Alonso calls for Ferrari calm
Fernando Alonso points to a lack of downforce and top-end speed for Ferrari's dismal qualifying showing, but says the team will fight hard to turn things around.
Last Updated: 17/03/12 8:55pm
Fernando Alonso admits a lack of downforce and top-end speed are the problems which are currently holding Ferrari's F2012 back and they will now have to fight hard in Sunday's race to overcome their dismal qualifying result.
Although the Maranello outfit's Technical Director Pat Fry had all-but ruled out the possibility of the team finishing on the podium at the first race following a disappointing pre-season with their complex new car, few anticipated quite the level of trouble Ferrari found themselves in around Albert Park on Saturday as both their drivers missed the cut for Q3.
Alonso's demise was argubaly entirely self-inflicted after he uncharacteristically spun into the gravel at Turn 1 mid-way through Q2 at a point when he held the fifth-fastest time, although a chronic struggle for grip accounted for Felipe Massa setting only the 16th-fastest time.
Alonso will line up 12th - his lowest grid slot for nearly two years - and while he reckons he may have made the pole shootout had he not spun out, concedes the car didn't have the pace to challenge their usual rivals.
"It went like this: I got a bit on the grass under braking, the car took off on its own and I found myself in the gravel," he explained.
"I had managed to keep the engine running and was hoping the marshals would be able to push me back on track. I had done my time on used Softs: maybe with a new set I could have made it through to Q3, but I would not have been able to fight for the front rows.
"Today, we lacked performance, especially because we did not have enough aerodynamic downforce and we are still lacking in top speed."
The Spaniard says the silver lining from his qualifying travails was that he has more fresh sets of soft tyres available to him than is usually the case - an ace card he hopes will allow him to jump some of the runners in the top 10.
But with Ferrari a long way from their target of winning from the very start in 2012, Alonso concedes the team have a massive amount of development work ahead of them to get back to the front and have to make the best of the car's current competitiveness both this weekend and next, in Malaysia.
"Tomorrow we will be racing defensively and will try and do what we can, hopefully making the most of having four sets of new tyres," he said.
"Let's hope for a good start in order to catch those who are a few rows ahead of us and then fight with them to the end. Here, at the end of qualifying last year, we were 1"4 off the pace, while today, in Q2 it was 1", therefore hypothetically one could say we are more competitive than we were back then.
"Sure, there are other teams that have made progress, but I think we have plenty of room for improvement. In Malaysia, we will have the same car, therefore the situation won't change much. We will just have to see how it will adapt to the track characteristics there.
"It's true our target at the start of the year was to fight for the win right from the beginning and we have not managed that, but this will be a long season and all we can do is work on improving performance...There's no point getting angry as it does not serve any purpose."
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali has called on Ferrari's fans to not give up on the team this season, insisting the team will work diligently to turn the situation around as quickly as possible.
"Everyone had been waiting for this hour of qualifying to understand what the pecking order would be: we knew it would be tough for us and that's how it went. I understand that at the moment, our fans are disappointed, but I would urge them to be cautious before making any definitive judgement, as if everything was already over. We need to remain calm and concentrated.
"We have a lot of work to do and our engineers are well aware of that, as indeed they were before even leaving for Melbourne. The season is going to be very long, just as tomorrow's race will be long and hard. Given our grid positions, the realistic aim is for us to get both cars into the points. As usual, we will do our utmost."