Ferrari is ready for the Grand Prix on the Sepang circuit
Sepang, 30 March - Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro is already hard at work at the Sepang circuit, outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, preparing for the third round of the world championship, which it currently leads in both the Drivers' and Constructors' categories. "We are happy with the Melbourne result, even if, on Sunday morning, we might have expected a slightly better one," said Stefano Domenicali. "Considering what happened in the race, we can be pleased with finishing third and fourth, partly because our closest rivals either failed to score, or at least did not pick up many points. We are surely not the only ones to be pleased with the afternoon's work in Albert Park: F1 fans the world over can tell themselves they watched a truly spectacular motor race and those who made such a fuss about Bahrain being dull, should now think again. I have always maintained it is impossible to draw conclusions about the state of our sport after just one Grand Prix, but that does not mean we should now claim that Formula 1 has returned to some sort of golden age, if indeed there ever was one!" A new driver pairing always takes time to break in, but in Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, the Scuderia seems to already have a strong partnership: the Brazilian had a difficult weekend throughout, but he made the best of it, getting a very good start, before adopting a sensibly cautious approach when dealing with a lack of grip. As for the Spaniard, he drove a truly fantastic race, demonstrating not only his skill in going from last to fourth, after his first lap spin, but also the fact that he knows how to be a team player.
"Back-to-backs," the term applied to Grands Prix on consecutive weekends present a tough logistical challenge, which all the teams undertake in conjunction with FOM, (Formula One Management) who are responsible for shipping cars and equipment from one race to the next. Late on Sunday night in Albert Park, the entire team set about re-preparing the two race cars and packing everything into containers. "Once packed, all the containers are positioned in the pit lane, from where trucks take everything to the airport," explains Massimo Balocchi, the team's head of logistics. "We provide all the Customs documentation and FOM does the rest. "Then, in Sepang, the reverse process takes place with the equipment delivered from Kuala Lumpur airport, ready for the team to start work on Tuesday. Not all the material we use goes by air. In order to save time and money, at the start of the year, in January, we send four separate container loads to Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia and China. These contain much of the infrastructure we need to use, but not the technical equipment or car parts. These containers then return by sea to Europe, where they are repacked and then dispatched again to the last races of the season." Balocchi is also in charge of all personnel movements for a team of around 65 people - the 45 permitted to actually work on the cars and the additional press, marketing and Paddock Club staff. "We always try and stay in a maximum of two hotels at each race," says Balocchi. "That makes the logistics easier in terms of how many cars we use to move around. We have an agreement with Europcar and the local FIAT importers also help on this front. As for the hotel bookings, I normally do this one year in advance, so for example, I have already discussed our 2011 requirements in Melbourne with the hotels this week."
This will be the twelfth edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix and when the circuit was first used in 1999, it was absolutely state-of-the-art and is still one of the best facilities on the calendar. Ferrari's Malaysian adventure got off to a good start, with a trio of wins; Eddie Irvine being first past the flag in the inaugural 1999 event, followed by two victories for Michael Schumacher over the next two years. The German won again in 2004 and Kimi Raikkonen was victorious in 2008. Current driver Fernando Alonso rates the Sepang circuit as one of his all time favourites and the Spaniard stood on the top step of the podium in 2005 with Renault and in 2007 for McLaren.
Sepang provides a challenging track, with the added difficulties of coping with very hot conditions and extreme humidity, two factors which can have a debilitating effect on both car and driver. With that in mind, the F10s will have some further updates aimed at dealing with the unique characteristics of this event. Last year's race started at five in the afternoon, to better suit global TV viewers, however, fairly predictably this meant the inevitable tropical storm disrupted the event, with it being stopped after just 31 of the scheduled 56 laps, so that only half points were awarded, as required by the regulations. Therefore, Sunday's race start has been brought forward by one hour: whether this will be enough to miss the storm is another matter, even if, after Melbourne, the viewing public would appreciate the added spice of a wet track.