Ferrari have acknowledged that they are still on the back foot ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, after trailing chief title rivals' McLaren-Mercedes once more at the end of the opening day's practice.
Despite having paced the morning running, Felipe Massa proved unable to go any quicker in the second 90-minute session in the afternoon, and ultimately slipped back to fifth spot at the close, more than half a second adrift of F1 world championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – who had sat second on the midday timesheets, albeit almost four tenths shy of Massa's best effort – did improve, but not by enough as he remained behind the Brazilian in sixth place, leaving Ferrari with much head-scratching to do before qualifying around a circuit where, as at the similarly tight and twisty Monaco, gaining a good grid position is at least half the battle.
“It's hard to say exactly where we are compared to the opposition,” Massa admitted, “but clearly they are very quick. I did not feel too comfortable on the softest tyre, while on the harder one, which I used first, the situation was much better.
“As usual on the first day at the Hungaroring, it is difficult to understand how the tyres are behaving because you always get a lot of graining, while the situation changes bit-by-bit as more rubber goes down on the track surface.
“We know in which direction we have to work, and we will do all we can to bring home a good result. It will be tough, but I am confident all-the-same.”
“We worked on various set-up options for the car,” added Raikkonen. “I also tried the new engine cover, but it is hard to assess it in any detail. The situation is not too bad.
“The car handles better, but our main rivals seem to be still a little bit quicker than us, even if there is the usual question mark over any difference in the fuel loads. There is still room for improvement, and we will concentrate all our efforts on this in preparing for qualifying and the race.”
Whilst confessing that McLaren seem to have stolen a march over their scarlet opposition in recent weeks – with three victories from the past five grands prix to Maranello' one – both the Scuderia's
team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri insisted the battle is far from over.