2008 Malaysian GP preview: the Ferrari fight back

Kimi Raikkonen, Melbourne, Ferrari, 2008, 470150

Australia was an unmitigated disaster for Ferrari, and the Italian press left them in no doubt of that.

Tuttosport said: “Raikkonen was a shadow of himself and Massa [was] inattentive. Not since 1992 has Ferrari started a season so badly.” They pointed out that it was the team’s first race without Jean Todt (who joined in 1993).

The drivers made mistakes, the team made mistakes, the cars were slow in qualifying, and unreliable. Can they fix all these problems in just seven days?

New team boss Stefano Domenicali urged the team not to over-react following the debacle at Melbourne and focused his attention on what he thinks is the biggest of the team’s problems:

The main concern is to understand the reliability problems. We had two engines fail so this is the main issue to understand.

Engine problems halted not only Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa but also Sebastien Bourdais in his Ferrari-engined Toro Rosso. But Massa suggested Ferrari don’t know what the problem is – only what it isn’t:

It wasn’t the temperature that affected our engines, it was something else which we need to discover very quickly.

The engines that failed in Melbourne have been returned to the team’s base in Maranello for further study.

What about long-term problems? Few expect Raikkonen’s bizarrely off-colour performance to be any more than a one-off: even Michael Schumacher had his off days, after all.

But Massa’s detractors are far greater in number, and those who said he would struggle now traction control has been banned (a luxury he has had through his entire F1 career) probably felt vindicated when he speared off at the first corner in Melbourne.

Team organisation is the other concern. Todt has not only left the pit wall but also his role as CEO. But if he had been running things last weekend instead of Domenicali would Raikkonen have left the pits to qualify with an incorrectly set fuel pump? And would the team have missed their chance to bring him in to refuel on race day under the second safety car?

Was Ferrari’s shocker in Melbourne just a bad case of opening night jitters? Malaysia will give us a clue about the direction the Scuderia is going in 2008.

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28 comments on 2008 Malaysian GP preview: the Ferrari fight back

  1. Derek said on 18th March 2008, 21:23

    I just heard that Jean Todt has quit Ferrari. Is this rats deserting a sinking ship??

  2. I think it’s Luca kicking out Todt, nothing more.

  3. Steve said on 18th March 2008, 21:34

    I’m so glad someone has some perspective, saying wait until the next race to see the full story.

  4. And there I was thinking Jean Todt had found a nice stable platform on which to go into a life of relative ease…

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th March 2008, 22:33

    Here’s a thought: the car looked great (in both senses) in winter testing when it had its proper paint job on. But this ugly thing with the daft white lines and the blank rear wing performed as good as it looks. The paint job’s the problem.

  6. Scott Joslin said on 18th March 2008, 22:41

    Ha ha Keith! But perhaps he has good logic, I mean look at Honda’s turn in fortunes since they ditched their terrible paint job and Renault have been rubbish since they went all orange on us.

  7. M Smith said on 18th March 2008, 23:17

    I actually really liked Ferrari’s paintjob. Yes, the daft white lines are stupid, but the blank rear wing and nosecone is lush imo!

  8. The photograph used actually tells the whole story of Ferrari’s sudden decline, Keith.  Notice that the rear wing now proudly carries the logo of Etihad – and which team last bore this interesting inscription?  Why, none other than Spyker, so recently the no-hopers of the F1 grid.

    It’s a jinx, I tell you, a jinx!

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th March 2008, 23:33

    No way am I getting on one of these then.

  10. Pink Peril said on 19th March 2008, 0:02

    I dunno. The tyre debacle at Fuji last year was on Todt’s watch. I think it is the loss of several key people – Stepney among them.
    Alonso better hope Renault improve this season – something tells me he will not be so keen to be Maranello bound in 2009 if Ferrari continue like this.
    And is it just me, or does the white paint on the Ferrari look like a barcode? Like you have scan and pay for it on the way out ;)

  11. Daniel said on 19th March 2008, 0:46

    Well, at least it’s a funny coincidence that Raikkonen’s "off-day" came precisely at the first race without driver aids…

    You might say "they’re all getting used to it, so the second half of the season will determine who’s who" and I must concede, but let’s wait and see how both drivers will perform from know on…

    As for the car, they should get worried, because Massa was 4th (0.4s off pace) on qualifying only because Heidfeld made mistakes and was heavy… and Raikkonen’s fastest lap was also 4th, also behind a BMW, and 0.5s off pace…

    I except to see them battling with BMW at least in Malaysia… as the season progresses, probably they’ll get better…

  12. So do you think Force India would have more luck if it put the pre-launch livery back on, then? They could certainly use some…

  13. Why was LeToad unceremoniously if respectfully removed from Ferrari duties? Why to clear his ascension to FIA president when Max calls it a day in 2009.

    What think you all of THAT possibility? Scares the beejabbers out of me!

  14. Oh yeah, the dorsal fin paint job makes it look like a  market bar code, at least in your photo. Go Marlboro or nothing at all.

  15. theRoswellite said on 19th March 2008, 4:07

    Hey, some perverse reasoning behind the "paint as indicator" proposal….if the powers that be, in any organization, become so removed from the direct, hands-on, decisions that go toward the creation and functioning of a team/car that they can’t even get the thing painted in an acceptable way, what chance do they have of always getting the fuel pump adjusted properly?  Just a thought.

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