The circuit, the country and the weather might change, but the result of qualifying for Scuderia Ferrari remains the same, says the team. In Sepang, Fernando Alonso was in ninth and Felipe Massa in twelfth. In Shanghai, the Ferrari men produced an identical result. Scuderia Ferrari also says the management strategy for the Pirelli tyres will be similiar to that used in the Malaysian GP : one set of Prime, which here is the Hard and one of Option (Soft) in Q1, one used and one new Soft in Q2. Fernando then used the last set of Soft available on his only run in Q3.
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: “Whoever understands that is very clever! I challenge anyone to produce a rational explanation of how this afternoon’s qualifying went, not just for ourselves, but also as far as almost all the other cars are concerned. We went from having very small gaps in Q2, with eleven drivers in around three tenths of one another, to much bigger differences in Q3, with very strong fluctuations in some cases. Given our current situation and above all, the fact that at this track, the major weaknesses of the F2012 seem to be particularly marked, this result is an accurate reflection of where we are in terms of outright performance, even if we have seen that later, in the race, things can change. Sure, it’s not what we were looking for at the start of the season, but today we have to make a virtue of necessity. With a grid like tomorrow’s we can expect an even more open race than we might have done going into the weekend. Our aim is clear: to get both cars home in the points and make the most of any opportunity that comes along during the race.”
Fernando Alonso: “We knew this would be a difficult qualifying and that’s how it turned out. We managed to get into Q3, staying ahead of Vettel by a few thousandths. Then, from Q2 to Q3, the wind changed direction and that was penalising. The car is what it is and the improvements we brought here are not sufficient to produce a jump in performance and so this position corresponds more or less to our current potential. Sure, we cannot be happy to be a second off pole position, but all we can do is work to try and close this gap. If we do enough of a good job then we can think about winning, otherwise not. But I remain optimistic: even in 2010, we were significantly behind the best, but all the same, we got to the final race leading the World Championship…The starting grid is very exciting and curious, with two Mercedes, one Sauber and a Lotus in front of the rest. We cannot permit ourselves to make any mistakes because we certainly don’t have the best car: if we manage to operate perfectly, as we did in Australia and Malaysia, then we can think about bringing home valuable points.”
Felipe Massa: “On the one hand I am obviously unhappy not to have made it through to Q3 but, on the other, I have to be pleased with my position if I consider where we were this morning at the end of FP3. In the afternoon, the situation improved, the car had much more grip and I managed to be more competitive, but I couldn’t say exactly why. Probably the track conditions changed in a way that suited us. We hope to continue like this tomorrow afternoon and to bring home a good result: it’s really needed right now! I so much want a normal race, a calm one in which I manage to do my job well and pick up some points. I still don’t have any and the moment has come to remove this zero from the classification.”
Pat Fry, Technical Director: “This result is in line with our potential in this initial part of the season, but the way we got there was rather surprising. I am struggling to remember the last time Q2 was as close as this afternoon’s, with eleven drivers all within less than four tenths and then, a few minutes later, significant gaps reappearing between the top and the bottom in Q3. From what we can understand after a quick first analysis, the optimum useage window for the tyres Pirelli has brought here is so tight that it only takes equally small changes in temperature to significantly change car behaviour. After a third free practice session that was particularly difficult, we made some changes to the set-up on Felipe’s car, however, they alone cannot explain the improvement we saw in qualifying. Having said that, now we must think only of preparing as well as possible for a race that will be long and stressful, especially for the tyres. No rain is forecast for the afternoon, therefore it will be difficult to repeat the amazing result from Sepang, but all the same, we must be always ready to exploit every opportunity, which is the norm with a team that does not have the most competitive package in the field. We have the possibility of getting both drivers into the points and this must be our target: we will gladly take anything extra that might come our way!”