Turkish Grand Prix Qualifying – Ferrari
Turkish GP – Precautionary measures
Istanbul, 7 May – The sun finally shone on the Istanbul Speed Park this morning, as Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest time in the third and final free practice session for the Turkish Grand Prix, round 4 of the Formula 1 World Championship. The German Red Bull driver lapped in 1.26.037 to beat the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher (1.26.038) and the other Red Bull of Mark Webber (1.26.404.) The two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso (1.26.819) and Felipe Massa (1.26.883) were eighth and ninth respectively. The team focussed on qualifying, using new front and rear wings and front brake ducts on both cars: as a precaution, the engine on Felipe’s car is being changed, while Fernando’s will undergo a careful check before going out on track again for qualifying which starts at 14h00.
Turkish GP – Fifth place season ticket for Fernando. Felipe tenth.
Istanbul, 7 May – It seems Fernando Alonso has applied for a season ticket for fifth place in qualifying, given that for the fourth time in four races, this will be his starting position on the grid. Felipe Massa will get away from the fifth row, without having set a time in Q3: when the pit wall personnel saw that his lap was not quick enough, the Brazilian driver was told to come back in, thus saving the tyres for the race.
Turkish GP – A small step in the right direction
The grid for tomorrow’s seventh running of the Turkish Grand Prix will see one Ferrari on the third row and the other on the fifth. Fernando Alonso set the fifth fastest time in Q3 while Felipe Massa is credited with tenth, having aborted his only run in the final session in order to find himself with a bit more grip from saving a set of tyres for the start, after it was clear he was not about to set a particularly quick time.
Stefano Domenicali: “It seems that Fernando has bought himself a subscription to fifth place on the starting grid, given that once again this season that’s where he starts from. The Spaniard drove a very positive qualifying and put up a spirited fight against very strong opponents. Felipe managed to get through to the final part of the session, but he did not look like setting a competitive time so he chose to pit immediately so as to spare the tyres for the start. Clearly this is not the sort of result we were looking for, but it is equally evident that all the work undertaken in these last few weeks is beginning to deliver some signs of progress. It’s not yet enough, we are well aware of that, but we are moving in the right direction. Now we must concentrate on tomorrow’s race, which will be very long and tough, both for the cars and for the tyres. The number one priority, as always in fact, will be reliability. As for the strategy, we have seen in this early part of the season that there is a great degree of unpredictability about it, so we will have to keep our eyes wide open and a cool head, ready to pounce on any and every opportunity.”
Fernando Alonso: “Fifth place is not the sort of result one can be pleased about, but today I am happy because I felt the car was more competitive than it has been in the first three qualifying sessions of the season. Getting into Q2 without using the soft tyres is significant. We have made a small step forward in terms of performance: it’s not yet enough and we quickly need to make a bigger one, but it’s definitely a confidence boost for the whole team, who are working in the right direction. I would say that this the first sign of light at the end of the tunnel in this early part of the season. Fifth place also means I avoid the dirty side of the track, which is usually a big handicap here. It’s hard to say what will be the best strategy for tomorrow, because we don’t know how the tyres will behave: we will have to be ready for any eventuality and be very flexible. Finally, I want to take the opportunity to express my great sadness at the death of a great personality in Spanish sport, Severiano Ballesteros, who put Spain on the golfing map: I offer all my sympathies to those close to him at this painful time.”
Felipe Massa: “It was not a good qualifying for me: I did not manage to get a clean lap in Q3 after I made a significant mistake at Turn 9, when I ended up going off line: we therefore decided it was better to pit and save that set of tyres for the start. In Q1, with the hards, I did not get a great lap and so as not to take any risks, we decided to also use the softs, so I only had one new set available for the final part of qualifying. Now we will see what we can do in the race tomorrow: usually our pace is better than in qualifying, but it will not be easy to do well, given that I’m starting from tenth. We will see what the tyre degradation will be like, maybe it will be a bit higher than what we saw in China. A shame, as I could have been on the third row, along with my team-mate. This morning, in FP3, the engineers saw an engine parameter that they were not sure about and so it was decided to change it at the end of the session. So I went back to the engine I had already used in Malaysia and China, which according to the schedule is still meant to do three races.”
Pat Fry: “First and foremost,, I want to congratulate the whole team who have worked so well between the end of this morning’s free practice and the start of qualifying: in less than two hours, they changed the engine on one car and fixed a problem on the other one which also involved splitting the rear end of the car from the chassis. It’s hard to regard the outcome of qualifying as positive however when we are eight tenths off pole position, but at least we can say we have made progress since the last race. We must push to the maximum on the car development front, because we are in a hurry to make up the performance deficit so that we can fight for the top places in qualifying. Tomorrow, we will see a lot of stops to change tyres during the race: just how many will depend on what’s referred to as the drop-off in tyre behaviour. The pit stop boys will definitely have their work cut out!”
Weather: air 31/30 °C, track 44/41 °C; cloudy.
Chassis: Alonso 288, Massa 289.
Turkish GP – 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.