Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Abu Dhabi GP – A disappointing qualifying in the Abu Dhabi night
One car seventh and another ninth: definitely not a result that matches Scuderia Ferrari’s expectations in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. After a relatively positive start to the session – Q1 was dealt with using just the Prime tyre and Q2, at least in Alonso’s case, using just one set of Options – in Q3, the F2012 was not competitive enough, not just when compared to our usual rivals, but also when up against other cars that in recent races had been inferior to us in terms of performance.

Stefano Domenicali: “Obviously we are not happy, in fact we are very disappointed with this result. We were unable to give our drivers a car with which they could compete for the front rows of the grid, despite all our best efforts here at the track and back at the factory in Maranello. It’s true that in the race we have almost always seen that the gap to the best is reduced, but we can’t always hope for exceptional performances like the one Fernando produced last Sunday in India. However, it’s crazy to see how things have changed in just a week, with the pecking order varying from track to track by half a second. But now there’s no point crying over spilt milk: we will just roll up our sleeves and concentrate on preparing for tomorrow’s race. I often say it: the points are handed out on Sunday and the sums will be done at the end of the season. We have a duty to do our utmost in every area and there can be absolutely no doubt about that.”

Fernando Alonso: “In all three free practice sessions, we were always around this position, so it would have been too optimistic to hope for more in Q3: a place between fifth and eighth was within our expectations going into the session and that’s where we are. I did almost the same time on three occasions between Q2 and Q3, which means there was nothing more to come. I am pleased with the work we have done today, because we squeezed every last drop of performance out of the car. The updates we brought here have improved our performance but the others have not been relaxing on the sofa watching television while twiddling their thumbs…Usually, Saturday is the day we suffer the most, while on Sunday things always go better: let’s hope that will also be the case this time. It’s also true that with so little tyre degradation, the strategic choices are much more limited and so too the opportunities to make up places. We know that in the three remaining races, we must score fourteen points more than Vettel and that is our one and only objective.”

Felipe Massa: “This is definitely a rather difficult and complicated weekend, at least up until tonight. We were hoping to be able to start a bit further up, at least on the front three rows of the grid. In Q3, I opted to run a different programme to my team-mate, partly because I only had one set of new Options available. Looking back, one could say that was not the best choice, but it’s always easy to be wise with hindsight. I did not have all the updates we brought here: that was definitely not great, but looking at Fernando’s result, it didn’t make a difference. On the last lap I had a bit of oversteer in one corner which cost me a few hundredths: maybe I could have been eighth but it would not have changed much. Honestly, today it would have been hard to do more than this. Let’s hope that tomorrow, thanks to a race pace that is traditionally our strong point, we can make up some places. This circuit seems to suit some cars particularly well: the McLaren was not this quick in the last three races, but here Hamilton took pole really smoothly.”

Pat Fry: “All I can do is repeat what our boss has said: we are disappointed that we did not give our drivers a sufficiently competitive car. We had brought various updates here, some only fitted to Fernando’s car, because we do not yet have enough of them for both. Unfortunately, the whole package did not work the way we had expected before coming here, at least relative to the progress that the other teams have made. Both Felipe and Fernando did the maximum they could: unfortunately they had already reached the limit in Q2, which explains why it’s not by chance that Fernando did practically the same time three times in a row, while the others raised the bar in Q3. It’s clear that the McLarens, especially Hamilton, seem out of reach this weekend, but all the same, we were hoping to start from higher up the grid. Now we must prepare as well as possible for the race. We know we can count on a good pace and on a top speed which will allow us to overtake. We will try and make up as many places as possible and to make the most of a slightly different grid order to the one we have seen in recent races.”

Qualifying session
Q1 ALO 4th 1.41.939 7 MAS 5th 1.41.974 7
Q2 ALO 4th 1.41.514 4 MAS 8th 1.41.846 6
Q3 ALO 7th 1.41.582 6 MAS 9th 1.41.723 4

Weather: air 29 °C, track 30/33°C. Clear skies. Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294

Abu Dhabi GP – Making the most of any opportunities
Abu Dhabi, 3 November – Series leader Sebastian Vettel is third on the grid for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That is the main fact that Scuderia Ferrari will be focussing on when the eighteenth round of the world championship gets underway at 17h00 on Sunday. Yes, as everyone in the team has said, to see Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa give their very best and only record the seventh and ninth fastest times in this afternoon’s top ten shoot-out that is Q3, is disappointing. But that is the situation and now it has to be dealt with calmly, making the most of any opportunities.

As usual, Fernando is able to rationalise the task he faces, as he has said he must score 14 points more than Vettel in the next three races if the Ferrari man is to win the title. It’s difficult task which has possibly been made easier here by the fact that, for the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix, the German Red Bull driver will not start from the front row. This weekend, Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren has clearly had the upper hand and the Englishman has the honour of starting from pole position. Alongside him, will be the other Red Bull driven by Mark Webber. Admittedly, the Australian might not provide too much opposition if Vettel is in his mirrors, but Hamilton is a fighter and there will be no quarter given if the German puts him under pressure.

Before Fernando can even think of closing on the championship leader there is the small matter of the three drivers that qualified between them, starting with Pastor Maldonaldo, a surprising fourth for Williams. Row 3 sees the outsider in the championship race, Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Lotus, with Jenson Button next to him in the second McLaren. As for Fernando on Row 4, he has eighth placed Nico Rosberg next to him in the Mercedes, while lining up behind the Spaniard in ninth slot we have Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was less than two tenths slower than Alonso, however it’s hard to see what he can do to help his team-mate’s title aspirations given that the contenders are all ahead of them, but he can aspire to bring home points to consolidate the Scuderia’s second place in the Constructors’ battle.

The strategic options in terms of tyres seem to be limited to a two or a one stop, as tyres are lasting well enough. If, as was the case in India, the single tyre change turns out to be the way to go, then that will make it harder to get ahead of cars in front, with the only real option being to pull a passing move on track, rather than jump them in a pit stop, in other words having to do it the hard way. Whatever happens, we can expect a long hard night as darkness falls after the opening part of tomorrow’s race.

Abu Dhabi GP – A tough race in prospect
Abu Dhabi, 3 November – Scuderia Ferrari will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with one car on the fourth row and one on the fifth: that was the outcome of qualifying after a very exciting session. Fernando Alonso will start from seventh on the grid with a time of 1.41.582) failing to improve after setting the fourth fastest time in the first two parts of the session. His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa finished fifth in Q1, eighth in Q2 and ninth in Q3 with a time of 1.41.723.

Lewis Hamilton took pole, the McLaren man’s sixth of the season with a best lap of 1.40.630. He shares the front row with the Red Bull of Mark Webber (1.40.978) while third fastest is the Australian’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel (1.41.073) the German parking his car at the side of the track at the end of his quick lap.

Abu Dhabi GP – Different programmes
Abu Dhabi, 3 November – Saturday’s free practice once again saw the McLarens on top of the time sheet, as they were in FP1. Lewis Hamilton was quickest in 1.42.130 ahead of Jenson Button who did a 1.42.420. Third was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull (1.42.614) while the Ferraris were eighth with Fernando Alonso (1.43.133) and eleventh with Felipe Massa (1.43.480.) It was the usual preparation for qualifying for the Scuderia’s Spanish driver, concentrating on a comparison of the two types of tyre – Medium and Soft – brought to the futuristic Arab track by Pirelli. Fernando also tried new wings on his F2012, while Felipe did an extra run to evaluate a set-up change.