Ferrari are left lagging behind
ISTANBUL // The Turkish Grand Prix ought to have been a memorable event for Ferrari as they participate in their 800th world championship grand prix. The Italian team is the only one to have been present every season since Formula One's creation in 1950, but it will need a sizeable slice of luck to take anything away from their landmark event.
Felipe Massa lines up eighth today, while teammate Fernando Alonso - the Red Bull drivers' closest challenger in the world title race - will start only 12th. "We're not back there because something strange happened," Alonso said. "We're there because we deserve to be. It's very simple: we aren't fast enough and are probably only the fifth fastest team at the moment, behind Red Bull, McLaren, Renault and Mercedes."
Alonso failed to make it into the final part of qualifying yesterday, but denied that a wheel-locking moment on a crucial lap was a significant factor. "At that point, I was already slightly slower than my previous best time," he said. "I was simply pushing a bit too hard in an effort to compensate." Alonso expects Canada - a cocktail of long, fast straights and slow corners - in two weeks' time to suit Ferrari's F10 chassis better, and beyond that a significant upgrade is due in time for the Grand Prix of Europe, in Valencia.
"Hopefully," he said, "that will enable us to start challenging for pole position again. In the meantime, we just have to score as many points as we can and hope that the Red Bulls don't get too far ahead, although that is obviously not something we can control. "We all had high expectations at the start of the year, but obviously there are going to be some weekends when we'll struggle - that seems to be the same for most teams."
Most, that is, bar one. The short-term outlook is mildly brighter for Vitaly Petrov, grand prix racing's first (and, so far, only) Russian. Petrov is driving for Renault, the team Alonso left at the end of last season, and unlike the Spaniard he made it through to the final part of qualifying yesterday - a career first. "That was great to see," said Eric Boullier, the team principal. "He has been close to [teammate] Robert Kubica's pace all weekend and has not put a foot wrong."
Istanbul Park is notorious for empty grandstand seats, but it is a popular event with Russians because the entry visa process is unusually straightforward compared to some other countries they may visit. There is no need to queue at embassies or send letters to government departments - they just pay a small fee at the airport upon arrival. So far Petrov's every passage has been loudly cheered by significant pockets of support within the modest crowd.
He is beginning to get to grips with F1 - and the same is true of his nation. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: May 30, 2010 04:00 AM