Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ferrari hoping to 'close the gap' in China

(Scuderia Ferrari SpA via Twitter)
Ferrari head to this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix following a somewhat difficult start to their Formula One season. In the first three race's of the season, the team have failed to secure a podium finish and in Bahrain two week's ago both Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were well off the race pace set by the Mercedes powered teams.
As a result of their poor start to the season, team principal Stefano Domenicali announced yesterday that he had resigned from the team and was immediately replaced by Ferrari North America's President Marco Mattiacci, although with no prior motorsport experience it believed that he has been installed to the position on an interim basis.
The news of Domenicali's departure came as a shock to many but was not a terribly big surprise as the team are currently fifth in the Constructors championship which is what a team like Ferrari are mainly interested in as it is where the money comes from.
Fernando Alonso won last years Chinese Grand Prix with the Spaniard coming home just ahead of  his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen who, at the time was driving for the Lotus F1 Team. Lewis Hamilton was third for the Mercedes AMG Team.
The Italian team are hoping to at least close the gap to the current Formula One frontrunners like Mercedes, Williams and Force India. Alonso finished the Bahrain Grand Prix 32.5 seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton while Kimi Raikkonen finished the race 33.4 seconds behind Hamilton. This season there is a limited number of in-season testing days and during the first test which took place following the Bahrain Grand Prix Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was forced to end the test early due to damaged chassis.
Speaking to the teams official website about the upcoming race in Shanghai, Ferrari technical director Pat Fry had this to say:
'All three races so far have been won by the same team and therefore Fry is realistic about the Scuderia’s short term goals.
“We are naturally working as hard as we can on closing the gap to the top teams, with Mercedes having a reasonable lead over the rest of the field,” says the Englishman. “Currently, our first priority is to establish ourselves as the second best team. We are looking at all areas of the car – power unit, aero, suspension. We are trying to make as big a step as we can for each and every race.”
“China’s an interesting track with a good mix of corner types. It begins with the long slow speed corners early in the lap, then a mix of high speed ones in the middle sector, plus a very long straight, about 1.3 kilometres worth, where you need to tune the cars for maximum top speed. However, even with this straight, normally in Shanghai, you find yourself running more towards the top end of the downforce range and with that long straight providing the one real overtaking opportunity, I’m sure everyone will be looking to trade off speed to make sure you can both attack and defend.” There are other challenges in China starting with the long straight, which will ask questions of the still relatively new power units. The brakes will have a much easier time than in previous races, however tyres, particularly the rears, need careful looking after because of the loads imposed by all the very long corners.
The circuit in Shanghai has proven to be an extremely strong one for the Italian team as they have won here four time's in 10 years going to China. The victory this weekend may be a little bit ar away however they will certainly be hoping to bounce back from an extremely disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix and will be hopeful of challenging for at a least a podium to help them to make up at least some ground on their rivals.
It won't be until we get back to Europe next month when we will see where exactly the likes of Ferrari are in relation to their rivals. But they will certainly be hoping for a strong result from both drivers this weekend.
©Ben Johnston 2014

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