2008 Malaysian GP preview: the Ferrari fight back

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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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. No way am I getting on one of these then.

  10. 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. 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
    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.

  16. The biggest blight on Ferrari was their balls up on startegy not calling Kimi in under safety car.
    It put him way back, out of position, BEHIND A TORRO ROSSO for goodness sake.
    Oh how they will miss Jean and Ross.

    BTW I have been predicting all winter (summer for me) that Massa wouldn’t be rubbish without TC. At the moment my foot is moving ever closer to my mouth.

  17. I think some of you guys are a little premature in declaring the horse dead

  18. I’m hardly Ferrari’s biggest fan but I’m amazed how quickly they’ve been written off. It seems that the lack of driver aids may have contributed to the issues in Australia, but I wouldn’t write-off last week’s favourites yet.

    If McLaren have an off-day on Sunday, we’ll be reading similar comments about Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton. Kubica hardly flattered, and BMW still finished second with Heidfeld.

    Any team with Michael Schumacher as an official test driver won’t be resting on their laurels for too long.

  19. Golden Condor
    19th March 2008, 9:43

    I was just looking through the McLaren standard ECU code and found this:

    IF engine.make="Ferrari" Then
    End If;

    I hope Ferrari find this out quickly. It was a great race at the weekend but it would have been even better if Kimi could have been in the fight with Alonso and Kovalainen right up until the end.

  20. A little premature to talk of a crisis, but a less than ideal start to the season, certainly.  Raikonnen, I think, genuinely expected to turn up and blow them all away, and became frustrated from Friday afternoon as he began to struggle with set-up.  I don’t think the departure of Todt has anything to do with it, but I do like the theories on both the paint-job and the Ethiad sponsorship… they stand up well I think!  If they have a worry, for me (and I hope I’m proven wrong) it’s Massa – he has struggled consistently throughout the winter and he was visibly not on top of the car this weekend.

  21. I just heard on tv that Malaysian GP is predicted to be on the wet. Prediction of heavy rain is until monday. Ausie GP could have been a very peaceful race if so. I have got the chillies on my back already.

  22. Well, if that’s the case, it throws all the dice back up into the air, doesn’t it?  What a fascinating weekend we have in store.

  23. I agree with Mark. Why in the bloddy hell was kimi staying all those caution laps? What couldv’e possibly been the long-term benefit from a stunt like that? And then as soon as green comes up, he tries that over-the-top dale earnhardt pass which promptly rolls him through the gravel.  I was waiting to hear about the whole thing being some kind of error in communication… a very silly mistake of some kind. But this conformation did not come. They must in fact just be running some kind of a mickey mouse operation there from Ferrari. And I’m not looking soley at the engine failures either, not when you consider just how many teams retired sunday. But if Ferrari does in fact act that sloppy the rest of the season, then yes…. they might as well give the title to Hamilton right now.

  24. Hmmnn? – Mclaren ecu!! – forgot about that- but could it make the car steer straight on at corners – make braking later and more erratic? – but never write ferrari off . After last years hoo hah it was nice(yes sarcasm) – roll on this weekend and if it is rainy we will see who can control a race car – ps just watched Grand Prix 1966 – on tcm tonight – rain at spa – the good old days – good film

  25. Everything might not have gone well for Ferrari last weekend, but they will be back. It is almost the same situation as the start of the 2006 season.

  26. Ferrari might have had problems last weekend, but they will be back. It is almost a similar situation as the start of the 2006 season.

  27. Jean(not The Toad)
    20th March 2008, 6:16

    Ferrari’s recent concerns with the Mclaren supplied ECU strengthens doubts I had in mind when first reading about this situation. Seems strange a supplier who is also a major competitor would be allowed to supply such an integral part to other teams. It did seem to work well for Ferrari during testing , though , so will be interesting what develops from it.

  28. Yes, Malaysian GP will be the one to watch for answers to these questions…

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