Ferrari updates fail to hit the qualifying mark in Abu Dhabi
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.

Featured Innovation
technical innovation from tata COMMUNICATIONS
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

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.


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


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.


“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?


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.



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



On this video there is clear evidence of a flexible noose of the Red Bull..

It looks like its made of rubber..


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.


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.


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


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


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.


“Ban the use of DRS in qualifying”

There’s two too many words in that suggestion!


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.


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…


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!


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.


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.


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.


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….


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.


@ 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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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).


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).


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.


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


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


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


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


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


Just read yours!


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?


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?


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.


“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.


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.


I hope Raikkonen goes to RB


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.


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


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.


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


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.

Top Tags
SEARCH Innovation