Ironically with last year’s inferior car Ferrari were doing better after two races than they are this year in a car which Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa agree is way better, but the team’s technical director Pat Fry admits that the F138 is not the quickest contender particularly in qualifying.
Speaking ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, Fry said, “We’ve shown reasonable race pace and on all the tyre types we have used so far we have performed well, however we still have a way to go to be quickest in qualifying and we are working very hard on that at the moment.”
“We’ve been concentrating on the longer runs, even if they are not as long as in the past, because this year we expect more pit stops during a race. However, we have not ignored our qualifying pace. I am sure there is more to come on this front, as we learn more about our car and start getting the best out of it,” explained the Maranello tech boss.
The race off-track is as a fierce as the one on-track, as teams seek constant updates to their cars and a factor which Fry is only too aware of.
“The key will be to try and move our car development programme forward quicker than the other teams do. It’s a tough cycle that will last all year and we need to at least match our 2012 development pace if we are to perform better in qualifying. So far, we have worked well, all the way through from design to manufacture, improving on how we did things last year in terms of actually getting new bits onto the car. Also, our aero correlation is better,” revealed the Englishman.
As for the race this weekend, Fry remains cautious, “Shanghai is a challenging mix of different corner types and a 1.2 kilometre straight. Is it going to suit our car better than some others? It is too early to say, as there are too many unknowns. For example, it will be the first weekend this year that we will use the Pirelli Soft compound, along with the Medium.”
“At the end of this Grand Prix, we will have a clearer picture of how all the tyres compare to one another. So to some degree, Shanghai will be another learning exercise for everyone, although we can say that our pace, relative to the other teams, has been okay on all the tyres we have tried so far.”
Ferrari was the first team to have its name engraved on the Chinese Grand Prix winner’s trophy when Rubens Barrichello won in 2004. There were a further two wins for the Maranello team, from Michael Schumacher in 2006 and Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Alonso has also won in China, but as a Renault driver, in 2005. The Spaniard has started from pole twice and has two other podium finishes to his there.
Felipe Massa’s best finish at the venue was a second place in 2008.