Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has sought to rouse his troops into action after lambasting a wholly unsatisfactory performance from the Scuderia
in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang – one that ended with Felipe Massa just seventh and Fernando Alonso forced to retire two laps from home with engine failure.
Truth be told, Ferrari had already given itself plenty to do on race day with a calamitous error during the opening phase of qualifying in Kuala Lumpur, by inadvisably attempting to second-guess which way the weather was going to turn and waiting before sending its two drivers out on-track in the misguided belief that the rain would ease off – when in actual fact it only intensified. That left Alonso and Massa to begin the grand prix from respectively 19th and 21st, and the duo's early progress was stunted when they came upon the Scuderia Toro Rosso pairing of Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi.
Massa was able to leapfrog some positions during the pit-stops – eventually going on to deprive defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button of seventh in the closing stages – but Alonso's efforts to do likewise were scuppered when a piston let go and plumes of smoke were released from the back of his F10 a couple of laps from the chequered flag, leaving the erstwhile world championship leader to be classified an appropriately unlucky 13th.
Worse still, the Spaniard's charge had been blunted far earlier than that by a downshifting problem, and if Ferrari still leads both title chases – with Massa having usurped his team-mate atop the drivers' standings despite being yet to triumph in 2010 – Domenicali is well aware that the Prancing Horse's rivals are gaining ground fast, and acknowledged that improvements must be made if the two scarlet machines are to remain out front.
“There's no way we can be happy with the outcome of this third race weekend of the season,” blasted the Italian. “We came to Malaysia with very different objectives, and taking home a mere six points is a disappointment. The result is down to qualifying; when you start that far back on the grid, it's difficult to do better. On top of that, we had a few reliability problems which should put us on our guard – if we want to aspire to the title, we absolutely have to sort this out.
“Fernando drove an amazing race, given that right from the formation lap he had a problem going through the gears. To drive under these conditions is impressive, and he was able to stay in the fight for points right to the end. Felipe also drove a really great race, especially in the second part – and heading the drivers' classification is a just reward for all he has done in this early part of the season.
“An initial assessment after three races? Positive, because we lead both championships and have shown we are competitive at the highest level. We know where we have to improve – performance and reliability – but we can count on an excellent package of car, drivers [and] team all capable of being in the fight for both titles.”
“A very disappointing race and there's not much else to say,” concurred the Maranello-based outfit's chief track engineer Chris Dyer. “We saw the potential of the car and both drivers, especially in the final stages of the race, and it is a very great shame we were unable to exploit that fully because of the mistake we made in qualifying.
“We had two serious technical problems on Fernando's car – first a malfunction in the gearbox right from the start of the race which handicapped him throughout and then, at the end, the engine failure, which caused his retirement. Felipe drove a good race and leaves Malaysia at the head of the classification – there you are, that's the only positive note at the end of a weekend where we had definitely expected a lot more.”