Ferrari believe they have a car capable of challenging for the world championship after taking the lead in the constructors’ standings following the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
A radio message to Fernando Alonso from his engineer said: “Ci Siamo” (“We are there”) after the Spaniard finished second, ahead of Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
That would suggest the Italian team feel they have a good chance of the title this year starting from this baseline which is much stronger than that of last year at this point in the season.
While Kimi Raikkonen was able to use a two-stop strategy to take victory in Melbourne, Alonso was the top performing driver to do three-stops and technical director Pat Fry believes the decision to do that strategy was the right one.
“Maybe we could have risked a two-stop strategy,” said Fry. “But given the unknowns linked to tyre degradation, we preferred not to do that. In the next races, it will be vital to understand the tyre behaviour, in order to choose the best strategies.
“We had a good race pace and both drivers performed well without making any mistakes but we are aware that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to continue to improve.”
Massa’s fourth position, combined with Alonso’s second place mean Ferrari lead the constructors’ championship by four points from Lotus at this early stage of the season and highlights the need for Massa to deliver consistently if the Italian team are to contend for both titles.
Team principal Stefano Domenicali refused to get ahead of himself after the strong result and highlighted that tyre management and strategy will be key to maintaining a title challenge.
“We need to be prudent because it’s only the first race,” he said. “There are so many things that will change in the next couple of races in terms of understanding race preparation, in terms of tyre management.
“For sure the strategy is always important. I put in front of everything reliability, because if you don’t finish, you don’t score points. For sure the championship this year will be very intense this year up to the last race, no doubt.”
Domenicali added the strategy in qualifying could also be key.
“We saw a car that started seventh and finished first, and a car that started fifth and finished second,” he added. “So that means that the situation of tyre management is crucial this year. But, if you are able to do that and be able to start on pole, it would be the perfect scenario.
“What could be an element of the year is to see quite a big gap between certain cars. Maybe the cars that will not qualify in the first ten will make a choice of tyres that can characterise the traffic during the race.
“This could be an element that may sometimes be in your favour or sometimes not. But it could be something that is a point of consideration.”
Alonso added that it was “a worry” that Raikkonen was able to do a two-stop strategy while his rivals were forced to do three, but the double world champion insisted he was happy with the result overall.
He said: “It is a worry, yes. Lotus did a very good job and Kimi was driving fantastically and could do two stops. But at the end I am extremely happy. We had an extremely difficult start to the season two years ago and last year and this year is very different.”
“Finishing ahead of the Red Bull tastes like a win, even if we know that despite today’s race result, they are still the quickest.”