Stefano Domenicali has conceded that doing battle for the crown in F1 2011 will be 'difficult' after Ferrari endured what he described as the team's 'worst race' of the season to-date in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix – but both he and Fernando Alonso are adamant that 'we don't give up'.
After dramatically seizing the lead at the start of the race from fourth on the grid and in front of his adoring home fans – holding his nerve and keeping his foot boldly planted on the inside of the track on the run down to the first corner – Alonso went on to artfully retain that advantage up until the second round of pit visits on lap 19, but ultimately slipped away to a distant and lapped fifth place in Barcelona, an outcome that Domenicali admits 'hurt' [see separate story – click here
In analysing the reason for the Spaniard's dramatic drop-off in pace as the grand prix wore on – with McLaren-Mercedes rival Jenson Button musing that 'basically he stayed in front [initially] because people couldn't overtake' – the Scuderia's
team principal points the finger firmly at the F150° Italia's poor performance on and excessive use of Pirelli's harder-compound tyres around the Circuit de Catalunya.
“We need to be very cautious,” the Italian is quoted as having said by SPEED.com
. “We have seen so many different things happening in the first few races that it's difficult to make a judgement at the moment. For sure, what we have seen [in Barcelona] was expected, where unfortunately in conditions where the car needs to have the maximum downforce – and we know we don't have it – it had a multiplied effect on the tyres, above all on the hard, because we were not able to make them work. The cars were sliding around, and you're not putting in temperature. For sure, the tyre effect has a big influence.
“If you think that Fernando was leading for 20 laps more-or-less, in 46 laps [after that] we were lapped, so we were losing about three seconds a lap – and you can understand that it is really difficult to explain from a pure performance point-of-view. Three seconds is a lot, as you can imagine.
“I have to say this was the worst race we've had since the beginning in terms of race pace. [In] the last couple of races we were pretty quick, so for sure it's a shame – but we have seen that things are so changeable and we will need to see where we will be [in] the next couple of grands prix. We will have a much softer tyre [in Monaco and Canada], and a different configuration of track, and then we will see where we are. Of course fighting for the championship, we know that it is difficult, but we don't give up. We still see a light. We need to work hard – we want to keep [the championship] alive as long as possible. There's still a chance.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Alonso, who is now a gaping 67 points adrift of runaway world championship leader Sebastian Vettel five races into the new campaign, with but a sole podium finish to his name. The double F1 World Champion insists 'there is still time' to turn the unpalatable situation around and fight back and that Ferrari should not be written off – even if he reflects that leading in Spain somewhat flattered the F150° Italia's potential, and that his finishing position was a more accurate and realistic representation of the car's true pace.
“We were missing some good starts this year, and finally it came,” he quipped in an interview with BBC Sport
after the race, “and with the long straight to Turn One here, you have the opportunity to take the slipstream as well. Basically, we were out-of-position in a way, because we were not quick over the weekend. We did a very good lap [in qualifying] so we were fourth, and maybe it was a strange result, and [in the race] on lap one we were first.
“It looks a little bit sad when you start losing positions, but we need to understand that P1 is maybe not our position at the moment. Fifth is unfortunately what we deserve this weekend; we were not competitive – especially on race pace we were too slow, and with the hard tyre even more so. The first two cars lapped until the fifth guy, so there are clearly two teams ahead of everybody at the moment.”