Stung by the point-less return from Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has set a high target for drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in the final three races of 2008, aware that it might be the only way to stop Lewis Hamilton from taking the title.

Massa's pit-lane problems and subsequent drive-thru' penalty kept him from scoring on a day when Hamilton salvaged third place - and six points - after the safety car turned the race on its head. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had the chance to keep Ferrari at the head of the constructors' championship, but crashed out of fifth place in the closing stages.

As a result, Hamilton now enjoys a seven-point advantage in the drivers' standings, and can afford to finish one place behind Massa in each of the Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian grands prix in order to take the title in only his second year in the top flight. Ferrari, meanwhile, has dropped a point behind old rival McLaren in the teams' competition, with 48 points on offer before the end of the year.

"The objective that we have is clear," Domenicali admitted, "We have three races to go, and we will approach them aware that we need to finish first and second every time. We have the potential to do so, so the target is very clear."

Despite being a little shell-shocked after the events in Singapore, where Massa was the dominant force before the safety car appeared, the Scuderia is taking confidence from the fact that it brought Raikkonen back from a 17-point deficit at the same stage of last season.

"It is not easy, but don't forget that we have raced in very difficult situations over the last couple of years - sometimes we were able to win, sometimes unfortunately to lose - but the motivation is still the same," Domenicali noted, "The team is very strong. Yes, you have moments such as this Sunday but, after two hours, we were already motivated and looking forward to going to Japan to attack again."

Although Massa has shown consistent race-winning pace this season, Raikkonen has struggled to maintain his best form, struggling through the middle of the campaign before appearing to be back on top of his game in Belgium. Unfortunately, late-race rain caused the Finn to crash out late in the race, and a similar end in Singapore has left him pondering the loss of his crown.

Raikkonen retains a mathematical chance of the title, but will be eliminated once and for all should Hamilton out-score him by three points in Japan. More likely, however, he will now be asked to play back-up to his team-mate as Massa needs a buffer between himself and Hamilton if he is to remain in contention to his home race.

While Massa's problems in Singapore have been well-documented - the Brazilian was released early from his first pit-stop, tearing the fuel hose from its mountings, and also picking up a penalty for impeding another car as he left his stall - Raikkonen appeared to struggle early on, then had to queue up behind his team-mate at the first stop, rejoined 15th and fought through to fifth place before crashing out five laps from home.

Just as he had picked up pace after a few apparently lacklustre laps at the start, so the Finn's performance suddenly improved half a dozen laps after the safety car went in. Domenicali, however, insisted that it was not necessarily a question of motivation.

"Maybe, at the beginning, the tyre pressures were a bit too low," he reasoned, "When they came up to the right level, he was able to push. He got fastest lap and he was catching up with Lewis, because the strategy was going in the right direction."

Domenicali also said he was convinced that, had the safety car not been called out to allow Nelson Piquet Jr's accident to be cleared up, Massa would have gone on to win the race.

"It was really a shame that we got this result, as the best car is the last on the result sheet," he sighed, "Sometimes, you have to consider that the safety car is mixing up the race, but this time it was too much. I don't want to discuss situations that may arise under safety car conditions, because it's unpredictable, but sometimes they are going in the right direction and sometimes in the wrong direction.

"In that respect, Renault did very well and, congratulations, they won the race. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result that we wanted - not only that we wanted, but that we had in our hands, because we saw the performance of the car [in qualifying], and we saw the performance of the car in the first stint of the race....."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment