe, who pitted on lap 7, it was more difficult, especially as he had some graining which meant he was not able to finish any higher. Overall, the F138 showed that it has a good pace and we can take satisfaction from that. Now we must immediately turn the page and concentrate on the race coming up in Bahrain. We are absolutely aware that we still have a lot of work to do on qualifying performance if we want to make the most of our race pace”.
|Pit-stop||1° stop||Lap 6||New Medium|
|2° stop||Lap 23||New Medium|
|3° stop||Lap 41||New Medium|
|Pit-stop||1° stop||Lap 7||New Medium|
|2° stop||Lap 19||New Medium|
|3° stop||Lap 36||New Medium|
|Weather: air 19/29 °C, track 25/42 °C. Sunny|
Shanghai, 14 April – Fernando Alonso delivered Scuderia Ferrari’s first win of the season in Shanghai this afternoon, in a race that was action packed, mainly down to the different strategies employed in managing the tyres. After a strong start, Felipe Massa had to settle for sixth at the flag but the eight points he added to the winner’s 25 means the Prancing Horse has moved ahead of Lotus to go second in the Constructors’ championship, just five points behind the leaders Red Bull.
As the lights went out both Ferrari men got great starts with Fernando moving up one place to second and Felipe up to third, helped by a slow start from Raikkonen who thus slipped from second on the grid to fourth, while Hamilton maintained his lead from pole. Felipe was right on his team-mate’s tail and by lap 4, the two of them were hassling the leading Mercedes. At the start of lap 5, Fernando slipstreamed Hamilton to get by and Felipe, determined not to be left behind dived down the inside of the Englishman to be second: a long way to go, but it was now a Ferrari one-two. Hamilton and Rosberg both pitted on lap 6. Guttierez ran into the back of Sutil on the back straight, with the Mexican retiring on track and the German in the pits.
Fernando and Raikkonen pitted for Prime tyres on lap 6, which left Fernando and Hamilton to battle for eleventh. Felipe pitted on lap 7, as did Maldonaldo in the Williams. This slightly later stop for Felipe saw him drop down the order more than expected. The lead trio was now Hulkenberg, Vettel and Button, the same three drivers who opted not to set a time in Saturday’s Q3 so as to start on the Medium Pirelli. Throughout the race, there would be “false” leaders as the pit stops ran out of synch between the top 7 on the grid who started on the Soft and the rest of the field who had gone for the Medium. Lap 9 and it was Felipe fighting Webber for eleventh, as Fernando now found himself back in sixth ahead of Hamilton and Vergne in the Toro Rosso.
On lap 10, Massa got past Bottas in the Williams to go tenth. One lap later the order was Hulkenberg, Vettel, Button, Perez and Di Resta fifth, all on the Medium all yet to pit. Fernando was the first of those who had made the switch from the Soft to Medium and then came Hamilton seventh, followed by Raikkonen, Vergne, the Frenchman yet to stop, with Felipe 10th ahead of Webber who had started his Red Bull from the pits.
Lap 13 and Fernando was in fifth, menacing fourth placed Perez in the McLaren and the Ferrari got past as they crossed the line to start the next lap. Lap 14 and the two leaders, Vettel and Hulkenberg pitted, as did Di Resta. On the same lap, Webber collided with Vergne and the two men had to pit, the Australian for a nose and the Frenchman for a puncture. While this had been going on, Fernando was now second behind Button and Felipe was sixth in between Perez and Vettel.
Lap 17 and Webber was out having lost a wheel off his Red Bull. Fernando was 0.6 behind Button but the Englishman seemed to be controlling the gap, as he continued to run on his first set of Medium tyres. On lap 19, Vettel managed to pass Felipe, who immediately pitted for a fresh set of Mediums. On lap 20, another spurt from the Spanish Ferrari man saw him again close right up to Button, while behind them was another exciting battle as Raikkonen harried third placed Hamilton.
On lap 21, Fernando was leading once more having swept past Button and he immediately pulled out a lead of 1.5 seconds. Hamilton and Raikkonen came into the pit lane together and left in the same order. Last year’s China winner, Rosberg, retired his Mercedes in the pits on lap 22 and Felipe was eleventh after his visit to pit lane, behind Raikkonen and ahead of Maldonaldo. One lap later, Fernando made a second tyre change, followed into pit lane by Button making his first tyre switch. The Spaniard came out third ahead of Perez, again leaving Vettel and Hulkenberg, out of synch on tyre changes, in the top two places, as Felipe chased Di Resta’s Force India for seventh spot. Fernando was flying and dispensed with Hulkenberg’s Sauber to go second on lap 26, 3.8 behind Vettel. The gap came down to 2.1 on the next lap, as the Ferrari man set a fastest race lap. The red car continued to close on the purple one, with a one second gap on lap 28 and next time round Alonso swept into the lead once again.
Felipe moved up to seventh when Hulkenberg pitted and found he now had Vettel behind him as the German had just pitted. With fresh rubber, the Red Bull was able to pass the F138 with a robust move. Out in front, Fernando had more than 11 seconds in hand over Hamilton, who had Raikkonen and Button behind him, with Vettel now fifth ahead of Hulkenberg and Felipe seventh, which became sixth when Raikkonen pitted the Lotus. The threat from Vettel was ever present as he passed Button to go third on lap 36, the same lap that Felipe and Hulkenberg came in to change tyres, leaving pit lane side by side with the Ferrari just getting its nose ahead as they rejoined the track. Hamilton made his third stop on lap 37, so that Vettel was now second, around 19 seconds behind Fernando. However, they still both had to visit the pits one more time, the Ferrari on lap 41, the Red Bull ten laps later, so that the order between them would switch twice more, before leaving Fernando to manage the race to the flag. When Vettel made his final stop, with just 5 laps remaining, it dropped him down the order, so that Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus came home second with Lewis Hamilton completing the podium for Mercedes. Vettel and Button filled the next two slots, ahead of sixth placed Felipe.
The result means that the F1 circus heads to Bahrain for next Sunday’s fourth round of the championship, with Alonso third in the Drivers’ classification, 6 points behind second placed Raikkonen and 9 behind the leader Vettel. Hamilton is fourth, followed 10 points down by Massa.
Both Ferraris got off the line really well and Fernando and Felipe made up one and two places respectively to go second and third into the first turn. On lap 5, both men got past the leader Lewis Hamilton, to go into the lead. On laps 7 and 8 Fernando and then Felipe switched from Soft to Medium tyres.
Several drivers led the Chinese Grand Prix, thanks to the different strategies in play on the tyre front and after the second stop, which came on lap 28, Alonso went past temporary leader Sebastian Vettel to retake the lead. At the end of lap 41, Alonso made a third stop fitting the final set of Mediums and from then on he controlled the race to the flag. Thanks to this result, Alonso is third in the Drivers’ championship, while Massa is fifth, ten points off Lewis Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso: “To end qualifying with both cars in the top five is a result that fills me with hope for the race. The F138 has been competitive all weekend and that means we have made a step forward, which is down to the work of the team. Some of the updates we had here worked as we had expected, but others need further work. In terms of establishing what will be the best strategy, we will be in for a long night and that will be the case for everyone, given that almost all our main competitors will start on the Softs. I’m not concerned about Red Bull’s choice and Mercedes usually has a higher degradation than ours. I’m definitely expecting an interesting race in which the biggest threat could come from Raikkonen as the Lotus has shown it manages its tyres well”.
Felipe Massa: “It was a good qualifying, with the car working well and being quick. To be honest, after my performance in the second and third free practice sessions, I expected to start in the top three, but it’s very likely that our competitors were running with more fuel and it’s also true that strategy counts a lot more than one or two places on the grid. Today’s qualifying featured different choices: we preferred to use the Soft tyre right from the first run in Q1, because it looked complicated getting through to the next part with the Medium. That has allowed us to save them for tomorrow in a race that looks like being very closely contested and where as many as three stops might be necessary. Today, our main competitors probably did better than us, but the race is long and anything can happen. Tyre management and tactical choices will definitely be the key factors”.
Pat Fry: “It emerged from yesterday’s free practice that the Medium would be the best tyre for the race, both in terms of its consistency and its relative degradation. During qualifying, it wasn’t a surprise to see how all the teams had decided to save this compound for the race, opting to use the Softs in all three legs. In Q2, after our first run, it wasn’t easy to understand what time would be needed to get into Q3 and we preferred not to take any risks, doing a second lap. After this proved to be the safest choice, attention turned to possible strategies for the race and therefore whether to go with the Medium or to try for another quick lap on the soft tyre to be sure of getting a better grid position. The latter option seemed the most sensible and that was confirmed when most of the teams did the same thing. I am expecting an unpredictable race because the cars at the front will have to stop first due to the degradation and the traffic towards the back could prove to be dangerous. I am extremely pleased with the performance of Fernando and Felipe and I am also optimistic for tomorrow, even if I expect a difficult race in which strategy and tyre performance could play an even more important role than ever”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 300|
|Q1||P5||1:36.253||New Soft – 3 laps||P3||1:35.972||New Soft – 3 laps|
|Q2||P2||1:35.148||Old Soft – 3 lapsNew Soft – 3 laps||P4||1:35.403||Old Soft – 3 lapsOld Soft – 3 laps|
|Q3||P3||1:34.788||New Soft – 3 laps||P5||1:34.933||New Soft – 3 laps|
|Weather: air 29 °C, track 40/41 °C. Sunny|
Usually in Q1, it is the back-of-the-grid habitués who opt to run the softer tyre immediately as they try and make it to Q2, but here in Shanghai, the lap time difference between the Prime Medium and the Option Soft, provided by Pirelli, was so great that even the front runners had to come out on the Softs in Q1. Fernando and Felipe duly got through to Q2 without any problems and then dealt with the second part to make it to the top ten where, of the usual front runners, Mark Webber was missing, because of a technical problem on his Red Bull.
What is usually regarded as a Top Ten shoot-out was actually a Top-Seven today, with the remaining drivers waiting until a few minutes from the end to make just one run on the Softs. The two Ferrari men played their part, with the Spaniard setting the third fastest time just three tenths off pole man Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman securing his first ever number one slot for Mercedes. In the other F138, Felipe will start right behind his team-mate after being fifth fastest. Australian GP winner Kimi Raikkonen is also on the front row, while Fernando shares row 2 with last year’s winner here, Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. Felipe has the Lotus of Romain Grosjean alongside him on row 3. In seventh place, Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso was the last driver to actually attempt a quick lap: Jenson Button in the McLaren, Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber, all played the tactical game for tomorrow of fitting the Medium tyres, and ended up eighth, ninth and tenth respectively, as Hulkenberg didn’t even leave the garage.
What this means for tomorrow’s 56 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit is hard to say. Clearly the seven cars at the front of the grid that must according to the regulations, start on the Softs, will have to pit fairly early on while apart from the possibility of a few wild cards, those outside the top ten who are free to choose their starting tyres, will presumably go for the Mediums. Choosing the best time to make tyre changes on an afternoon where at least the weather is expected to be consistently dry, is going to be a tough call and one that will see engineers throughout the length of the very long Shanghai paddock, scratching their heads well into the night. Apart from working hard to get that part of the equation right, the Scuderia Ferrari crew can take heart from the fact the F138 has shown a good pace over a long run here in China. From third and fifth on the grid, if everything goes smoothly on all the usual fronts of reliability, performance and pit stops, then the podium has to be a realistic target, especially for Fernando but also for Felipe.
In Q3, nearly all the remaining ten drivers waited until there was less than three minutes to go, most of them doing just one run on new Softs, with the exception of Vettel in the Red Bull and Button the McLaren who did a single lap on the Medium. Fernando missed out on the front row by just two hundredths of a second and Felipe was only seven hundredths off fourth placed Rosberg in the Mercedes. The German’s team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, took pole in a time of 1.34.484.
Fernando Alonso: “By the end of the day, the overall feeling is positive. We worked well and on top of that, it’s always great fun driving the Shanghai track which has some really unique features, such as the first corner. From one session to the next the track conditions improved significantly, because the other categories that ran after our morning session cleaned the surface. The increase in temperature means the conditions were very similar to those predicted for tomorrow. Once again, tyres will play a key role in this Grand Prix because of the high level of degradation over a long run. We will have to ensure we pick the right strategy for Sunday, as well as deciding on which of the new parts we tried this morning to fit to the car. As usual, we can expect a long evening studying the data.”
Felipe Massa: “Today, I immediately had a good feeling in the car and even if, at the start, I was not completely happy with the performance of the Medium compound and we were not as quick as our rivals, the times were good all the same. When I fitted the Softs, the car improved a lot and this meant I was able to set the fastest time of the day. It was impressive, like driving two completely different cars. Our race pace looks competitive, the car is handling well on both types of tyre and degradation was not excessive, even if the higher wear rate of the Soft compared to the Medium compound will be an important factor when it comes to choosing the right strategy. I feel confident and hope that the whole weekend can keep moving in this direction”.
Pat Fry: “Today we managed to complete our programme without any problems, which is extremely positive for the rest of the weekend. In the morning, we concentrated on analysing various aerodynamic updates we brought here to Shanghai, the result of a lot of hard work back in the factory on the car development front. The first signs are that the updates appear to match our expectations, but we need to analyse the data carefully to make a more accurate evaluation, in terms of which ones we can use for this race and the upcoming ones. In the second session, we continued to work on various specifications with both drivers, doing some set-up work aimed at finding the right balance on both cars. Obviously, we did the normal comparison between the two types of tyre that Pirelli has brought here to Shanghai, with the Soft compound making its debut. The race pace from both F138s is interesting, but once again there is the unknown factor of tyre performance: the Softs seem to degrade quite quickly, while the Mediums offer better stability and last longer. Now we can expect a long night ahead of us to decide on the best combinations for qualifying and the race, with a lot of data to go through”.
|ALONSO – Chassis 299||MASSA – Chassis 300|
|First Session||P5||1:37.965||17 laps||P7||1:38.095||14 laps|
|Weather: air 20/22 °C, track 27/31 °C. Sunny|
|Second Session||P3||1:35.755||30 laps||P1||1:35.340||30 laps|
|Weather: air 24 °C, track 35/37 °C. Sunny|
Shanghai, 12 April – Felipe Massa setting the fastest time this afternoon around the 5.451 kilometres of the Shanghai International Circuit can be seen as the icing on the cake, at the end of the first day of practice for the Chinese Grand Prix. However, to continue the analogy, for Scuderia Ferrari it is the “cake” itself that matters most and that too showed signs of being well prepared.
The speed of development in Formula 1 moves on at such a fast pace that Fridays at a Grand Prix, particularly in the early part of the season are incredibly hectic for all the teams. The job sheet would be full enough if it was simply a case of preparing the car as well as possible for the race weekend, but these days, the three hours of track time must also find room for testing new components aimed at keeping the development of the cars, the F138 in the case of the Prancing Horse, moving forward throughout the year. So far this season, there had not been much time to run new parts, given that the first two races in Melbourne and Sepang took place so far from home and only one week apart. But since the Malaysian round, two weekends have gone by without a race and so there’s been time to introduce a raft of new components which all had to undergo their track debut here in China. The engineers need to remain cool and calm to combine this work with the more regular tasks of a race weekend. It’s something the men from the Scuderia have had plenty of practice at and the day went off smoothly, with Felipe and Fernando racking up a total of 93 laps between them – 47 for the Spaniard and one less for the Brazilian.
There was also something new on the tyre front as the Pirelli Soft compound makes its season debut here this weekend. Degradation was always going to be high at a track where some of the corners seem to go on forever, turning in on themselves and tightening up. Fernando, who ended the day third fastest, and Felipe tried this new compound and the harder Medium on a mix of long and short runs and clearly the softer tyre is offering a big performance advantage which will become evident in tomorrow’s qualifying. Splitting the two Prancing Horse cars on the time sheet was the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen. Last year’s winner here, Nico Rosberg, was fourth for Mercedes, while Mark Webber in the Red Bull and Jenson Button in the McLaren, completed the top six.
Shanghai, 12 April – Felipe Massa was quickest in the second free practice session this afternoon at the Shanghai track. The Brazilian’s best lap was a 1.35.340, while in second was Kimi Raikkonen with a 1.35.492. In the other F138, Fernando Alonso was third in 1.35.755.
The weather got warmer today thanks to some sunshine, reaching 22 degrees, with the track hitting 31, as Massa and Alonso began the session on the Medium compound, completing the task of evaluating new aero components, as well as the usual set-up work. As the track rubbered in and a clean line emerged, all the teams then tried the Soft compound, seen for the first time this season.
The new tyres produced faster times over a single lap, by almost 2 seconds in fact and Massa produced a strong lap to post the fastest time of the day. The last 40 minutes of the session were given over to race simulation, acquiring important data in view of establishing a strategy for Sunday’s race.
Alonso did his long run on the Soft tyre, while Massa did his using the Medium. The Spaniard did 30 laps, with the Brazilian doing two more.
Shanghai, 11th April – The four-year partnership between Weichai Power and the Scuderia Ferrari announced at the unveiling of the F138 on February 1st last was made official this morning during a press conference for the Chinese media at the Shangri-Là Hotel. Also present were the Italian Consul in Shanghai, Vincenzo De Luca, Weichai Group chairman Tan Xuguang and Ferrari deputy chairman Piero Ferrari.Chinas leading industrial brand and its largest automotive component and machinery group is the Maranello teams first Chinese sponsor. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who are in Shanghai for the third round of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship, and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali were also guests at the event.A very proud Piero Ferrari, who was introduced to the assembled audience at the ceremony by Tan Xuguang, had this to say: Our relationship with China has gone from strength to strength since we sold our first car here in 1992. Greater China is now our second largest market, thanks to sales of 750 cars per year. We also have a large following here made up of clients, collectors and incredibly passionate fans. The first permanent Ferrari exhibition at the PalaExpò in Shanghai is a great testament to that passion. We feel very close to the Chinese culture which is both forward-looking and very respectful of its roots and tradition, and I am certain that the relationship between Ferrari and Weichai will be hugely advantageous to both brands.
Shanghai, 11 April – Under sunny and clear blue skies in the massive Shanghai paddock, rather than the smog the weather forecasters had predicted, Fernando Alonso tackled the usual Thursday session with his friends in the press and even three weeks on, the first topic was that Malaysian race retirement. “I am not concerned about the fact I did not score points in Malaysia, because everyone has at least two or three DNFs per season in Formula 1,” said a philosophical Fernando. “Although I hope not, I guess it will happen to me again this year, because of the law of averages. We need to be prepared for that and also be prepared to take any opportunity and try and score maximum points when it happens to our rivals. It was a shame that there was that contact at the second corner, but as regards stopping or not stopping, I think the damage was already done. Now, we will try and be a little bit more careful, leave a bit more of a margin and hopefully, it won’t happen again.” As to a suggestion from a journalist that Vettel, who was involved in that collision, had slowed deliberately to impede Alonso, the Ferrari man denied it. “That’s impossible,” he insisted. “Because there are 22 cars on the track and you don’t know what line the drivers behind you will take.”Even though the journalist who asked the question offered Fernando the get out clause of suggesting he was running a different set-up aimed more at the races, the Spaniard denied this was why Massa has out-qualified him in the last four races. “It’s not that, but I think he is doing a fantastic job and driving at a hundred percent. However, to talk about the last four races is a strange calculation, as it involves races from last year as well as this one and the conditions in the qualifying sessions in Melbourne and Malaysia were not so normal. Like I say, he is doing a good job and I hope I can qualify in front of him for a few races this year and if I manage to do that, it will need to be with a fantastic lap.”
Team orders had been the big talking point after the Red Bull and Mercedes tactics in Malaysia and Fernando was asked for his views on what happened. “As a driver, one always wants to win and to do whatever it takes to win,” said the Spaniard. “However, what counts are the priorities of your team, so it’s difficult to comment or have an opinion on what Red Bull and Mercedes did in the last race, without knowing what discussions they had beforehand. But like I say, when we come to F1, we enter an agreement with our team and we have a professional obligation towards that team and sometimes people confuse team orders with the obligation to do one’s job.”
As for this weekend in Shanghai, Fernando’s answer featured his usual blend of optimism and analysis. “I think we have to improve our qualifying, which is a weak point compared to our race pace, but overall here, our target is to fight to finish on the podium,” he concluded. “With a gap of five weeks since Australia we, and I guess most teams, have had the time to produce some updates and I am reasonably optimistic that what we have brought here will deliver the results we expect. That’s why we are aiming for the podium and with both cars it would be even better.”
Shanghai, 11 April – After ten years of coming to the Shanghai circuit for the Chinese Grand Prix, the veteran F1 media know they have a busy time on Thursday as they negotiate the labyrinth of paths that lead to the team hospitality areas, perched on stilts above an artificial lake in the paddock. But they all found their way to the Scuderia Ferrari unit for the regular pre-weekend chat with Felipe Massa.The Brazilian was first faced with the statistic that, if he is quicker than Alonso on Saturday afternoon, he will be the first of the Spaniard’s F1 team-mates to out-qualify him five times in a row. “Honestly I never thought about it,” admitted a surprised Felipe. “All I can say is that I’m pleased with my start to the season and want to continue in this fashion. That statistic isn’t what gives me pleasure. What I like is to go well and to feel confident in the car. These sorts of figures only give you problems. I just want to get on with doing a good job.”
Wisely, the Ferrari man would not set himself any clear cut target for the third round of the world championship. “Our aim for this weekend is the same as always, which is to work to keep improving the car, especially in qualifying. If we manage to do that and at a rate a little bit quicker than the others, then we can be more competitive in qualifying and even in the race too. The key is to work in the right direction throughout all the championship.”
Finally, the inevitable question in the wake of the Malaysian team-orders story involving Mercedes and especially Red Bull. “I approve of the intelligent use of team orders and by that I mean those that come at key moments of the championship, not in the second race of the season,” explained Felipe. “They must be taken with the good of the team in mind. I have helped many drivers, for example with Kimi when he won the championship with Ferrari and again last year with Fernando, when he was fighting for the title. I have no problem with team orders that fit these criteria.”
Maranello, 9 April – This year, the Chinese Grand Prix celebrates its tenth birthday, with every race having taken place at the massive and monolithic Shanghai International Circuit. As Formula 1 has expanded its horizons in recent years, it has generally headed for nations that were expanding their economy. That was definitely the case when the sport landed in the country with the second highest Gross Domestic Product. Since then, China’s growth on the automotive front has run at the speed of a Formula 1 machine, making it the second largest market in the world for Ferrari road cars: just under 800 cars were shipped to the area known as Greater China in 2012, with no less than 500 going to China itself. Motor sport is expanding in the region and later in the year, the Shanghai circuit hosts a round of the Asia-Pacific series of the Ferrari Challenge one-make championship. The Grand Prix teams have yet to perform to a full house at this circuit on the outskirts of Shanghai and that is unlikely to change until a Chinese driver makes it to the grid. Here too the Maranello marque is helping to promote motor sport, and the Ferrari Driver Academy is working with the Chinese Automobile Federation to increase awareness of the sport and to assist young drivers.
Last year, running a three stop strategy in the less than competitive F2012, Fernando Alonso finished ninth, while a two stopping Felipe Massa was thirteenth. Twelve months on, the Brazilian is confident that a better weekend is in prospect. “I know we have only done two races, but I have a good feeling so far this season,” says Felipe. “The work we did with the F138 over the winter has taken us in the right direction and the car has much more potential. Of course, I always want to be fighting for the win, although that did not work out in the first two races, but the signs were good with an excellent race pace and now we have to keep moving forward race by race.” After just two Grands Prix, it would be unreasonable to expect to see any definite trends emerging. “All I can say is that there are definitely more than two teams that are capable of fighting for the wins and the championship,” reckons Felipe. “Our team is one of them, with the car moving forward in the right way and it is delivering results on track that we expected when looking at data in the wind tunnel and the factory. In Melbourne we had a car that was capable of winning and in Malaysia the car was again competitive, even if conditions made the race something of a lottery.
In the break since Malaysia, Massa, along with Alonso, has spent some time at the factory in Maranello and that’s put him in a reasonably confident frame of mind for the coming weekend. “We are well prepared for China and we will have all the updates we hoped to bring with us in Shanghai, after work in the factory and the simulator last week,” he revealed. “I hope this translates into a further performance improvement on track. Shanghai is a very nice track with a variety of corner types and fast straights, so you definitely need a car that works well in the fast sections, but you also need it to have plenty of downforce to deal with the tighter turns. We can expect to see quite high tyre degradation, especially on the fronts. As to the Brazilian’s expectations for the third round of the championship, the Paulista sums them up succinctly: “the aim is to fight for a lot more points, for a podium, for a win even, because you have to set yourself high targets.”
It is part of a driver’s make-up to always be optimistic, but we can expect Technical Directors to be a bit more circumspect and that’s the case with the Scuderia’s Pat Fry. “We’ve shown reasonable race pace and on all the tyre types we have used so far we have performed well, however we still have a way to go to be quickest in qualifying and we are working very hard on that at the moment,” says the Englishman, when asked for an assessment of the first two chapters of this season. “We’ve been concentrating on the longer runs, even if they are not as long as in the past, because this year we expect more pit stops during a race. However, we have not ignored our qualifying pace. I am sure there is more to come on this front, as we learn more about our car and start getting the best out of it. The key will be to try and move our car development programme forward quicker than the other teams do. It’s a tough cycle that will last all year and we need to at least match our 2012 development pace if we are to perform better in qualifying. So far, we have worked well, all the way through from design to manufacture, improving on how we did things last year in terms of actually getting new bits onto the car. Also, our aero correlation is better.”
Fry is equally cautious when it comes to assessing the F138’s chances in China. “Shanghai is a challenging mix of different corner types and a 1.2 kilometre straight. Is it going to suit our car better than some others? It is too early to say, as there are too many unknowns. For example, it will be the first weekend this year that we will use the Pirelli Soft compound, along with the Medium. At the end of this Grand Prix, we will have a clearer picture of how all the tyres compare to one another. So to some degree, Shanghai will be another learning exercise for everyone, although we can say that our pace, relative to the other teams, has been okay on all the tyres we have tried so far.”
The Scuderia was the first team to have its name engraved on the Chinese GP winner’s trophy when Rubens Barrichello was first past the flag in 2004. There were a further two wins for the Prancing Horse, from Michael Schumacher in 2006 and Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. As for our current line-up, Fernando Alonso won, but not in red, in 2005. The Spaniard has started from pole twice and has two other podium finishes to his name. Felipe Massa’s best finish was a second place in 2008.