Lost amid the RBR kerfuffle — Ferrari’s lousy weekend

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You may have missed this in all the Red Bull Racing crashes, recriminations, re-recriminations and attempts at damage control.

Ferrari had another lousy weekend.

So what’s up at Maranello?

Well, Fernando Alonso, who said before the Turkish Grand Prix that he and the team both needed to avoid mistakes only to skid into a corner during qualifying and not get into Q3, put it this way:

“It was a case of damage limitation in what was a very difficult weekend for us. Our aim in this championship is to fight with McLaren and Red Bull for the podium, definitely not with a Renault for eighth place, with all due respect to my former team. We have to improve our performance: in Valencia we will have an important update on the car, which we hope will put us back to where we should be. I am convinced that right from Canada things will be better, because the track characteristics should better suit our car. The hierarchy in the field can change from race to race, as we saw in Monaco, where we had the potential to fight for victory. At the end, I attacked Petrov and I hope the two points this brought me could turn out to be useful come the end of the year: I am sorry he got a puncture that stopped him finishing in the points, because he drove a good race. Despite everything, we are still in a good position to fight for the title. However, now is the time to react.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Fernando has a bad result at either Canada or his “second” home race at Valencia, he’ll be the candidate for “biggest disappointment of the season.” Seriously. Remember Ferrari quitting on its 2009 car to focus on the 2010? Remember Ferrari dumping a one-time, but questionably motivated world champ for a two-time world champ who was not only hungry but supposedly the best driver on the grid? Well, if those moves don’t start to come together, and quickly, Alonso and Felipe Massa both better get used to fighting with the Renaults.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali is a bit more direct:

“This was definitely a very poor weekend for us and it’s a shame we were unable to celebrate our 800th Grand Prix in a worthy manner. We did not have the performance level we expected and we were definitely inferior to the two teams which dominated the Turkish weekend. We are at the level of the second group of drivers; those who were fighting throughout the Grand Prix, all within a few seconds of one another. But we know what an influence qualifying has on the final result and yesterday we struggled even more than usual in this area. This afternoon, we did what we could: Felipe didn’t make any mistakes and Fernando managed to make up a few places with the pit stop and by passing Petrov. Now we must make a step forward to close the performance gap: our engineers are capable and ready, as they have shown so often and I am sure they will be able to do it again, improving the performance of the F10. We are entering the crucial phase of the championship and we have to do everything to tackle it in the best possible shape.”

Then there is Chris Dyer, who takes a slightly more positive spin on the weekend than his boss:

“Given the position of our two cars on the starting grid, this is an acceptable result. What is not however, is our performance level this weekend, given that it definitely did not match our expectations. Felipe was always in traffic and never had a chance to overtake those immediately ahead of him. Fernando drove a good race, making up a few places thanks to the strategy and pulling off a nice passing move on Petrov at the end. When he made contact with the Russian driver’s Renault, he also damaged a wheel rim, but luckily he was able to finish the race and take points that are definitely valuable on a weekend like this.”

I’ll give the last word to Felipe Massa, who — I don’t know — maybe might be reconsidering that contract offer? Renault looking good, Felipe?

“It was a very boring race for me, from start to finish, but it was also very difficult. I was always stuck behind Kubica and the two Mercedes, who were running at a similar pace to me. Very often I managed to get close, but I never had a real chance of overtaking Robert. I knew that, starting from eighth, it would be tough and so it proved. Now we must stay calm and try and quickly improve the car, starting with the very next race in Canada. Here we lacked performance, especially in the fast corners. The rain? The few drops that fell in the final laps had no affect on my driving.”

Something’s rotten in Maranello, I think. The cars never showed the pace of the two clear leaders in Turkey, Red Bull and McLaren, and were not only well behind the Mercedes cars but, as gets mentioned throughout the above comments, the Renaults.

A few lingering questions in my mind. Where was Fernando’s passing this weekend, at a track supposedly with a few overtaking opportunities? How is it that Massa keeps quietly finishing in the sixth through eighth places? Is it him, is it the car? Will an F-duct be a saving grace? Or is the Ferrari, once again, just too far off pace?

And, finally: How much is it team management that’s holding the drivers back?

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