Ferrari was left with 'a bitter taste in the mouth' at the end of qualifying for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, after 'false assumptions' as to the strength of the opposition came back to bite the Scuderia
in Sepang – and left Felipe Massa stranded down in 16th position on the starting grid.
Heading out early in Q1 as a precaution in case the approaching thunderstorm clouds turned into rain, after putting in 'banker' laps on the softer Bridgestone rubber, both Massa and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen then returned to their pit box to save their tyres for the remainder of the session, as rivals conversely embarked upon further runs as the track conditions improved and the times consequently tumbled. It would turn out to be a fatal tactical error.
As the seconds ticked down to the end of Q1, both of the scarlet machines were bumped increasingly down the order, and whilst Raikkonen re-took to the circuit and put in a lap good enough for 14th in the final reckoning – narrowly sufficient to see him through to Q2 – Massa did not go out again, and the Brazilian would pay a heavy price. That has left the 2008 world championship runner-up to begin the race from the eighth row...around a track where for the last two years he had taken pole.
“I am very disappointed,” the 27-year-old reflected. “If I had ended up 16th because of a lack of performance, then I could have accepted the result, but like this it hurts even more. The track improved so much with each passing lap, and my first run was not perfect and nor was it enough. We did not react in time and lost the chance to have another go.
“No one person is to blame – we are a team and we lose or win all together. We have to change our approach and tackle qualifying in a different way to the past. There is no room for error and we have to give it our all, right from the first session.
“Nevertheless, I am very motivated. It won't be the first time I will have to tackle a race starting way down the order, and I know I can count on having strong pace. We will have to try and exploit every opportunity to make up places.”
There was disappointment, too, for Raikkonen, who scraped through to both Q2 and Q3 but could ultimately do no better than ninth – seventh following the respective penalties meted out to Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello. The Finn was left lamenting the F60's shortfall in grip compared to its competitors.
“Honestly, the main problem is that, at the moment, we are not quick enough to fight for the top places,” the former Formula 1 World Champion rued. “The car is not lacking in any particular area, but we do not have enough grip to be as quick as those who finished ahead of us today.
“Tomorrow's race will be very tough. We will try to make the most of the start. In Australia, it was very good but there was nowhere to go, whereas here, the straight is long and the track is wide. Furthermore, as we saw yesterday, our pace is competitive.