The season-opener in Bahrain was kind to Ferrari, in that a 1-2 finish was far beyond what the car actually deserved. Sebastian Vettel’s engine woes meant that both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were able to overtake and keep control of the race from there. However, since then, the season has not gone the way Ferrari would have wanted.
Lack of development has cost Ferrari 2nd in the championship to Ferrari
Pre-season testing showed Ferrari to have one of the fastest cars of the grid, and it later emerged that their tyre wear rates were much lower than their rivals, giving them an extra advantage. Their 1-2 finish, aided by the reliability issues of the Red Bull car, should have been an indicator of their pace for the entire season. In Melbourne, Massa was 3rd ahead of Alonso, although the Spaniard was unhappy after being held up by Felipe for most of the race. However, soon after this, Ferrari fell out of the development race.
Despite starting with the second fastest car, Ferrari were unable to keep up development at a fast enough pace. This is mainly due to the fact that they spent too much time trying to copy the F-duct system, which took several weeks of work, with only 0.3 seconds as a reward. By the time that they had finished, McLaren had soared away from them, and it shows in the race results. In Malaysia, neither Ferrari could indicate their pace, as a stupid strategy call in qualifying left them at the back of the grid. While they recovered to 7th and 9th, Alonso soon retired with an engine failure.
In the rain-affected China race, driver relationships were more hurt than anything else. As both Ferrari cars pitted on the same lap, Alonso overtook Massa, causing the Brazilian to drop down the grid, leaving Fernando to gain Felipe’s positions. Rumours of tension in the garage were swiftly swept away however. A home race podium was nice for Alonso in Spain, but he wasn’t able to challenge Mark Webber for the win. Since then, their pace has fallen away, as Massa hasn’t scored a point since Turkey. Aside from another podium in Canada, Alonso has only managed one 6th and two 8th places since Spain.
The reason for Ferrari’s drop in pace lies solely with the car. The time spent on the F-duct was a massive waste of time for the team, as marginal gains do not give a car raw pace. This shows in the fact that Ferrari have not got a pole position, the best way of indicating raw pace, since Brazil 2008. The drivers are well up to the task of getting wins for the team, but do not have the machinery to do so.
For the rest of the season, Ferrari have 2 difficulties to deal with: keeping Alonso and Massa happy, and developing the car to catch up to Red Bull and McLaren. While a few people have suggested that the team will soon turn their attention to 2011, although the fact that they are still in the championship race should be enough to keep them interested in this season.