The Ferrari F138 confirms it is competitive at Sepang too

MyDrive | Maranello – Ten points was certainly not a haul that matched expectations and, above all, potential. Of course yesterday’s result was a cold shower – even if it’s hard to picture such a thing in the Malaysian heat – for Scuderia Ferrari after Saturday’s excellent qualifying. But it’s also clear that a detailed analysis of how the weekend went reveals plenty of positives, especially from a technical point of view. The competitive performance of the F138, which was already shown during the previous weekend in Melbourne, was confirmed on a circuit that is much more meaningful than the unusual characteristics of Albert Park.

It’s true that, especially over a single dry lap, there is still ground to catch up – particularly compared to Red Bull but also to Mercedes – but it was in race pace that the Scarlet cars showed their strength. That could also be seen yesterday afternoon when Felipe Massa put on his dry tyres. By then the Brazilian had already faced difficulties with the intermediate tyres, by contrast with the previous afternoon’s qualifying when the performance on wet tyres had allowed the two Ferraris to defeat all their opponents with the exception of Vettel.

To understand how good the Brazilian’s pace was you just need to take a look at the lap times. On the ninth lap, once the series of pit stops for cars to swap from intermediates to slicks was over, the gap from Felipe to race leader Mark Webber was 22”627: the final gap to winner Sebastian Vettel was just three seconds more (25”648). That means for 47 laps Felipe’s pace was at the same level as the winners, and no one can say that anyone was backing off at the front!

The second fastest lap time of all – set by the Brazilian when the track was completely dry – was another confirmation of the car’s performance. So it is easy to understand the bitterness felt by Fernando Alonso who, at the end of the race, declared that he could have won it. It’s true that it’s always easier to speak out with the benefit of hindsight: that also applies to all the criticisms directed at the team’s choice. But in a moment like that it was up to the pit wall to decide in a few seconds – based both on telemetry and the feel of the driver – to leave Fernando on track, even with a damaged front wing. There was a clear desire not to let the chance to stay in the fight for important points slip away thanks to the slightest of touches – a ‘kiss’, as Stefano Domenicali described it after the race.

The wrong choice, a gamble that wasn’t worth taking? Yes, but it was inspired by the knowledge that the team has a competitive car at the start of the season for the first time in years. That’s a lesson to bear in mind for the immediate future because certain errors must not be repeated – but it mustn’t cancel out how many good things came out of this weekend at Sepang.

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