This is Felipe Massa looking back across the wreckage of his Sunday afternoon. With a little commentary from me at the end.
Why did you start the race on the soft tyres?
“Now it looks very simple, but before the race we were looking at all the numbers, looking at the grip that there was on Friday and on Saturday, also at measurements we took of the asphalt on Sunday, as we have done in the past. It looked like the soft was the tyre to start on. Now we can see how the race turned out, it looks easy to see the tyre situation.”
What was the problem?
“Melbourne is a track where it was very hard to make the tyres work well. There was a huge difference between the soft and hard tyres. Here we had very low grip. The soft tyres didn’t work because they had good grip to start with, then after 5 laps they were destroyed. We went with them at the start, but they were just like they had been on Friday in practice. We don’t have a lot of experience with the slick tyres, they are not like grooves, where from Friday to Sunday everything changes with the track. It was very difficult also to make the hard tyre working.
How did you react when you realised that the soft tyres were the wrong choice?
“The team decided to put one car on three stops and leave one on two stops. Unfortunately I was put on three, then the safety car came out. So that wrecked my strategy. Nevertheless, I was behind Hamilton and he ended up 4th (before promoted to 3rd by the stewards) so there was something to be done there. But then I had a problem, which made the car steer to the right (turned out to be a broken upright).
How big a disappointment is the form Ferrari showed in Australia?
“It’s been a bad start, we expected to be competitive, not like the Brawn, because the Brawn has shown itself to be on another level. But we thought we were competitive. We did a qualifying lap which was close to the third fastest, so we were competitive with the others. But we need to work.”
Did Red Bull surprise you?
“Yes, they did. They surprised me a bit in qualifying, but especially in the race. They had a good pace. “
Where do you go from here?
“Last year was had one team that was competitive with us, and that was McLaren. This year you have one team that is on another planet and they will win the championship by half way through the season if it carries on like this. And then we have the others who are more or less like us, with very small margins. We can play with them, with development and so on, but not with the Brawn. “
Reading between the lines:
Felipe is pushing the Ferrari line about Brawn, hoping that the appeal against the diffuser will succeed. I think this is unlikely.
He and the team had got used to the track evolving over a Grand Prix weekend, to such an extent that grooved soft tyres, which don’t work in Friday practice, are fine on Sunday. He expresses surprise that the slicks don’t seem to work like that.
The team got the strategy call wrong, as he admits. They did a couple of times last year as well. In fact the safety car coming out for Nakajima’s accident helped the drivers who started on soft tyres, because it negated their lost time. It turned it into an advantage to have started on softs because you then had two stints on the better tyre. This is what made Kubica so competitive.
Bottom line: team mistakes and a car which struggled on the tyres are worrying, but academic in light of the fact that both cars broke down, which is perhaps even more worrying.