Light at the end of the tunnel
With Fernando Alonso fifth on the grid– one can by now say “as usual” given this is the only position he has started from all year – and Felipe Massa in tenth, how can the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro personnel and drivers be talking of improvement in the performance of the 150º Italia?
The answer is that, in a sport where everything is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second, some improvements are not so evident to the naked eye or the casual spectator. Fernando claimed his performance today confirmed that there is now some light at the end of the tunnel and Felipe talked of an improvement thanks to the efforts of everyone in Maranello. For the Spaniard, one sign of this improvement is that today in qualifying, he did not have to sacrifice a set of the faster Soft tyres in Q1 to make sure he progressed to the second session, as the car was quick enough to make it on the harder slower tyre. And in Felipe’s case, a better performance was on the cards but for an honest but unfortunate driver mistake on his quick lap.
If the drivers in Formula 1 are meant to be the best in the world, then the people providing them with a car to drive have to match these high standards and today, the work carried out in the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro garage was a testament to the skill of our hard-working mechanics. During the morning session, telemetry data from Massa’s engine indicated that one parameter did not conform to the norm and therefore, rather than take any risks, the decision was taken to switch engines in the Brazilian’s car.
Free practice ended at noon and qualifying starts at 2pm: not long to carry out the complex task of changing the power unit, but it all went off smoothly. The other side of the Ferrari garage was almost as busy, as a problem on Alonso’s car also involved removing the back end of the car from the chassis in order to put it right: both cars were ready and running in time for the start of the first part of qualifying.
The front row of the grid is an all-Red Bull affair, as Sebastian Vettel continues his monopoly of pole position this season, with Mark Webber alongside him. Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes their best grid position of the year with a third place and he is joined on the second row by the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. Fernando shares row 3 with the other McLaren of Jenson Button. On row 5, Felipe has Nick Heidfeld in the Renault on his inside. Just in front of them, row 4 features Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault and Michael Schumacher in the other Mercedes.
More than the use of the moveable rear wing, more than the power boost of KERS, the wear rate of the Pirelli tyres will be the biggest unknown going into tomorrow’s 58 lap race and knowing exactly when to make the call for the pit stops will hold the key to a good result.