Motorsport News - F1
Competitive Ferrari hit by degradation and a spin
11th June 2012
After the best qualifying of the year yesterday and a very strong start to today’s 70 lap race, Scuderia Ferrari was hoping for a better finale than Fernando Alonso’s fifth place and Felipe Massa’s tenth. However, the Spaniard’s gambit of trying to run a one-stop strategy, which looked as though it was leading him to the top step of the podium, was thwarted by high tyre degradation in the very hot temperatures. As for Felipe his first few laps suggested a podium might be waiting, but a spin put paid to that and he finished tenth.
Continuing an amazing run of different winners at every Grand Prix this season, Lewis Hamilton was the seventh driver winning this seventh race for McLaren. He was joined by two drivers making their second appearance of 2012 on the podium, Romain Grosjean second for Lotus and Sergio Perez third for Sauber.
A blistering hot and sunny afternoon on the Ile Notre Dame, as the 24 cars left the grid, Fernando from the third spot on Row 2 and Felipe from the sixth on Row 3. Behind Webber (Red Bull,) Felipe was immediately pushing Rosberg for fifth, the Mercedes man dropping back from the leading quartet and thus holding up the Brazilian and those behind him, starting with Di Resta (Force India) who had got past Grosjean (Lotus) after the start. At the end of the second lap, the Ferrari man got past and set off in pursuit of Webber. At the front, pole man Vettel in the Red Bull led Hamilton’s McLaren by 1.4, with Fernando closing to 0.7 of the Englishman on lap 5. Unfortunately, Felipe spun at Turn 1 on lap 6 which dropped him to 12th behind Kobayashi.
The Brazilian was the first to stop from 12th on lap 13 and he rejoined down in 20th. Di Resta and Schumacher also came in now, all of them going onto the Soft preparing for a long stint. Button came in on 16 and at this point the leading trio were all very close as Vettel came in on 17, leaving Hamilton leading Fernando. Then the McLaren man pitted next time round, while Felipe had now moved back to thirteenth place. Fernando came in from the lead on lap 19 to fit the Prime and he got out ahead of both Hamilton and Vettel. The Spaniard’s tyres were therefore not quite up to temperature and the McLaren was close enough to use DRS which he did, to get ahead of the Ferrari again, while Fernando now had his mirrors full of pole man Vettel. When Grosjean finally pitted on lap 22, the order was Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, while Raikkonen in the Lotus and the two Saubers of Kobayashi and Perez had yet to pit, with Webber seventh, while Felipe had come up to eleventh. Felipe was now ninth and lapping quicker than those directly ahead of him.
By lap 32 of 70, Raikkonen in fourth and Perez in fifth were the only two front runners not to have changed tyres. Button was struggling on the Supersoft and came in for a new set of the same compound. Lap 39 and Rosberg pitted the Mercedes again, which saw Felipe now move into eighth with 31 laps remaining. At the front, Fernando was gradually dropping back from race leader Hamilton and at this stage, the immediate threat of Vettel behind him had receded. Raikkonen finally pitted the Lotus on lap 40, which put him eighth behind seventh placed Felipe in the F2012. Perez brought the Sauber in on lap 41 which looked as though he was now trying a one stop strategy.
On lap 50, Fernando was definitely closing on Lewis’ McLaren and the Ferrari found itself leading as Hamilton made his second stop, rejoining in third place behind Vettel, but with the Ferrari and the Red Bull looking to go to the end, at this point it looked as though Hamilton might be able to retake them both, such was his pace. Webber made his second stop on lap 53, promoting Felipe to fifth place. With each passing lap it seemed that maybe the lead duo of Fernando and Vettel were going to nurse their tyres to the flag. Meanwhile, Massa found himself under attack from Rosberg (who cut the final chicane in his efforts to get past) and Perez in the Sauber, both men on fresher tyres than the Ferrari driver, but Felipe held on, but only for one more lap as Perez, having dispensed with Rosberg managed to get ahead, dropping the Brazilian to sixth. The Ferrari tyres were clearly degraded and Felipe had to come in for fresh rubber on lap 58, rejoining tenth. On lap 61, the Hamilton threat was growing as his fresher tyres saw him close right up to Vettel’s gearbox. On lap 62, as he activated the KERS and DRS the McLaren man cruised past the German and would now set off in pursuit of Fernando with just eight laps to go. It did not take him long to get right behind the F2012, as Vettel decided to dive into the pits for a very late tyre change. Fernando put on a heroic performance, but it was a lost cause as the Englishman powered past with a handful of laps remaining. At this point, Grosjean had brought the Lotus up to the remaining podium position, lapping about 2 seconds faster than Fernando, with Perez fourth ahead of Vettel. Felipe was just in the points in tenth spot.
Fernando would have another fight on his hands as the Frenchman inched nearer and with four laps remaining, Fernando had slipped to the bottom step of the podium. Perez was lapping a massive three seconds faster than the F2012 and the gap was just six seconds between them. Two laps left and Perez had knocked Fernando off the podium and Vettel was now lapping 4 seconds quicker and would close on him soon, getting by with two laps remaining. Fernando fought hard right to the very end, just managing to hold off Nico Rosberg for fifth. Felipe had finally clawed his way back into tenth, for the final point on offer.
Stefano Domenicali: “There’s a certain feeling of disappointment this afternoon and there’s no point denying it. It’s the first weekend in which we have not got the most out of what we had, but it’s also down to the fact that the level of expectation was higher thanks to the progress we have made. Let’s not forget that yesterday we were fighting for pole and today, we were in the battle for the win right to the end: in Bahrain, a month and a half ago, not a year ago, we only got one driver into Q3 and we finished the race one minute off the winner. Today, we made two mistakes: we did not cover Vettel when the German stopped the second time and Felipe’s spin in the early stage of the race. All things considered, the first error cost us relatively little, while the second came at a higher price, because Felipe, who nevertheless had another good weekend after the one in Monaco, had the pace to stay with the lead group. Having made this preliminary analysis we need to look at the weekend in terms of the championship. Fernando is only two points off the leader and the F2012 is back to being competitive enough to fight with the best. However it was important to score points on a track that, going into the event, was definitely not one that suited us: knowing we can count on a driver like Fernando, capable of completing a year’s races all in the points is a factor that has its part to play when it comes to thinking about the title race. We must continue to push on the development to close the gap which still separates us from pole position: only when we have done this can we claim to have reached our first objective. Another theme we need to look into further is the tyre degradation, which is proving to be ever more the key to this season.”
Fernando Alonso: “Today we tried to win the race, but the gamble of only making a single stop did not pay off. When Hamilton came back into the pits for his second stop, we chose to try and play our hand: now it’s easy to say that we should have made that choice too, but it would have meant we had tried nothing and we could also have lost position to Vettel. The last laps were very long indeed: the tyres dropped off suddenly and I was too slow to defend myself from those coming up behind. My engineer was telling me to hold them off but there was no way I could do it. The real problem today was the tyre degradation, definitely not the strategy, which at the very most cost us one place, but let’s not forget that it was that very same strategy that allowed to us to get ahead of Vettel at the first stop. The car was competitive practically all race long: it wasn’t the quickest because here the McLaren, as was expected, was very quick, but definitely we have made a step forward in terms of performance. We need to work out how to improve the tyre degradation: it can be affected by very minor factors such as a few degrees more or less in temperature, although here maybe they had also come to the end of their life. It is not a tyre world championship, but every detail must be studied to aim for victory. For the first time this year, we have not just been trying to limit the damage, in that we were actually aiming for the win. It’s a positive sign and now we must confirm it at Valencia and Silverstone. We are definitely returning home with more confidence in our chances, because this was the most significant step forward we have made in terms of car development for a long time.”
Felipe Massa: “I am angry with myself for the mistake at Turn 1 and for that I apologise to the team and the fans. I clipped the kerb and the back end got away from me unexpectedly. It was frustrating, as it meant I lost touch with the quickest group: I could have comfortably finished in the top five, given how the car was going today. After the spin I had some vibration from the tyres, which meant I had to pit early. Then I tried to extend the next stint of the race as much as possible, even hoping not to stop again. Unfortunately, towards the end, I did have to make a second stop, because they were almost down to the canvas. Maybe bringing forward the final stop could have got me ahead of Kobayashi again, but it would not have changed much after that. I am disappointed, because we showed we were competitive with our main rivals: now we are there, fighting with them, which was not the case just a few races ago. Tenth place definitely does not reflect our potential. Now it is vital we continue to work in this direction: it was a weekend in which we were always fighting for the top places and we have improved in every area and that has to be a confidence boost for the rest of the season.”
Pat Fry: “To finish a race struggling with the tyres always hurts a bit, but for we engineers it’s best to evaluate the situation with a cool head and not with the emotive images from the television in mind. Today, Hamilton was quicker and the fact we were able to pass him was down to the strategy, by trying to do something different. Furthermore, given the behaviour of the tyres at that moment, from a certain point onwards, we decided on going for a single stop to try and at least make it to the podium. We did not manage it, but we tried right to the very end. Maybe we could have shadowed Vettel and come into the pits when he did: that was a mistake which cost us a position, but anyway Fernando would have finished outside the top three. A shame for Felipe, because he showed a good pace: a mistake early on meant he ended up in traffic and the last of the points places is definitely not the result that was within his grasp this afternoon. We leave Montreal convinced we have made a step forward in terms of outright performance, but aware that we did not pick up what was in our reach The F2012 has improved, but it is still not enough and we will have to work a lot on understanding the tyre degradation. We will head for Valencia with the aim of further improving performance and getting the most out of the potential available to us.”
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