2008 Malaysian GP preview: the Ferrari fight back

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.