Ferrari’s 2014 season woes continued in Austin with Kimi Raikkonen finishing 13th and a lap down on winner Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso struggling to make any progress from his sixth-place starting position, finishing 95 seconds behind the race winner.
Raikkonen’s race was hurt by the need to stop three times, with the Finn complaining of unmanageable understeer which led to heavy front tyre degradation. To make matters worse, the Finn afterwards told reporters that the neither he nor the team have been able to pinpoint the cause of the persistent issue.
“Here was again one of the most difficult weekends,” he said after his worst finish of the season so far. “Japan was similar – we fight with understeer the whole weekend and whatever we do we can’t seem to get rid of it. Then you can expect in the race to destroy the front tyres.
“To try to drive slowly in certain places didn’t make any difference so I don’t understand it really,” he added. “Wherever we finished it’s pretty disappointing. Not being able to solve certain issues is frustrating. Hopefully something comes up and we find what the issues are.
“I appreciate some help and obviously we try to help each other to fix these issues, but if we knew the issue it would be easier to solve.”
The frustrated Finn concluded: “Obviously I hate the situation the way it is and the way things are going, and I cannot solve it by myself.”
The numbers don’t look good for Raikkonen: he has just 47 points, an average of just 2.7 per race and is 102 points behind Alonso, a far greater deficit relatively speaking than Felipe Massa had to the Spaniard.
Alonso, meanwhile, continued to spare his team’s blushes, racing to sixth place at the flag from the same place on the grid, but the time gap not only to Mercedes, but 70 seconds to the leading Williams was a source of great dismay.
The Spaniard was caught cold by a great overtaking move from Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo early in the race following a safety car period but thereafter consolidated his position and banked another eight points to bring his season total to 149. That puts him on the same points as fellow struggler Sebastian Vettel, though behind the German in sixth in the driver’s standings by virtue of previous results.
Yesterday, Alonso complained of severe vibration from his final set of tyres in the closing stages of the race as he held of a challenge from hard-charging Vettel to finish just half a second clear of the Red Bull man.
“I had huge vibrations on the tyres for the last two laps,” said Alonso. “I could not even see the track, basically. I tried to control the pace. I was asking for the gap from behind to cross the line just in front of them.
“But then Vettel overtook [Kevin] Magnussen and there was no time to save any more so on the last lap I was flat out with huge vibrations.”
The result was solid but hardly inspiring from a Ferrari point of view and the Spaniard admitted that he had finished where expected.
“It was a race as we expected; not easy, not competitive as we were not competitive over the rest of the weekend. We did a good start, but after that we could not follow the first five cars and they disappeared very quickly.
“We just tried to control the people at the back, they were doing some different strategies after stopping on lap one when the safety car came out. We just need to control the pace a little bit and then secure this sixth place that was important.”
And his assessment of his team’s chances in the remaining two round was similarly bleak.
“We were struggling over the weekend but we were also doing that in Russia and a little bit in Japan as well. We just need to keep scoring points because the constructors’ championship is still there and we have some fights.
“We thought we had lost too much with Williams and we will be in the middle of nowhere for the remaining races, but now McLaren seems to pick up the pace so we cannot afford to not score points.”