Silverstone - No matter how you dress it up, having one car on the fifth row and the other on the sixth, is not going to help Scuderia Ferrari’s championship aspirations. Those are the hard facts at the end of this afternoon’s closely contested qualifying for tomorrow’s British Grand Prix.
A cold track that has seen plenty of rain in the past 48 hours is not an ideal scenario when it comes to providing grip, especially when the abrasive nature of the Silverstone track surface requires Pirelli to supply its Hard and Medium compound tyres.
Clearly, of the front running teams, the Prancing Horse seemed to suffer most from this problem, despite the best efforts of the engineers and drivers who tried everything to resolve it, even going against perceived wisdom to see if the harder of the two tyres performed better.
Unfortunately, the puzzle remained unsolved, which is why Fernando made it to Q3, but was only able to set the tenth fastest time. As for Felipe, his afternoon ended in Q2 and he will start directly behind his team-mate in twelfth place.
However, as the old adage goes, there are no points for qualifying and tomorrow it will be time for the Scuderia duo to play on their strengths, which means making a good start and hopefully dispensing with a few rivals on the opening lap, then making the most of the F138s excellent pace on a heavy fuel load, before finally counting on a well executed strategy and good pit stops. Realistically, tomorrow should be about damage limitation and bringing home as many points as possible with both cars.
The roar of the British crowd told you all you needed to know about pole position, as Lewis Hamilton secured the number one grid slot for his home race, with Nico Rosberg posting the second fastest time to ensure a Mercedes front row lock out.
The second row is also shared among team mates, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber third and fourth for Red Bull. Another Brit is fifth in the shape of Paul di Resta and his Force India, with Daniel Ricciardo bringing his Toro Rosso across the line in sixth place. Fernando shares his row with Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, while Felipe has Jenson Button for company alongside him in eleventh.
Fernando Alonso (Q3: 1:30.979, P10): “This weekend has been complicated for us by problems that we haven’t managed to get on top of, concerning various aspects such as the balance of the car, its driveability and performance. We can consider this the worst Saturday of the season so far, having never finished so far down, but now we must react immediately to try and return to the form we showed at the start of the year.
We definitely expected a lot more here, because this is a track that suits our car’s characteristics better than others. In Q3, we hesitated a bit over tyre choice: we went out on the Hards because they had worked well in free practice this morning and in Q1.
Then we switched to Medium with the idea of just coming back to the pits if it did not go well but then we decided to finish the lap and nevertheless our rivals were quicker.
Now, we must try to do the same, starting from tomorrow: even if the race will be an uphill struggle we are well aware how things can change during a race. We hope we can stage a good climb up the order and bring home as many points as possible”.
Felipe Massa (Q2: 1:31.779, P12): “It was an extremely difficult day as we did not have the car we were expecting and we had no grip whatsoever with new tyres. Compared to other cars, we struggled to put together a good lap. The time lost when I went off the track yesterday and the interruption this morning to change the engine definitely cost me valuable kilometres and in qualifying I lacked the few tenths necessary to make it through to Q3.
Now we must think about tomorrow, as the race is an altogether different matter and I hope that, with a full fuel load and higher temperatures, things can change in our favour. If the car is more competitive, I’m sure I can pull off a few passing moves and fight for a good result”.
Pat Fry: “Today, the much awaited sunshine didn’t manage to push the temperatures up as much as we had hoped, especially on the track. The surface stayed rather cold and already in the final free practice this morning had created some problems with grip, with several drivers going off the track.
Things only improved slightly in qualifying, but not enough to improve the grip levels. Looking at our start positions, it’s obvious that our cars suffered more than others, even if the gaps in the small group of cars ahead of Fernando are very close. While trying to improve the balance on the car, we tested various solutions, trying to increase driveability in both the high and low speed corners, always keeping in mind what will be the key factors in tomorrow’s race.
We can be more confident when it comes to the race and we will be counting on the performance we have seen over a long run, which is encouraging. During the opening laps it will be important to try and make up a few places. Then, our strategy will be aimed at helping the drivers as much as possible in their efforts to close up to our direct rivals”.