Malaysian Grand Prix Qualifying – Ferrari

Qualifying to match our potential. Domenicali: “We have to be on the defensive”

A very intensive qualifying session for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, which tomorrow sees one driver, Fernando Alonso on the third row of the grid, with the fifth fastest time and the other, Felipe Massa, on the fourth row, having been seventh quickest. Both drivers used four sets of tyres in total (one hard each in Q1 and one soft per driver in each session.)

Stefano Domenicali: “We know that, at the moment, we are not capable of fighting for pole position: two teams are currently quicker than us. Our aim therefore was to be right behind them on the starting grid tomorrow and we managed to do that. Sure, we cannot be pleased with being a second off the pole time, but at the moment we have to be on the defensive, if I can use a footballing metaphor. The forecast is for changeable conditions tomorrow, which could mix things up. Furthermore, this is a very tough race both for the cars and the drivers. If we do everything well in terms of strategy, reliability and the work of the team and drivers, then we can aspire to securing a good result.”

Fernando Alonso: “We weren’t quick enough in Australia and we are not here in Malaysia either, at least not enough to fight for pole position. From what we have seen over these two races, there are two teams who have worked better than us over the winter and clearly we have to make some progress in terms of performance and there is no secret about that: we need to make a step of some quality, we need to be aggressive in our development to make up lost ground. At the same time, we have to stay calm and concentrated and, in the meantime, bring home as many points as possible, exploiting every opportunity that comes our way. The championship is very long and last year, we saw how the situation can change continuously from one race to the next. So, I feel this fifth place is a positive result, because so much could happen tomorrow, especially if it rains. Overnight and this morning after FP3, we improved the set-up of the car and I felt more comfortable than yesterday. I will start from the clean side of the track, which is never a bad thing. It’s difficult to make predictions for the race: yesterday we saw very high tyre degradation, so we can expect three to four stops. On Sunday in Melbourne, our pace was close to that of the McLarens and I was able to fight with Webber, but there in qualifying, McLaren was closer than they are here.”

Felipe Massa: “It was definitely not an easy qualifying, especially looking at the times the top four were able to do. We fought with the others but clearly, compared to the best, tomorrow, we will be running a defensive race. From a strategy point of view, if it’s dry we can expect three or four stops. If it really rained, then anything could happen and we will have to be ready for any eventuality. Today, the best result we could hope for was fifth: I was not able to do that, partly because I did not do a perfect lap, but at least I will start from the clean side of the track. We know we lack aerodynamic downforce: we are working on it, but only when we have made some progress will we be able to fight for the top places.”

Pat Fry: “We are where we deserve to be at the moment, with two teams being more competitive than us. In qualifying, we worked well, making the most of our potential. We are a long way off the top, a second in fact and we are well aware that we have to improve a lot to be where the Scuderia ought to be. We opted to use one set of soft tyres right from Q1, because with the performance difference between the two types of tyre being much bigger than last year, there is no point in taking any risks at this time. Clearly, this choice worked against us in Q3, when both drivers were only able to do one timed run with the last set available, but at the moment, this is the best strategy. There is a high chance of rain tomorrow and we are well aware that, here in Sepang, that can mean there is a risk of a very heavy storm. We will have to be very careful to ensure we make the right decision at the right time.”

Qualifying session
Q1 FM 1st 1.36.744 4 FA 3th 1.36.897 5
Q2 FA 5th 1.36.320 6 FM 7th 1.36.557 6
Q3 FA 5th 1.35.802 3 FM 7th 1.36.251 3

Hitting the target

One driver on row three and the other on row four: that was the outcome of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest in 1.35.802 while team-mate Felipe Massa finished seventh in a time of 1.36.251. Both drivers used only set of new soft tyres in Q3, as the team had opted to use the first of the three available right from Q1. Therefore only the Red Bull and McLaren drivers were able to tackle Q3 with two sets of new soft tyres. Pole went to Vettel ahead of Hamilton, Webber and Button.

Felipe was fastest in Q1 with Fernando third, while in Q2 the two Ferrari men finished in the same positions as in the final section. Given the current performance level, objectively, this is the right result, but clearly it is not satisfactory to be a second off the pole position time.