ferrari-logo-2011Chinese GP – A step forward

Fernando Alonso: “To end qualifying with both cars in the top five is a result that fills me with hope for the race. The F138 has been competitive all weekend and that means we have made a step forward, which is down to the work of the team. Some of the updates we had here worked as we had expected, but others need further work. In terms of establishing what will be the best strategy, we will be in for a long night and that will be the case for everyone, given that almost all our main competitors will start on the Softs. I’m not concerned about Red Bull’s choice and Mercedes usually has a higher degradation than ours. I’m definitely expecting an interesting race in which the biggest threat could come from Raikkonen as the Lotus has shown it manages its tyres well”.
Felipe Massa: “It was a good qualifying, with the car working well and being quick. To be honest, after my performance in the second and third free practice sessions, I expected to start in the top three, but it’s very likely that our competitors were running with more fuel and it’s also true that strategy counts a lot more than one or two places on the grid. Today’s qualifying featured different choices: we preferred to use the Soft tyre right from the first run in Q1, because it looked complicated getting through to the next part with the Medium. That has allowed us to save them for tomorrow in a race that looks like being very closely contested and where as many as three stops might be necessary. Today, our main competitors probably did better than us, but the race is long and anything can happen. Tyre management and tactical choices will definitely be the key factors”.
Pat Fry: “It emerged from yesterday’s free practice that the Medium would be the best tyre for the race, both in terms of its consistency and its relative degradation. During qualifying, it wasn’t a surprise to see how all the teams had decided to save this compound for the race, opting to use the Softs in all three legs. In Q2, after our first run, it wasn’t easy to understand what time would be needed to get into Q3 and we preferred not to take any risks, doing a second lap. After this proved to be the safest choice, attention turned to possible strategies for the race and therefore whether to go with the Medium or to try for another quick lap on the soft tyre to be sure of getting a better grid position. The latter option seemed the most sensible and that was confirmed when most of the teams did the same thing. I am expecting an unpredictable race because the cars at the front will have to stop first due to the degradation and the traffic towards the back could prove to be dangerous. I am extremely pleased with the performance of Fernando and Felipe and I am also optimistic for tomorrow, even if I expect a difficult race in which strategy and tyre performance could play an even more important role than ever”.

ALONSO – Chassis 299 MASSA – Chassis 300
Q1 P5 1:36.253 New Soft – 3 laps P3 1:35.972 New Soft – 3 laps
Q2 P2 1:35.148 Old  Soft –  3 laps

New  Soft – 3 laps

P4 1:35.403 Old Soft – 3 laps

Old Soft – 3 laps

Q3 P3 1:34.788 New Soft – 3 laps P5 1:34.933 New Soft  – 3 laps
Weather:  air 29 °C, track 40/41 °C. Sunny

Chinese GP – Tyres and tactics

Shanghai, 13 April – There was a time in the past when the cliché about tyres in Formula 1 was that they were round and black, not very interesting and everyone had the same ones. In the modern era, only the first and last of those statements holds true and this afternoon’s qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix was more about tyre management than outright performance.

Usually in Q1, it is the back-of-the-grid habitués who opt to run the softer tyre immediately as they try and make it to Q2, but here in Shanghai, the lap time difference between the Prime Medium and the Option Soft, provided by Pirelli, was so great that even the front runners had to come out on the Softs in Q1. Fernando and Felipe duly got through to Q2 without any problems and then dealt with the second part to make it to the top ten where, of the usual front runners, Mark Webber was missing, because of a technical problem on his Red Bull.

What is usually regarded as a Top Ten shoot-out was actually a Top-Seven today, with the remaining drivers waiting until a few minutes from the end to make just one run on the Softs. The two Ferrari men played their part, with the Spaniard setting the third fastest time just three tenths off pole man Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman securing his first ever number one slot for Mercedes. In the other F138, Felipe will start right behind his team-mate after being fifth fastest. Australian GP winner Kimi Raikkonen is also on the front row, while Fernando shares row 2 with last year’s winner here, Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. Felipe has the Lotus of Romain Grosjean alongside him on row 3. In seventh place, Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso was the last driver to actually attempt a quick lap: Jenson Button in the McLaren, Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber, all played the tactical game for tomorrow of fitting the Medium tyres, and ended up eighth, ninth and tenth respectively, as Hulkenberg didn’t even leave the garage.

What this means for tomorrow’s 56 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit is hard to say. Clearly the seven cars at the front of the grid that must according to the regulations, start on the Softs, will have to pit fairly early on while apart from the possibility of a few wild cards, those outside the top ten who are free to choose their starting tyres, will presumably go for the Mediums. Choosing the best time to make tyre changes on an afternoon where at least the weather is expected to be consistently dry, is going to be a tough call and one that will see engineers throughout the length of the very long Shanghai paddock, scratching their heads well into the night. Apart from working hard to get that part of the equation right, the Scuderia Ferrari crew can take heart from the fact the F138 has shown a good pace over a long run here in China. From third and fifth on the grid, if everything goes smoothly on all the usual fronts of reliability, performance and pit stops, then the podium has to be a realistic target, especially for Fernando but also for Felipe.

Chinese GP – Alonso and Massa in the top five

Shanghai, 13 April – Today’s qualifying was pretty much all about tyre management. At the end of the sessions, Scuderia Ferrari came away with a third place courtesy of Fernando Alonso and a fifth for Felipe Massa. Q1 went very smoothly, with the two drivers making just one run, both men on new Softs, to set a time good enough for the cut-off into Q2, They then made their first run in the next part on the same set of tyres, with everyone’s times being very quick. Then came one more run, this time on new Softs.

In Q3, nearly all the remaining ten drivers waited until there was less than three minutes to go, most of them doing just one run on new Softs, with the exception of Vettel in the Red Bull and Button the McLaren who did a single lap on the Medium. Fernando missed out on the front row by just two hundredths of a second and Felipe was only seven hundredths off fourth placed Rosberg in the Mercedes. The German’s team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, took pole in a time of 1.34.484.

Chinese GP – Top of the morning

Shanghai, 13 April – Ferrari secured a one-two on the time sheet come the end of the final free practice session for the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Fernando Alonso took his F138 round in 1.35.391, while Felipe Massa did a 1.36.013, followed by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes in a time of 1.36.065, after the Englishman had led until a few minutes from the end. The grip level had improved this morning and the team worked on checking the set-up as well as doing some practice starts and pit stops. Both Ferrari men were happy with the Soft compound Pirelli, seen here for the first time this season, which they used on the last of their three runs.