Ferrari updates fail to hit the qualifying mark in Abu Dhabi
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Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Nov 2012   |  2:12 pm GMT  |  104 comments

There will be disappointment at Ferrari this morning on two levels; first that they were unable to take any more advantage of Sebastian Vettel’s grid penalty in Abu Dhabi than a mere three points.

And second that the raft of updates on the car at this race didn’t produce the jump in performance they were looking for.

Vettel had a bad day on Saturday and then a very good day, with some lucky breaks on the Safety Car, on Sunday, when the points were handed out.

But the problem for Ferrari is clear: Alonso qualified 7th, 0.952s behind the pole man Hamilton and although the Ferrari was quicker in the race, he didn’t have the race pace to overhaul Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus to take the extra seven points for a win on Sunday.

He set the second fastest race lap at the end, less than a tenth off Vettel’s best on much fresher tyres, so there was some encouragement there. But it’s clear what the problem is:

“Qualifying remains our weak point. With what we had, that was the maximum,” said Fernando Alonso on Saturday, while team principal Stefano Domenicali described it as “one of our worst qualifying sessions of the season.”

After a strong rallying call from Alonso in India, suggesting that he was competing with Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey, Ferrari brought a new front and rear wing to Yas Marina as well as new turning vanes on the car, quite a substantial set of new parts. The team did extensive back to back testing in Friday practice, trying various combinations of the new parts.

The main difference with the new front wing from the previous one was a new main profile and different wing endplates, to channel the air more effectively around the front wheels and down to the highly sensitive areas of the floor.

There were also new turning vanes and a new rear wing with a more powerful DRS, to help with qualifying pace. It’s still some way short of the double DRS used by Red Bull, but Alonso hinted that Ferrari has one of those under development. It is not clear whether it will come in time to make a significant difference to their qualifying pace.

BBC technical expert Gary Anderson believes that the problem Ferrari has in qualifying relates to instability on corner entry due to the way the diffuser and DRS wing are working (or not working) together

When the driver brakes for the next corner, the car changes attitude – the rear comes up.

“I am 99.99% sure that at that time, on the Ferrari, the diffuser does not re-attach immediately,” he writes on the BBC F1 website

“Because of that, the airflow at the back of the car is different, so the rear wing does not re-attach either.

“So on initial corner entry, 18 or 20 times a lap in qualifying or whatever, the rear of the car has less downforce and therefore is unstable for a given amount of time until the diffuser and rear wing re-attach.”


Alonso pointed to the fact that he did a 1m 41.5s lap in both Q2 and Q3, as proof that he got the maximum from the car, but what that analysis fails to account for is track improvement course there is always track improvement which is usually a significant factor in the gains drivers get on their final runs at the end of Q3.

For example, Hamilton improved by 3/10ths from Q2 to Q3, the same amount as Raikkonen, Webber and Button, while Maldonado found 7/10ths. This would suggest that some of the shortcoming in Alonso’s case was the driver. Analysis of his sector times shows that he was a tenth up on Massa in Sectors 1 and 3 but a tenth down in Sector 2.

That said, Massa found only a tenth from Q2 to Q3.

But Massa did a three lap run and set his fastest time in first lap, when he had more fuel on board than he would have had on a single lap run. So that cost him probably another two tenths, which would be consistent with the improvement of Raikkonen, Webber and Button.

Massa shed some light on the thinking internally on the Ferrari updates and how they audited their performance, “We have a new front wing which is definitely exactly what it is supposed to be on his [Alonso's] car, and he has a new rear wing which is a little bit less than half of what it is supposed to give. So it is not everything it is supposed to be.


“In my case it was clear that it (rear wing) lacked downforce in the final sector.

“So if we bring the pieces and they are on the car that is positive. But for sure when you see that it is supposed to give one thing and it is giving half, then it is still not 100 per cent great. But it is [at least] important to improve the performance.”

So in summary, the aerodynamic work carried out by Ferrari for Abu Dhabi was fairly comprehensive, but didn’t bring the hoped for gains. “Perhaps expectations were too high,” said Alonso.

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104 Comments
  1. Frank says:

    The 1m 41.5s argument was very lame excuse, between the lines we should read “I failed to get it done”.
    Another factor is the different tyres used on each run, on the softs it should have a better time.

    Maybe the improvement was small but there was room for it and maybe start 4th or 3rd.

    Very disappointed to see him 7th on Saturday.

  2. Peter C says:

    ‘this would suggest that some of the shortcoming in Alonso’s case was the driver’.

    Crikey, James, having just brought in an experimental Spanish thread, you should expect mail from the people who will not accept any criticism of The Master.

    You sure know how to put your head in the lion’s mouth!

    1. James Allen says:

      Gotta say it how you see it.

      1. azac21 says:

        You are saying that track was improving but I am sure the drop in temperatures (it was late afternoon) would not suit all cars the same. Even if there was a driver ‘shortcoming’ and Alonso was supposed to get 0.1 faster in Q3 what was he supposed to say? That the new upgrades are very good but we still a long way off the guys at the front? Clearly the car still struggles and he has to take too many chances to make it go any faster…

      2. S.Henchoz says:

        isnt that what he has been saying anyways? that the new updates have not helped close the gap at all.If I remember correctly, he said the updates gave him “hundredths and not the “tenths” they needed.

        Why couldnt he admit that he didnt get the “maximum” out and for once wasnt “perfect”?

        His race wasnt perfect. Mistake at the restart made him vulnerable to Webber but the Ferrari straight line speed saved him.

        He is a fantastic driver but a bit of a spoilt brat.

      3. KGBVD says:

        Cooler temps benefit the engines hugely; even if the Ferrari had trouble in cooler temperatures (which it doesn’t), he still should have been faster in the dark. He wasn’t.

        But yes, he should say exactly that: That it is the team letting his WDC chances slip away, that the upgrades are NOT good enough, and he’s having to overdrive the car to compensate.

        After the “no 2 cocks at Ferrari” comment from Luca, and the way that Fernando has looked the past few races, I get the feeling the FA/Ferrari love-fest will end next year faster than you can say “Vettel to Prancing Horse in 2014″.

        Fernando will be Raikkonen’ed and switch the RB – Fernando in a Newey car. Fearsome!

      4. azac21 says:

        Henchoz
        I dont think repeating the fact that Ferrari hasn’t got enough pace in the qualifying has any impact any more. Everybody is aware of it. The circunstances are very critical with 2 races to go. He knows the team will try as hard as they can and he ‘ll also have to take more chances while qualifying which will inevitably result in small errors here and there. So I think what he ‘s been saying makes sense…. that he did max out the car’s potential and the team is the best.

        Spoilt brad he definately is not. Coming into 2012 with a substandard car after two years with similarly underperforming car and he kept his head down and raised his game. So he expects his team to back him up. He gave them time to do so but it looks like time is running out and the car is still not good enough to allow him to compete for the title. Not a spoilt brat, far from that indeed!

      5. Miha Bevc says:

        And we respect you for it, James. Keep saying what you see.

      6. HansB says:

        Just look on the last qualifiying (pole) lap of Hamilton compared to the laps Alonso produced. With Hamilton the car (from TV) looks very steady as if it doesn’t take much effort. On the other hand, with the ferrari of Alonso I’m waiting for him to twirl the back of his car in the racing direction.

      7. clyde says:

        ary anderson has a very interesting theory about the ferrari and why Alonso could not improve in Q3 ….it explains the mystery of Ferraris poor qualifying pace
        I am reproducing the article below

        THE ROOT OF FERRARI’S PROBLEMS
        The big mystery of this season has been how the Ferrari can be a second off the pace in qualifying and only a tenth of a second or two off it in the race. I think I’ve figured out what the problem is.

        It is a rear wing and diffuser problem, but it’s a little complicated to explain, so bear with me.

        In qualifying, the DRS overtaking aid can be used all the time. A driver comes off a corner and opens the DRS as soon as possible, reducing the drag and the wing wake, which gives extra straight-line speed.

        As the car goes faster, the rear gets closer to the ground and that ‘stalls’ the diffuser, which is the underfloor which curves upwards at the back of the car. ‘Stalling’ means the airflow is not attached to it any more, and that reduces the downforce it produces.

        When the driver brakes for the next corner, the car changes attitude – the rear comes up.

        I am 99.99% sure that at that time, on the Ferrari, the diffuser does not re-attach immediately.

        Because of that, the airflow at the back of the car is different, so the rear wing does not re-attach either.

        So on initial corner entry, 18 or 20 times a lap in qualifying or whatever, the rear of the car has less downforce and therefore is unstable for a given amount of time until the diffuser and rear wing re-attach.

        This rear instability on corner entry is what the Ferrari drivers are complaining about.

        To reduce rear instability, you run less front downforce, but that gives understeer – less front grip – when the diffuser re-attaches. As it happens, less front wing also means less overall downforce.

        The braking duration for a lot of these corners will be about a second. If the diffuser is not re-attaching for 0.2-0.3secs, that is a problem.

        In the race, though, the DRS can only be used in specified zones and when the driver is within a second of the car in front.

        So during the race on the non-DRS straights the diffuser will still stall but the rear wing is still working, which means when the driver brakes the diffuser re-attaches more easily. So in the race the driver has rear stability other than when he is braking after using the DRS.

        That means in the race the Ferrari is more consistent.
        You’ll probably find that the stall-point on the diffuser in the race is at a lower ride-height (a higher top speed) than in qualifying, when it will stall earlier because the DRS is open on every straight.

        So my suggestion to Ferrari would be to have a slightly less aggressive DRS system. They have one of the biggest gains in top speed when the DRS is open compared to when it is closed. I would reduce that a bit but make sure the rear-wing airflow is a bit more robust.

        With the resources Ferrari have, that is something they could do very quickly if they got on with it – certainly in time for the next race.

        They are using four or five rear wing designs and chopping and changing between them, so they are going round and round the problem but not actually fixing it.

        This lack of consistency may also explain why Alonso was not able to improve on his final run in qualifying last weekend.

        He made a point in Abu Dhabi of saying the fact he did the same lap time on three different runs in qualifying meant he had got the most out of the car.

        Normally, that would be wrong – a driver should improve on his final run because up until then it is all about ‘banker’ laps. He should save the 100% on-the-limit lap until the end. Also, in Abu Dhabi the ambient temperature was dropping all the time as night fell and that would give more engine power.

        But perhaps the instability at the rear of the Ferrari limits its potential.

        The driver can only increase his effort level if he has the confidence to do so. If he doesn’t have confidence on the corner entry, then he’s stuck. The driver can’t go quicker because he is at the limit of what the car will respond to.

        The contrast with the Red Bull is interesting – Vettel nearly always goes faster on his final qualifying run. But while that car moves around and needs a lot of driving, it does respond to extra effort from the driver without doing anything nasty.

        That means it is predictable, gives the driver confidence and the driver can find a tenth of a second or two.

        So it was very instructive to see that on a weekend when Vettel missed nearly all of final practice, he not only did not get pole, but he also was beaten by Webber. He didn’t have the confidence in the car he normally does.

        That’s a problem Alonso is probably facing every weekend

      8. puffing says:

        Hi clyde, thanks for posting this piece.

      9. Peter C says:

        Thanks. Gary Anderson is superb at explaining things, I could listen to him for hours.

      10. BWLF44 says:

        Very interesting post here.
        Thank you

      11. Jeff Pappone says:

        Gary Anderson’s technical analysis on Ferrari’s DRS also explains no increase in lap times from Q2 to Q3 for Alonso in Abu Dhabi qualifying: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/20210164

      12. Yago says:

        Hi James. This is my first post. I’m from Spain, and of course an Alonso fan, but an unbiased one. I wanted to make a comment on your view on Alonso’s qualifying, stressing something that you didn’t mention or realize. Alonso had big problems to get heat into his tyres this weekend. His first laps after the safety cars were eye catching in this sense. He even made a mistake in the restart after the first safety car, caused by the tyres not being at the right temperature.

        This is the reason as why he was not able to improve as the track was getting colder in qualifying. He did not make mistakes, he just wasn`t capable of improving his lap times. What is interesting is that, in my view, this problem already started to emerge in India. But contrary to Abu Dhabi, in India he did make a mistake in his second run. And most interesting thing is that Massa did not seem to have this same problem, neither in India nor in Abu Dhabi (at least not that marked), which is pretty intriguing as he has been the one of the two to struggle to get heat into his tyres during the past three years.

        So I agree that Abu Dhabi wasn’t Alonso’s best qualifying performance, but it was because he wasn’t able to get the tyres working over one lap as the track got colder, not because he did not maximize lap time within his reach. Contrary to Massa, who had the potential to go as fast or faster than Alonso in qualifying, but didn’t capitalize due to a not perfect Q2 and hence not having two sets of soft new tyres left for Q3.

        All in all, qualifying results: Alonso 17/Massa 1, which would be 18/0 if not for a reliability issue on Alonso’s car in Monza. So yes, Alonso is an amazing qualifyer. Massa is a very very fast driver (but not very consistent in the races), contrary to what some people think, and he has proven this many times in my view.

        Sorry for my less than perfect english.

        Yago

      13. James Allen says:

        Thanks for your message.

      14. Robert Gunning says:

        It seems odd that the F2012 used to overheat its tyres, but now it does not seem to generate tyre temperature; as this was one of the main reasons why it had a significant advantage in cool/wet conditions earlier this year. Hopefully this is still the case, as if the F2012 is not faster than the Red Bull in Austin, then I am afraid Ferrari are going to have to pray for rain in order to claw back the performance deficit to keep Fernando’s campaign alive!

      15. Justin Bieber says:

        That’s why I read your blog and why I respect your opinion.

    2. Carlos says:

      Peter, qualifying isn’t Alonso’s strongest suit and his fans have long known that.

      1. James Allen says:

        Ironically he pulled out a mighty quali lap at Abu Dhabi in 2010 right at the very end, I remember.

      2. Nil says:

        Korea 2010 was right up there too.

      3. Anop says:

        Singapore 2010
        Hungary 2009
        Monaco 2007
        Monza 2007

        I can go on and on. Fernando is as good a qualifier as he is a racer.

      4. F1fan4life says:

        I believe Alonso is an excellent qualifier… just look at his qualifying record against team-mates. In his first year at Renault he outdid Jarno Trulli who was not new in the team and who is considered a qualifying specialist. The only reason why we are seeing his qualifying critiqued is he has not had a car capable of pole position since 2007. Compare this with Vettel or Hamilton’s cars since that time, they’ve had faster qualifying cars every year.

      5. JF says:

        If I remember correctly, Ferrari has traditionally focused on race pace at the expense of qualifying. This seems to be killing them in the Pirelli era and they just don’t seem to be able get the balance right. Its a good race car but at a real deficit in quali.

  3. McLaren78 says:

    Alonso’s comments about doing the same time in Q2 and Q3 were obviously political in nature, trying to emphasize that it is not him that under-achieves in qualifying, but rather Ferrari’s engineers. This ‘game’ of ‘perfect’ races and qualifying has been going on for weeks now between him and the team. At least he hasn’t called the car a ‘truck’ yet otherwise he’ll become a Prost no 2.

    1. Joe Bella says:

      Interestingly, Domenicali had this to say on Sunday:
      “It is normal that we have to believe because if there is someone who does not believe then I think it is better to go with another team.”

      I dont know if thats him growing tired of Alonso’s public bashing of the team and always towing the “I am perfect, you would be nothing without me” line.

      If yes, would be a curious and ironical turn of events for SD. He famously dumped KR to save his seat after 2 diabolical seasons after Todt left.

      1. Onko says:

        I have great respect for L.D Montezemolo the
        runs are ont the board of his achivements as
        a manager and visionary aspects i car manufacture and its work force within.
        Marenello today is the best car plant bar
        none in the world.
        S. Domenicali,the Greek, desigher of F1 car
        and Massa the driver have been a dimal failure since 2010 when R.Brown and R. Byrne
        departed,my point why has L.D. Montezemolo
        persevered,his ” moto ” succsess only apply
        perhaps Mr Allen will be good enough to shed
        some light.

      2. Ahmed says:

        Spot on, he keeps publicly bagging the car all year.
        If Alonso can do the 2nd fastest lap of the race on worn medium tyres, whilst Vettel (supposedly in a far superior car) is only 1 tenth quicker on newer soft tyres, please explain why the Ferrari is such a bad car????

        Take qualifying out of the equation, The F2012 has been probably the most consistent car in race pace in all conditions.

        In my opinion, the greats of F1 don’t blame the car, they help develop it, and get the job done!

      3. Alex says:

        You have a point there but why does President di Montezemolo keep supporting Alonso hands down? I think that since 2009, the red cars have a qualifying deficit. Kimi had the same problems in 2009.

    2. Alex says:

      Anyone for any reason calling a red car, ‘a truck’, gets sacked instantly. Take this from a hard core tifoso!!!

      1. Rene says:

        maybe they should stop building the trucks then :)

      2. Alex says:

        Yes like McLaren have done in the last 20 years!

  4. Irish con says:

    Everytime I have seen a onboard video of a Ferrari this year at the start of a corner I have thought man look at that understeer. Then on the exit it has been poor traction. The Ferrari front wing always to me hasn’t been developed enough. But clearly they have a good race balance but it could be better I think.

  5. Garriel says:

    Seems that you suggest that Fernando may not be perfect for the first time on the season…yes, what a disaster

    1. James Allen says:

      Well his race was very special, but quali wasn’t

      1. jayteeniftb says:

        arguably both trulli and hamilton managed to get more out of the car over a single lap than alonso ( not every time but most ). every driver has their respective weak point.

      2. Steve says:

        When did Trulli come back to F1?

      3. Wade Parmino says:

        Webber’s is starts!

      4. AlexD says:

        Alonso simply did not maximize on the opportunity. He should have qualified a bit better and do the “Raikkonen”. This way he would be tie with Vettel in points

      5. TimeShift says:

        Dear James,

        Do you think that Alonso often drives heavy car (fueled car) better than the light one?. So that is the main reason leads to poor result in some qualifies?

      6. James Allen says:

        No, why would he do that?

  6. Joe Bella says:

    Fantastic analysis. I dont know why Alonso wants to pretend his final Q3 lap was perfect when it wasnt. One mistake wont make him a lesser driver. Admitting his mistake in public might in fact win him some support from neutrals.

    James, it should also be noted that Massa aborted his final Q3 lap after the first 2 sectors when he was going faster than his previous lap. Not suggesting a conspiracy but just pointing out that the track was getting faster all the time

    1. clyde says:

      pl read http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/20210164
      and you will understand the problem that ferrari and alonso is facing :-)

      1. AlexD says:

        Thanks for sharing. It really helps a lot to better understand. It also helps to understand that Vettel would not do any better in this ferrari and that alonso would have already taken a title in a red bull by now. Even more respect to alonso from my side.

      2. Sheva says:

        good read. but it summarises why Ferrari are half a second behind McLaren and Red Bull in quali. It doesnt explain why Alonso didnt improve his time in Q3 on a more rubbered track. This is not to say Alonso hasnt driven well this year. He is not just not perfect as he claims.

  7. sandyf1 says:

    I thought the “i squeezed the maximum out of the car” comment was a big slap in the face to Pat Fry and his engineers back at Maranello.Massa’s lap was horrible and he still only was a tenth slower.That ferrari was as quick as the lotus and for once i think alonso didn’t achieve the “maximum”.

    1. Sebee says:

      Are you thinking that Ferrari are giving Massa a better car (finally on par with ALO) so they can finally quantify how much performance value Alonso really delivers to the package?

    2. clyde says:

      I dont see why i would be a slap in the face to pat fry…Alonso is probably simply stating a fact ,the car simply isnt fast enough :-)

    3. anon says:

      I don’t see it as a slap in the face.

      I think Fernando is putting on a good front about his great relationship with Ferrari. He keeps saying that Red Bull have the better/faster car due to one guy, while Ferrari have the better team.

  8. Andrew M says:

    You saw a lot of Massa’s Q3 qualifying lap, as he was the only car on track at the time, and it was particularly scruffy – he definitely left some time on the table.

  9. Nandan says:

    Being a hardcore Fernando fan, I have to admit there have been a couple of qualifying mistakes. He got out of shape at the hairpin in India and not sure where he screwed up in Abu Dhabi.

    I would also stop short of saying his races have been perfect. For example, if he had stitched up both the McLaren’s on lap 1, he would have had a better shot at winning there. All he had to do was stay to the inside into the hairpin and brake earlier. Instead, they fought back and the Red Bulls got away.

    At Abu Dhabi, he screwed up the restart and was almost overtaken by Webber. Also, given the low degredation of the tyres, he could have possibly started pushing 2-3 laps earlier. Given the straightline speed advantage of the Ferrari over Lotus, he would have overtaken Raikkonen if he’d got the DRS.

    1. Sid says:

      Fair points but a few to note… Had he taken the inside like to turn 4, he’d compromised his exit and surely one or possibly both Mclarens would have gobbled and spat him out.

      On the restarts in Abu Dhabi, you can’t really blame him as even Hamilton had moment with his cold tires. It’s worth noting that the race is held in cooler temperatures at sunset, and not in hotter day conditions. Also have a look at Gary Anderson’s very good article that talks about Ferrari’s troubles in qualifying. It’ll help you understand why possibly Alonso got out of shape in India and not so stellar performance in quali in Abu Dhabi…. thanks

  10. Anil says:

    Every time they show an onboard of the Ferrari during qualifying, it looks absolutely horrible and Alonso looks like he’s using a hacksaw, not a steering wheel.

    In the race however it clearly looks much better.

    1. AndyK says:

      That would certainly seem to correlate with what gary anderson wrote on the BBC F1 site

  11. KGBVD says:

    Alonso is not a happy camper. What good is being the only [mod] at Ferrari if the team can’t put a decent challenger together?

    Ferrari, for the most part, knows a lost cause when it comes to a galvanizing lead driver. FA has tried really hard, and has deserved more than he has, but the FA/Dominicalli tree isn’t as fruitful as the FA/Briatore one was.

    Seb will take FA’s spot at Ferrari. FA will head to RB after watching his Ferrari career end Raikkonen-style.

    1. I hope Raikkonen goes to RB

    2. anon says:

      “Seb will take FA’s spot at Ferrari. FA will head to RB after watching his Ferrari career end Raikkonen-style.”

      It would be a cruel, cruel joke if Newey then follows Seb.

      1. James Clayton says:

        Newey has been approached by Ferrari umpteen times. Just after he joined McLaren I think was the first time they approached him.

        He doesn’t want to live in Italy, so he won’t go there. Also Red Bull is ‘his team’, he’d never get away with comments like “this has been a bit of a bogey track for me (not the drivers, not the team…) in the past” [montreal 2012] working at Feararri.

  12. Hung says:

    Anyone notice that Alonso’s car seemed to suffer from cold tires in the first few laps after start and restarts? May be his set up was a bit different to Massa’s and we could also see that Massa actually suffered more on old tires. Can it be a reason for Alonso’s poor qualify performance when the track temperature dropped?

    1. toleman fan says:

      Was anyone else surprised that Kimi -didn’t- have that problem?

      Cold weather pace and pace after restarts have been weaknesses at Lotus all season.

      James, have Lotus made progress on that, or was it just a combination of warm weather plus good technique from Kimi?

      Also, have you heard any more about whether the team have managed to get the steering any more to Kimi’s liking, and whether they expect more progress on that for 2013?

  13. MQ says:

    Could it be due to his problems warming up the tyres? He had some problems after the two safety cars.

    1. Yago says:

      Hi MQ, you are hitting the mark here. I just wrote a post further up on Alonso’s tyre warming issues this weekend.

      1. MQ says:

        Just read yours!

  14. Txema says:

    To be fair, in other GPs the track improved in Q3, but in Abu Dhabi, the track get cool through the qualifying because of the time. An improvement in Q3 usually mean being at a higher level in Q3 than in Q2,and not mean effect ot the track. So, it is possible that Alonso may already gave the maximun in Q2 and also in Q3

  15. Rockie says:

    I said this under the driver of the day comments section didnt know James was already preparing an article about it.
    Massa with the old spec Ferrari was on a flyer beforee he abandoned the lap also Hamilton or Vettel in the Ferrari would have won that race Alonso almost dropped it on the SC restart but people overlook that

    1. krischar says:

      Hamilton also nearly lost it after the restart. you should remember the facts not alonso bashing.

      Vettel would have won race in ferrari ? What are you talking about please have a reality check

      Webber made vettel look like ordinary. Now it’s twice in a row webber out qualified vettel. The most undeserving and over rated driver is S. vettel

      You people here do not like alonso fine. however you need to make sense. Again no alonso bashing

  16. shri says:

    Whatever it is they have now only 2 weeks to get a response. Given the advantage RB has over Ferrari, if Alonso has to win it has to be RB technical problem / breakdown OR upgrades that works and puts him at par with Vettel. Otherwise it is curtains in Championship fight. As much as I like this year Alonso win the championship but looks bleak.

  17. Hermann says:

    Hi James,

    Very good analysis but at the the end I think that everything boils down to one fundamental argument: the Ferrari wind tunnel built by Renzo Piano is obsolete. Montezemolo had said that he doesn’t build aircraft so he’s not prepared to spend 50 million euro for a new wind tunnel – after all sports cars for the market don’t need a lot of aero study, design is everything. Ferrari are currently using Dallara and Toyota (Cologne) wind tunnels. When they used their own, they dominated F1, now they have to decide what are their priorities – F1, market sports cars, wind tunnel updating ( to be done in the coming months)or competing with a beverage manufacturer which sells by millions every week (if not everyday).

    1. anon says:

      Well, Ferrari were very comfortable with hours and hours and hours of testing on their track pre-testing bans.

      Presumably (and I am presuming this), over a long enough period of time, the cost of such testing (on a discounted basis) exceeds the cost of building a wind tunnel + developing a car using that.

      If this is true, then Montezemolo should be willing to spend the money for a new wind tunnel. Also, if it’s true, would be interesting to know what the break-even point is (i.e., how many years before the upfront cost of the wind tunnel is recovered).

      If this is not true, then the testing ban does not make much sense.

      Of course, if one argues that having their own race track implies that track testing is much cheaper than wind tunnel development for Ferrari but that this is not true for everyone then it can make sense that a testing ban is good, with Ferrari being the sacrifice.

      However, it is not obvious that this is true.. if track testing is cheaper for Ferrari, presumably other teams can also lease track time without having to pay THAT much more than Ferrari maintaining their own track (in anything resembling an efficient market).

  18. Troppo says:

    There are very large differences between the car on Saturday and Sunday. In qualifying DRS malfunction comes too close to the limit; so he has less confidence, more risk and more to lose than any other.
    Look at Monaco where the risk is equal for all and may decide to rewrite.

  19. Mingojo says:

    I think Gary Anderson has explained it really well in his BBC column. Fernando has been outstanding the whole season with the machinery he’s got and many times has made the car look much better.
    His former team mate Lewis Hamilton is also praising him.
    Ferrari’s car is not predictable in corners, so that doesn’t give confidence to the drivers which affect the lap time. Please, look how much work Fernando and Felipe are doing in every single corner in comparison to the Red Bull and Mclaren drivers.
    In my opinion Fernando is doing miracles every Sunday at the moment to keep the WDC alive.

    1. AlexD says:

      Ihonestly hope that James will bring this up….ipeople should be able to better understand what equipment both vettel and alosno are using.

    2. JR says:

      Agreed, the Ferrari on boards on qualifying laps prove it, just check, the car moves everywhere under braking and traction on corners exit is very poor.

    3. anon says:

      Also, it was interesting to see that even Vettel was working the car a lot more than (his) normal in qualifying.

  20. Fireman says:

    I think that three points more was a good result. At least there’s two more weeks to get that new package working.

    1. db4tim says:

      I worry there is no way in he amount of time they have.

    2. Gate 21 says:

      Could have been more points if Massa wasn’t so determined to fight Webber instead of concentrating on keeping Vettel behind.

      1. Luca says:

        If things are going well by the time brazil comes around, hopefully Massa will be back on form – he tends to up his game for Brazil.
        Would be awesome to finish on a Ferrari 1-2 to steal 10 points off Vettel there. Just means FA needs to out score SV by one point in Texas.

  21. erik says:

    I feel that the problem is more the drivers than the car .Of course you can tune the car but basicly Ferrari is good as all the top teams. There is one very big problem, and this is overhyped driver. At one point Ferrari will fall to their own hype, about how they convinced themselves, what this guy can do. They are at the peak of the performence of the car, but they think that they have to make it better. If they don`t wake up, it all goes over the cliff.

    1. Mingojo says:

      Please, just watch the BBC forum. The pundits said Alonso is making this car look better than it is. Red Bull, Mclaren, Lotus are faster than Ferrari. Do you think Vettel would be only 10 points behind in the WDC if he would be driving a Ferrari this year?
      Alonso is driving better than ever and doesn’t have a dominant car, however he is bringing points to the team every Sunday.

    2. krischar says:

      @ Erik

      Over hyped driver ? Who ?

      Let me tell you this i have never seen any driver work the car like Alonso. He is fantastic driver

      What is the need to over hype any driver ? Nothing. True racers and greats will be stand out always. Fernando has been simply incredible and immense ever since his minardi days.

      Ferrari are a mid field team these days nothing more than that

      When did ferrari produced the quickest car ever since 2009 ? None infact all F10, F150 Italia and F2012 are rubbish cars (F10 is thes best among the worst)

      You do not like alonso fine. However you should know the reality and facts not stories

  22. Rob Newman says:

    For the second race in a row I said this. Alonso didn’t qualify well. No one from the team wants to say this in public and even some of the TV guys don’t say this.

    Ferrari also bought too many updates to Abu Dhabi. This is not a good thing as they don’t know if all of them will work in harmony.

    May be Austin will be better for them but I think it is McLaren who has found more speed recently.

    1. Luca says:

      maybe – but McLaren didnt have any major changes to the car 9at least none reported) and their car went around Abu Dhabi pretty well and RB were not as dominate as they had been at prior couple of races.

      I think there is still something in the track-to-track performace variations. Austin will be interesting as it seems to be a bit like Spa – graidents, long straigths and a twisty section. Perhaps RB will be on the back foot a little. Not sure if anyone has any insider knowledge on what the paddock thinks will be the expectations from the teams for US..?

      And perhaps the graident of the track will stress some of the older engines out there….

  23. Sammy says:

    After I read all comments I still have a question no one has mentioned yet: why did he start pushing and hunting down on Raikkonen that late in the race?
    Given the amount of time he gained in those last 5-7 laps I believe he would have catched Raikkonen if he started pushing a few laps earlier.
    Of course it has something to do with fuel load and tyre management but still I feel they lost a unique opportunity to overtake Kimi.
    Alonso is not an excellent qualifier in this Ferrari but when given a better car he will certainly eat Vettel alive.

    1. anon says:

      Of course, you’re assuming that it’s Alonso who particularly started pushing in the last 5-7 laps that led to the reduced deficit. How about that Kimi particularly eased off in those last laps and simply managed the race as much as possible? Specific lap times for Kimi and Fernando for the last 15 laps would be helpful.

  24. CRT says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks as usual for your insight. Not so common of you to directly criticise the performance of a driver without an obvious related incident! Most probably you are right in your point that Alonso didn’t maximize the performance in qualifying because usually some improvement is expected in Q3. Anyway I have a complementary point. The driver in pole, Hamilton, improved by 0.271s between Q2 and Q3. With a 0.271s improvement to his time in Q2, Alonso would have achieved the 7th position in the grid, yes, exactly the same he got. So my point is that it must be quite difficult to approach qualifying with that performance deficit!

  25. Robert N says:

    I am not a Ferrari fan, but maybe it is time to ban the use of DRS in qualifying?

    It does not serve any real purpose, and it creates a huge difference between how to run the car in qualifying and in the race.

    I understand that teams want to test the use of the DRS at some stage during the weekend, but they could do that during the three free practice sessions.

    1. BlackJackFan says:

      Totally agree – I have never understood why DRS is allowed, or even required, in qualifying. Remember when Mercedes had the DRS advantage and were regularly fast in qualifying only to slip quickly down the field during the race. The DRS-in-Qualifying simply wasn’t representative…

    2. James Clayton says:

      “Ban the use of DRS in qualifying”

      There’s two too many words in that suggestion!

      1. Luca says:

        the DRS is a massive drain on finance as it requires money being burnt to perfect aero, and its barely used in the race.

        now you have the advent of double drs, so more money on aero – its not the way to go for formula1 longterm, esp if you want to give the smaller teams half a chance.

  26. James says:

    If Gary Anderson is right about the DRS, then could the driver could shut it earlier before a turn? That would help the downforce going into each corner following a DRS straight, while the top speed would not be impacted too much.

    1. Spinodontosaurus says:

      Now that you mention it I do recall Alonso doing just that on a couple of occasions, in 2011 too.

    2. Mingojo says:

      But you lose time in the lap, in comparison with the drivers using DRS.

  27. Horno says:

    James,

    On this video there is clear evidence of a flexible noose of the Red Bull..
    It looks like its made of rubber..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JN0F5H29v0&feature=youtu.be

      1. rich gibbs says:

        yes. I remember watching that slo-mo. the wing was not so much bending down at the end plates as it was rotating in angle quite severely from leading to trailing edges… quite clever way to reduce drag while passing FIA test handily, IMHO.

  28. Sdsparacio says:

    James,

    Do you think the characteristics of the car dedicate qualifying versus race pace? Maybe he doesn’t have an ideal qualm setup because of them worrying of the race pace and tire degration?clearly the ferraris are struggling under the breaking zones but I think it’s because of the downforce levels they have to use. They know the sweet spot for that car

  29. anon says:

    “For example, Hamilton improved by 3/10ths from Q2 to Q3, the same amount as Raikkonen, Webber and Button, while Maldonado found 7/10ths. This would suggest that some of the shortcoming in Alonso’s case was the driver.”

    Or that Q2 reflected shortcomings of some other drivers? Or that they were being conservative?

    1. Gunther says:

      Fair question. Just that the Abu Dhabi track is very dusty and keeps getting better and better with each lap of rubber on it. Therefore, there definitely was a performance advantage to be gained in Q3 compared to Q2 as the track was more rubbered up.

  30. chris green says:

    i think there is little doubt that the ferrari has some shortcomings.
    i think ferrari have tried to take a short cut and dialed a lot of straight line speed in to the thing to overcome its –
    lack of downforce
    lack of low speed traction
    problems with tyre temps

    gary anderson has alluded to a few issues, craig scarab also made the comment that ferrari’s front wings are a little crude and underdeveloped.
    everyone seems to have forgotten about the front suspension set up which is contrary to the rest of the field and forces ferrari to run les than ideal front suspension geometry.

    in the last few years ferrari haven’t really been aerodynamically innovative. in fact montezemolo in particular seems to have a negative outlook regarding aero and f1 despite the fact that the cars travel upwards of 200mph!

    the fact that one of the team’s drivers has been missing in action for the last two and a half seasons doesn’t help. i don’t think any other top ranked team would have tolerated massa’s lack of form.

    ferrari throwing lots of parts at the car is an indicator that technically ferrari are bamboozled.
    if they can’t understand the problem they have little chance of finding a fix.

  31. holmes says:

    We saw a lot of mistakes from Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying too. LEAVE NANDO ALONE! LOL! :D

  32. Pitlane says:

    As a member of the Tifosi who has suffered harder times (from 1979 to 2000), I am not as worried about the end to this season but more about what is to come next year. We have spent two seasons without managing to get a hold on the correlation between the simulations, wind tunnel results, and actual performance. In addition, with all the efforts still being put into the F2012 there is really little hope for anything better when winter testing gets under way.

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