Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo left the circuit with 12 laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix still to go, missing the final sprint finish after the safety car, but having taken in enough to know that his team is once again in trouble.
The new hybrid turbo era has not dawned well for Ferrari, with Montezemolo forced to admit that, “To see this Ferrari is painful.”
Earlier the president had called F1 “Formula Boredom” and complained that the fuel regulations were incomprehensible and made for dull racing, where the drivers were forced to trundle around like taxi drivers.
Few would support those sentiments after Sunday’s race, a thrilling pageant of motorsport, which sprung up after two admittedly less than exciting races in Australia and Malaysia.
Was Bahrain a one off or will the new hybrid turbo formula spawn other races of this quality? Time will tell.
There was plenty of overtaking as teams went for different strategies, used the ERS in increasingly imaginative ways to attack and pass, the DRS was a powerful tool but by no means the only way to overtake and the conditions played to the strengths and weaknesses of different teams in terms of tyre degradation. It added up to a cocktail of racing which was hard to resist.
But the painful truth for Ferrari was that they were not at the races this weekend. Bahrain exposed the weaknesses of the Ferrari which are, lack of traction out of low speed corners, lack of top speed at the end of the straight and high tyre degradation.
It meant that the two world champion drivers Alonso and Raikkonen trailed home in 9th and 10th places, unable to compete with the Force Indias, Red Bulls and Williams cars.
The budget Force India outfit moved into second place in the Constructors’ Championship and its driver Nico Hulkenberg now lies third behind the Mercedes pair in the Drivers Championship.
Ferrari is the fifth team in the pecking order at the moment, although Alonso doggedly hangs on in the Drivers’ table in fourth place, largely through others not taking full advantage of their competitive situation, such as the Williams drivers, for example and the misfortunes of Ricciardo prior to yesterday’s race.
“I don’t like seeing Ferrari in this condition,” said an angry Montezemolo to the Italian media as he left. “The engine people at the factory need to work to make a big leap forward in quality. I didn’t expect much from this race, but I did expect a bit more than this. To see a Ferrari this slow on the straights is very painful.”
Montezemolo had travelled to Bahrain to meet with Bernie Ecclestone and with FIA president Jean Todt to discuss changes he would like to make to the rules, to improve the show.
But Todt was adamant that, apart from working on raising the decibel level of the sound, there would be no changes.
“This is not a banana republic, where someone turns up and says, ‘Let’s change.’ IF you want changes, it has to be done through the regulatory framework,” he said after the meeting.