March 16th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Ferrari may have finished the Australian Grand Prix with both cars in the points, but the team and drivers are under no illusions about the work that lies ahead if they are to be championship contenders in 2014.
During pre-season testing, the Ferrari F14 T looked like one of the most reliable cars in the field and showed good enough pace to suggest that the car would be quick enough for a good points finish in Australia. That proved to be reality in the first race of the season, as both of the red cars made it to the finish and between them scored enough points to put Ferrari third in the Constructors' Championship after one race.
From fifth on the grid, Alonso gained a place when Lewis Hamilton retired his Mercedes, but lost a place to Jenson Button. He was frustrated to be stuck behind the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg for much of the race, but ultimately made it past on pit strategy to finish right where he started - in fifth position. Daniel Ricciardo's post-race disqualification promotes Alonso to fourth place and 12 valuable points.
Kimi Raikkonen was hit by Kamui Kobayashi's Caterham at the start of the race but suffered no damage as a result of the incident. However, some electrical issues that affected both cars during the race hampered Raikkonen in particular and he struggled for pace in parts of the race. In his first race back at Ferrari, Raikkonen finished eighth, but was promoted to seventh and 6 points by Ricciardo's disqualification.
Considering the massive challenge of preparing the cars for the start of this season, given the extensive technical changes that have been introduced in 2014, it would have been quite understandable if Ferrari had celebrated this result as a great achievement. Instead, the Italian team is emphasising the need to improve the car so that they can compete with the front-running teams. There is no celebrating what is on the face of it a more than respectable result. Rather the team is intensifying its focus in pursuit of better results as soon as possible.
Ferrari have not won a Drivers' Championship since 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen triumphed in his first season for the team. In 2014, given the resources of Formula One's oldest and most illustrious team together with the driver pairing of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari are very likely to be title contenders. After the season opener in Melbourne, it seems that all at Ferrari are determined to make that a reality.
This is what the team had to say after the Australian Grand Prix:
Stefano Domenicali: “The first race of the championship has provided a clear picture of the hierarchy at the start of season. It’s also shown which teams appear to have done the best job of dealing with these new regulations. Today, we achieved our objective in terms of reliability, but the gap we need to make up, especially to Mercedes, was clear to see. The information we have gathered this weekend clearly points to the direction we must take and what areas need the most work. It will be important to catch up as quickly as possible and react in the way this team has always proved capable of doing. Our engineers know what the priorities are and which areas need the most immediate attention.”
Fernando Alonso: “I’d have liked to start the season with a podium, but getting both cars to the flag is a good result, which can give us confidence, especially on the reliability front. I had some problems with the electric motor at the start and had to make a few changes from the steering wheel, but after the first ten laps everything went well. When I managed to pass Hulkenberg after the pit stop my pace was definitely better, although it was impossible to overtake. 35 seconds down on the leader is too big a gap and to work out what we need to do to close that gap, we will need to analyse the race, work out what are the strong and weak points on the car and with that in mind, the laps I did behind Nico can provide very useful information. We are a great team and I have total faith in our guys, because they did a great job today. We still have lots to learn about this new Formula 1, as the race was very strange and very difficult. But it’s only the start. We must concentrate on doing better in Malaysia.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “That wasn’t a straightforward race. At the start, I managed to get away well and even though I was hit from behind by another car at the first corner, my car was undamaged. The speed was good, but at one point I was suffering with graining on the front tyres, I had very little grip and a lot of understeer. From then on, the car’s handling was not the same. When it was time for the first stop, we had to do a double stop and that cost me a place. It’s definitely too early to make any definite judgement, because even if at the moment we don’t seem to be in great shape, we still managed to finish the race, scoring valuable points. We can’t be pleased with this result and we know there are many areas where we need to improve. But I’m sure that analysing the data from this first race will give us a clearer idea of the direction to work in.”
Pat Fry: “Going into this race, getting both cars to the finish seemed like the most difficult task, but in the end, we managed it. Today we saw how reliability can never be taken for granted: it caught some people out and it also affected our performance at some stages of the race. On both the F14 Ts, we had some electrical problems, especially on Kimi’s car, which meant he couldn’t use all the car’s potential. Fernando found himself behind Hulkenberg for many laps and he was only able to show what the car was capable of once he got ahead thanks to a spot on pit stop strategy. Kimi got a great start, but then for much of the race he suffered with graining on the front tyres and thus found himself having to defend, without being able to attack. There is much work ahead if we are to improve the car’s performance. We are up against several very strong opponents, but we have all the right tools to get the job done of closing the gap between us.”