It was certainly not the weekend that all Ferrari supporters were expecting – from the men and women who work at the Maranello factory to the millions of tifosi all over the world. Fernando Alonso’s fifth place, into which he put so much effort, was not a result at the high level of the Scuderia’s ambitions and potential. But considering what could have happened it’s clear that the glass is ‘half full’, to quote the words of the Spanish driver on his Twitter account.
Two fundamental aspects of race operations had a major contribution towards filling up the glass in question: the organisation of the strategy and the pit stops. In these two areas at least, the 2012 season began as the last one finished – even perhaps better. As far as strategy is concerned, yesterday the plan directed by Pat Fry not only ran error-free but it was decisive in allowing Fernando to get ahead first of Rosberg, then Webber. That the Australian then managed to end the race ahead of the Ferrari driver was largely due to the fact that the safety car came out at the most awkward moment for Fernando, who had just made his second pit stop when he still had a five-second margin over the Red Bull driver.
The figures reveal that the other positive aspect of Sunday at Albert Park were the tyre change operations. The facts show that the mechanics and drivers of the Prancing Horse were the fastest on average. The day’s best overall time for going through the pit lane was Fernando’s mark for his second stop (21.910s) but all five of the Ferrari drivers’ stops were completed in under 23 seconds and they took the first five slots. Only Hamilton, Button and Webber managed to dip below that mark (each with one stop) but none of them went quicker than 22.8 seconds.
This result doesn’t win points but it certainly gives faith to everyone involved in an operation that is as complex as it is delicate and stressful. It is the fruit of the work that has been carried out for a year in this area and which had already seen the team improve considerably in the second half of the 2011 championship. During the winter, changes were made to the car’s wheel rims, gear and procedures which, along with Felipe and Fernando’s commitment, led to this result. Those hard-earned seconds were not decisive yesterday at Albert Park but the time will come when an advantage of a few tenths will be worth a position on track. When it does, the team will be well prepared – albeit without letting that go to its heads: an error is always around the corner and you only need a moment to find yourself back in turmoil even when what is needed is to judge everything with coolness instead of emotion.