Ferrari won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday without the majority of the new parts that the technicians had brought to Barcelona to update the car and only some of them were tried on Friday in practice.
Alonso and Massa found a good balance on Friday and felt that they had a good chance for the race and didn’t want to upset that.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the issue wasn’t that the new pieces failed to match expectations, it was rather that the rain in the morning limited the opportunities to evaluate them properly and the priority was to find a good balance on the delicate Pirelli tyres.
The updates used in Spain consisted of a new package of exhausts, diffuser and front brake ducts, to better control the temperature of the front tyres.
The work on the exhausts and diffuser was in order to improve the low speed mid-corner to corner exit downforce levels, which are important as they make up around 25% of the lap time. This is a big area for all teams at the moment, as is work to control the temperature of the front and rear tyres.
The new engine cover didn’t even get tried on Friday and stayed in the garage all weekend, while other parts will need to be tested further at future races, most likely Canada.
Alonso won the race, despite qualifying only 5th. He was able to use a great start, clever strategy and a fast race pace to claw his way to the front and drive away from the others. But he won’t always be able to do that – particularly not in Monaco so the first order priority is to improve their single lap pace for better grid slots.
This task is all the more pressing as it appears that not only are Red Bull superior in this area, but Mercedes have now taken three consecutive pole positions while Raikkonen’s Lotus outqualified Alonso for the second time in five races. As last year, fifth threatens to be the Ferrari’s default grid slot, unless something is done.
Ferrari’s dilemma now is how to improve the qualifying performance of the car Speaking after the victory in the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday Stefano Domenicali said, “The situation is quite clear; we don’t have to unbalance our car at the moment, but we need to do something about qualifying. We will have races where it will be much more difficult to overtake. Without unbalancing the fact that we have decent performance in the race, we need to improve the qualifying so that we have cleaner air in front of us.
“For me this weekend was important to understand what was the jump in terms of performance you could expect from the other teams (updates) because from now to the end of July you may see one or two big steps of development, no more. And then I would say some teams will be forced to try to start work on the new car because of the big challenge that it is.”
And of course the big unknown is how the Ferrari will fare on the revised Pirelli tyres from Canada onwards. JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan believes that there is no reason to suspect that Ferrari’s good work in thermal management will go to waste when on the new tyres, but that it is likely that their advantage will be reduced over rival cars with less good thermal management, due to the larger operating window of the tyres and the increased durability.
On another note, Alonso said in the FIA press conference that he wouldn’t care if he finished second in every race for the rest of the season as long as he won the championship. Domenicali agreed with this sentiment, giving an indication of the team’s priorities.