Flavio Briatore has bluntly suggested Ferrari would be best to write off F1 2011 and focus instead on ensuring it is prepared as well as possible for 2012 – arguing that the gap between the scarlet machines and the pace-setting Red Bull Racing of defending world champion Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne last weekend 'is an eternity'.
Fernando Alonso was the most competitive of the two Ferrari drivers all weekend Down Under, qualifying fifth and finishing fourth – but those statistics mask the fact that the Spaniard was a staggering 1.4 seconds adrift of Vettel in qualifying, and more than half-a-minute shy at the chequered flag in the race, with the common consensus being that his German rival had not even had recourse to push to his car's full potential.
is currently conducting a thorough inquest into just why its new F150° Italia – a car that showed so well during pre-season testing – was quite as slow as it was in the Australian Grand Prix, with the clear target of improving its performance before the second outing in Malaysia in just over a week's time. Disgraced former Renault F1 managing director Briatore, however, contends that it might as well not bother.
“It may sound absurd, but I think Ferrari should focus on the 2012 car now,” the 'Singapore-gate' protagonist told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
, contending that the sizeable deficit cannot be bridged in the space of two months and that by then, Vettel could just be unassailable 'if Red Bull maintain their condition and he keeps the same lead on Mark Webber'. “Ferrari, of course, have all the engineering skills and resources that you need, but the half-second difference to Red Bull is an eternity.”
Ten-time grand prix-winner Gerhard Berger agrees with that conviction, telling Bild
: “Why should there be a big change? All the same people will keep working, so I don't foresee a turning-point.”
Briatore, meanwhile, similarly had some harsh words for his former protégé
Michael Schumacher, whose second season since making his much-feted F1 comeback last year – despite considerable promise in recent months – began in Melbourne in much the same manner as had the previous one twelve months earlier.
“I've always been against it,” stressed the Italian, who managed Benetton when the seven-time world champion claimed his first two drivers' titles there in 1994 and 1995. “A 40-year-old can never be the same as someone who is 20. Michael is half-retired already, and his great career is having a nasty end.”