Felipe Massa was left lamenting what he described as a strategic error at the end of today's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai - a race that had at one stage looked like yielding a rostrum finish for him, only to culminate in a 'disappointing' sixth position.

Having begun alongside team-mate Fernando Alonso on the third row of the grid, a better start for Massa enabled the Brazilian to move into fifth place on the opening lap, and he would subsequently pass McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton prior to the first round of pit visits.

Arguably driving the best he has done since his sight-threatening Hungaroring qualifying accident in the summer of 2009, the 29-year-old maintained a consistent pace and performance throughout, and in the latter part of the race he found himself in second place, just three-and-a-half seconds adrift of leader Sebastian Vettel - yet the closing laps saw him cede positions to Hamilton, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and the charging Mark Webber, leaving him a downcast sixth at the chequered flag.

"It's a real shame not managing to finish this race in a better position," Massa rued, telling Italian journalists immediately after the grand prix that 'it's clear that the others chose their strategy well [and] we didn't' since 'we had good pace at first - I was second - then I lost four places and there was nothing we could do about it'.

"It really seems that, from qualifying to the race, we discover another car - yesterday, we were not competitive, [and] today we fought with the leaders right to the end. Unfortunately, on the hard tyres we could not defend position all the way to the end. Now, it's easy to say that we were not on the right strategy, but we are a team and we take our decisions together. Vettel made the same choice as us, and we had reasonably similar pace.

"Probably we would have finished on the podium [on a three-stopper rather than just two], but we need to look into all the details with the engineers. I am happy with my race; I think it was my best this year, and maybe even the best including last year. We need to work out how to improve the car, especially in qualifying."

Alonso, meanwhile, displayed little of his team-mate's brio during the race, spending too long tucked up behind the Mercedes Grand Prix of Michael Schumacher and crossing the finish line just seventh with the German right in his wheel tracks, a quarter-of-a-minute behind the sister F150? Italia and outpaced in terms of fastest laps by even the Team Lotus of Jarno Trulli.

"I made a bad start," recounted the double world champion. "Felipe managed to get past me and a Force India nearly did the same, and then it was a good battle on the opening lap. After the first pit-stop, I lost too much time behind Michael, thus losing touch with the leading group. I found myself fighting him again at the end of the race, with our positions reversed. Once again, it was a good battle, but I would have preferred to have been doing it for a podium finish rather than seventh place.

"Unfortunately, our race pace was too slow and I don't think that a different strategy would have changed anything. I've had better Sundays in my career, but I won't get downhearted or lose confidence. We know we have to improve to get to the front - McLaren and Mercedes have managed it, and there is no reason to think we can't do the same.

"Clearly, aerodynamics is our Achilles' Heel at the moment, and that's what we have to work on the most. Eight days ago in Malaysia we had seen some encouraging signs, but that was not the case here; the car has not changed, while others have made progress."

The Spaniard's evident frustrations were shared by both Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and assistant technical director and head of racetrack engineering, Pat Fry, with the Scuderia now 55 points shy of the lead in the constructors' standings.

"Fourteen points is definitely not what we wanted to come away with from this grand prix," stressed the Italian. "There is no use denying we are disappointed. We will have to study carefully the way this race evolved and understand why, having started off by being competitive, especially with Felipe, after around two-thirds of the race we saw others produce a more competitive finish than we did.

"From a strategic point-of-view, I don't think it would have changed much if we had done three stops instead of two; when the final result shows such small gaps, some incidents would be enough to make the difference and with hindsight, it is easy to judge. Felipe drove a great race and was fighting right up to the closing stages for a place on the podium, getting to 15 seconds off the winner, while Fernando's race was affected by his duel with Michael after the first pit-stop.

"This championship has not started the way we would have wanted or hoped for. Our car definitely needs to improve its performance, especially in qualifying. We must work very hard over the coming weeks, especially on the aerodynamics. We know our problems can't be solved by waving a magic wand, all in one go, especially as our rivals are not going to sit around twiddling their thumbs; all-the-same, we need to take a step in the right direction, right from the next race."

"After three races, it's clear our priority is to try and improve the performance of our car," echoed Fry. "Today, we opted for a two-stop strategy and now we have to look carefully at the evolution of the race to understand if a different choice would have changed things; at first glance, that does not seem to be the case. Both Felipe and Fernando made two stops, using the hard tyres in the final stint of the race. Unfortunately, their degradation on our car was significant and Felipe did not manage to fend off the attacks of those behind him.

"Fernando was battling with Schumacher for at least eight laps, and his tyres suffered because of that - to such an extent that he was unable to push as hard as he wanted once he had a clear track ahead of him. Towards the end, he too was struggling and just managed to hang onto seventh place. We have a lot of work to do and we must keep our cool in this situation. There is still a long way to go this season, and things can change quickly."