Ferrari arrived in Monaco on the back of their strongest performance of the season in Spain, where Fernando Alonso took victory and Felipe Massa third, but they left the principality with just six points and a missed opportunity.
Along with Mercedes, the Italian team were one of the favourites for the win and on Friday, the car looked very impressive. Both Alonso and Massa were able to take more kerb on the left on the entry to the Swimming Pool section which opened the corner out. In contrast, Red Bull and Mercedes were avoiding the kerb.
But the team dropped the ball in qualifying and on race day, with Alonso limping home to seventh – which would have been ninth had Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez not collided and dropped down the field – and Massa failing to finish after an accident which looked remarkably similar to the one he suffered in third practice. The second one was attributed to front left suspension failure.
Alonso said: “The main problem was the pace, we didn’t have the pace. Normally on Sunday we pick up the pace, this time we didn’t, and as part of that yes we did have different problems. The team informed me that we had a plastic bag on the front wing for ten laps which was taking aero performance from the front part.
“Then we had a piece of Sergio’s front wing underneath on the floor and we lost around 30 or 40 points of aero performance, and then it was off for the last three laps so it was some up and down in the performance of the car. But the first 30 laps until the red flag we didn’t have any problem and we were too slow.”
Alonso didn’t look himself on Saturday and Sunday. He has really struggled in qualifying all season and that was the case again in Monaco where he started sixth, behind title rivals Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel while Massa started 21st after the team failed to get the car fixed in time to take part in qualifying.
Unlike last year, Ferrari appear to have a very strong car but they’re not making the most of it and the mistakes are racking up.
They have now had three weekends in six where they have gone away with few or no points. In Malaysia, the team decided not to pit Alonso when he had a damaged wing while running second, but it broke off on the next lap and sent him off track and into retirement.
Then in Bahrain, Alonso was running second when his DRS jammed open. He pitted so the team could force it closed but on the next lap, the Spaniard made the mistake of opening it again and he had to pit for a second time, ruining his chances of victory.
In Monaco, despite looking good in practice, he never really looked like he had the pace to contend for a podium, let alone the win. Alonso also appeared to have less freedom than his rivals with his steering, taking a very wide line into the hairpin and at Rascasse which effectively left him open to attack to his rivals. Force India’s Adrian Sutil took advantage at the hairpin, while Button made his move at Rascasse.
And Alonso was forced to give up a place after the cutting the chicane while defending against Sergio Perez. The Spaniard added that he was wary of getting involved in a collision with a driver who had little to lose while he had an eye on the championship.
Alonso hinted that Ferrari was struggling for traction – an issue that is magnified on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo. He said: “We didn’t manage to have a good pace, as is usually the case on Sunday and I wasn’t pessimistic about not being competitive on Saturday, because so far, things have always improved in the race. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, maybe down to a lack of traction, a problem we had seen before in Bahrain.”
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali added: “It is important for us to understand why we were not as competitive as we were in previous races and try to react right away in Canada. Our aim is still to improve our qualifying and try to get back to the pace we had seen to date.”
While Ferrari struggle, their rivals Red Bull – who do not have the fastest car and have admitted that they are struggling to get the maximum out of their car with the current spec of tyres – are efficiently racking up the points with Sebastian Vettel.
Everybody was talking about Ferrari and Mercedes in Monaco and yet Red Bull left the principality with second and third. That enabled Vettel to extend his lead in the championship from to 21 over Raikkonen and a further eight over Alonso. In the constructors’ Red Bull now hold a 41-point lead over Ferrari.
And while Sebastian Vettel isn’t showing the kind of dominant form which saw him cruise to the 2011 title, he has finished fourth or higher – including two victories – in the six races so far this season. That is title winning form.
Alonso also has two wins together plus a second place, but he has a retirement, a seventh and an eighth place finish.