Malaysian GP - The team knows how to react Maranello, 31st March 2009 - Whenever a team has a bad race weekend, the general feeling is always one of impatience to try again as soon as possible and after failing to score points in the opening...
Malaysian GP - The team knows how to react
Maranello, 31st March 2009 - Whenever a team has a bad race weekend, the general feeling is always one of impatience to try again as soon as possible and after failing to score points in the opening round and only one car classified at the finish, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro gets a chance to redeem itself immediately this weekend, with Round 2, the Malaysian Grand Prix, at the Sepang Circuit, outside Kuala Lumpur.
In Malaysia one of the key areas the Scuderia will be looking into from the start of free practice, will be optimising the useage of the tyres, as this is one area where the F60 appeared to struggle in Albert Park. One of the major changes in the rules is the fact that Bridgestone has been instructed to bring two types of tyre that are significantly different one from the other, whereas last year, the two types of tyre that had to be used during a race were often very similar in terms of wear and performance characteristics.
The result is that not only do you have make your car work on two different tyre compounds, it has to work in two different operating ranges of temperature, for example a soft tyre that works at high temperatures and a hard that works best at lower operating temperatures. These rules are the same for everyone of course and teams have to find the best possible solution, which Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro clearly failed to do in Melbourne last weekend. Both Ferrari drivers started on the softer tyre in the Australian Grand Prix and although this did not work for Felipe and Kimi, it was not necessarily a bad strategic decision as other drivers did the same and went on to finish in the points. Tyres now seem more sensitive to individual circuits, because during winter testing in Bahrain, the team managed to complete longs on these same tyres with absolutely no problems.
Another interesting element that came under the microscope after the first race of the season, is the effect of KERS on tyre useage. It was clear that, particularly with the super-soft, wear rates were higher than expected on the rear tyres because of the extra strain created by the KERS system. The team needs to continue analysing the best way to use it, having seen the advantage it brings, specifically at the start, where Felipe gained two positions (not counting the third, as Barrichello was just slow.) This means it is a useful tool, even if there might still be a question mark over its use for overtaking.
In terms of reliability, the broken upright from Felipe's car has been taken back to Maranello for metallurgical analysis, to see if its failure was due to stress, quality control or some contact made earlier in the race. Its failure is all the more surprising as the uprights are one of the few components on the F60 that are virtually identical to those on previous years' cars. Kimi's differential problem is still under investigation after a quick look on Sunday night prior to shipping the car to Malaysia where a more thorough check will be carried out.
The mood in the team was not the best on Sunday night, but Ferrari has been in this situation many times before and knows what it must do in terms of working hard to react. This is one of the hardest starts to any recent season, as the crew did not finish work in Albert Park until around four o'clock on Monday morning, flying to Malaysia a few hours later and on Tuesday morning, work was already underway on setting up the garages and preparing the cars at the Sepang circuit. The team is confident it will fight back, although there are bound to be some unknown factors in Malaysia as the race runs to the same late-start schedule as Australia, which means running the cars on track at a time of day when traditionally, tropical storms are commonplace. As to the question mark regarding visibility, there might still be one in Sepang, but instead of a dazzling setting sun, drivers might have to contend with a lack of visibility as darkness falls.
As a general comment regarding the state of the championship after the opening round, the teams seem much more closely matched than last year, so that the slightest difference can result in drivers missing out on Q3 on Saturday, therefore more effort will have to be concentrated on qualifying performance this year, making better use of the tyre choices available, at the expense of looking purely at race performance. However, it has to be said that one team is, for the moment, going to enjoy a far easier time. For the other nine, the fight looks like being very tight.