Ferrari has admitted that its performance in the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend was 'not worthy' of the defending world champions' impressive reputation and history – with neither the speed, reliability nor strategy 'up to the potential we expected'.
For the second year in succession, the scarlet brigade left Albert Park with nul points
in the bag – an outcome that could prove costly come the end of the campaign. Both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen had a chance of finishing up on the podium after gaining ground in the early stages and benefitting from saving their second set of medium compound Bridgestone tyres for the final stint, when the majority of their rivals were on the unloved super-soft rubber. The problem was they never got that far...
After running up in third place for much of the race – behind eventual winner Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel – Massa slowly began to drop back before succumbing to a broken left front nose support on lap 45 of 58. Having insisted prior to the weekend that the importance of early-season points cannot be underestimated, the Brazilian acknowledged that it had been far from a perfect day.
“We knew the Brawn GP cars would be unbeatable today,” the eleven-time grand prix-winner mused afterwards, “but all the same, we thought we could have a good race. The start was great, but after five or six laps we ran into trouble with the soft tyres, to such an extent that we had to pit early.
“We then switched to a very aggressive strategy, which with hindsight turned out to be the wrong one, as shortly after the pit-stop the safety car came out on-track. I found myself third, but after the re-start I had less than ten laps to try and make up ground on those who were behind me, but with more fuel. At the second stop we filled it to the finish, but then I was very slow and finally I had the problem which forced me to retire.
“In my opinion, apart from the Brawns we are competitive, but we have to work perfectly to get to the front. Here, it is very difficult to get the tyres to work, partly because the track surface does not provide much grip. The solution for Malaysia? Work and work hard.”
Former Formula 1 World Champion Raikkonen, for his part, lasted ten laps longer than his team-mate before dumping his F60 unceremoniously into the Albert Park circuit's unforgiving barriers – an error that the Finn is convinced cost him a rostrum finish.
“When I ended up in the wall it was my mistake,” the 29-year-old confessed. “A shame as, given what happened later, I could have finished second. We lost valuable points, but we will try and make up for it starting right away in Malaysia. There, we will get a clearer picture of the situation, because this circuit is not very indicative of performance.
“The KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) worked well at the start, but there was not much room to go anywhere. If we did not think it gave an advantage, we would not use it. Definitely the main problem was in managing the tyres, but we also need to improve our overall performance.”