Felipe Massa has urged Ferrari's fans not to give up on the team in the wake of its worst start to a Formula 1 campaign in almost three decades - with still no points on the board after the opening three races of 2009, and a potential podium fallen by the wayside in Shanghai at the weekend.

Having qualified a lowly eighth (Kimi Raikkonen) and 13th (Massa) for the Chinese Grand Prix - a race in which last year they had lined up second and third - the Scuderia's luck did not improve any on Sunday. Both drivers skated off-piste during the initial safety car period before the action proper got underway, and would endure divergent fortunes from thereon in, with Massa's rise roughly mirroring Raikkonen's fall.

The Brazilian, indeed, was the architect of a strong performance, confounding his critics who had said he cannot drive in the wet by mastering the torrential conditions to fight his way up past a number of rivals - his team-mate included - and work his way into third place by the time the safety car appeared for the second time on lap 19 to allow for the debris from the Jarno Trulli/Robert Kubica coming-together to be cleared away.

On a fuel-heavy one-stop strategy, the 2008 world championship runner-up was looking good not only to register his first points of the year, but indeed possibly even a rostrum, travelling as much as three seconds a lap quicker than the sister scarlet machine. And then, just moments later, disaster struck.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed and a bit upset," the 27-year-old reflected of the electrical problem that brought his charge to a premature conclusion, "but my motivation is still intact. All of us must work together to get out of this situation. The team is united and there is a real will to turn things around as soon as possible. We should quickly be getting some significant aerodynamic developments, but it's true that we also have to sort out as soon as possible our reliability problems, because if we want to win, first we have to finish the races.

"Here, I was in with a good chance of getting on the podium. I was third and lapping at the same times as the leaders, even though I had enough fuel on-board to go for a one-stop. The car was going well, except when running behind the safety car; at those times, there were a few moments when the power seemed to drop. Then, without warning, the accelerator would not work and the car went quiet. I would say to our fans that they should not give up on us, as this is a difficult moment but the championship is still long."

Raikkonen, for his part, enjoyed spirited tussles with fellow title-winner Lewis Hamilton and Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie S?bastien Buemi early on, but ultimately came off worst on both occasions as he seemed to increasingly struggle in the spray. Despite electing to switch from a two-stop strategy to just one in view of the weather, the Finn complained of grip and power issues throughout, and eventually slid down the order to just tenth spot at the chequered flag, more than 15 seconds shy of the last of the points-scoring positions.

"In the early stages, it wasn't too bad," the 17-time grand prix-winner revealed, "but then, after my stop, I lost grip from the tyres and I was no longer able to push as hard as I wanted, because it meant the car was sliding a lot. A few times the engine seemed to lose power, especially when I found myself close behind other cars, but then the problem went away on its own.

"Clearly the championship situation looks very difficult - we have made mistakes and we are not quick enough. In Barcelona, when we will have new aero parts, we should be able to pick up some of the grip we are lacking now. I am sure we can be competitive enough to win again, but this work will take time. The team is motivated - I'm sure of that - and we will all do our bit. Now it is easy to criticise, but we know how to turn things around."

Indeed, the last time Ferrari began a season so badly was back in 1981, and the Maranello-based outfit has never gone through the first four races without troubling the scorers, meaning the pressure is on for Bahrain, both in terms of getting its challenge off the mark and also preserving the squad's illustrious reputation. Though the F60 will remain largely unchanged for its trip to the desert kingdom, team principal Stefano Domenicali did evince the possibility of the return of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), dropped in China over reliability concerns.

"We are very annoyed about what happened to Felipe," underlined the Italian. "He was driving an amazing race, when an electrical problem saw the engine die. He was third at the time and even though he had a heavy fuel load, he was lapping at the same time as the fastest and would have almost certainly finished the race on the podium.

"Kimi switched his strategy, going from a two to a one-stop, but he could not get higher than tenth. On his first set of tyres, his pace was reasonable, but with the second he suffered constantly from a lack of grip which kept him out of the points.

"The great shame is that at a time when technically we are not at our best, once again we failed to capitalise on circumstances. Now we look towards next weekend's race in Bahrain in a realistic frame of mind - the car will be the same as here, even though we will look at running KERS again. In the meantime, we have to work intensively on getting the new aerodynamic components to the race track, when the European part of the season gets underway in Barcelona."

"We embarked on the race with the two drivers on different strategies," added chief race engineer Chris Dyer, "and with the rain and the safety car periods, we managed to get ourselves into a good position, especially with Felipe, who at one point was third with a lot of fuel on-board. Unfortunately, a software management problem meant the engine cut out and forced him to retire. It's a real shame, because we could have got a good result.

"Right from the start, Kimi complained about the lack of visibility when following others and several times that the engine power was dropping due to the water, but above all he suffered with a lack of grip after his stop. In the meantime, we changed his strategy and he was unable to get any higher than tenth. Once again we've had reliability problems, which prevented us from picking up valuable points."