MAY 14, 2016
Ferrari puzzled by qualifying flop
By Luis Vasconcelos in Barcelona
Ferrari's lack of speed in qualifying puzzled everyone, as the Scuderia had high hopes of challenging Mercedes for pole position this afternoon in the Circuit de Catalunya. As it turned out, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel will line up on the third row of the grid for tomorrow's race, the Finn qualifying ahead of his team mate but running over 1.1 seconds slower than pole position man Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari had looked competitive right from the start of the weekend, Vettel setting the fastest time in FP1 - with the benefit of running soft tyres while the two Mercedes drivers opted to run with medium tyres - and Raikkonen was second in both Friday sessions, losing out to Rosberg by just 0,254s in the afternoon. Saturday morning provided further encouragement to the Scuderia, as Vettel was third quickest but just 0.147s away from Rosberg's best time, but in qualifying the red cars looked far from easy to drive and were never in a position to fight with Mercedes.
To make things worse for Ferrari, Red Bull suddenly found an extra gear and with Max Verstappen giving a hard time to Daniel Ricciardo, both youngsters got ahead of the Ferrari duo, monopolising the second row of the grid for tomorrow's race. Vettel was actually unable to match in qualifying the lap time he had done during the morning session and was at a loss to explain what had gone wrong: "For sure I didn't expect to be that far off, especially because this morning we had a good rhythm. I didn't get hold of the car, I didn't get the feeling that I had earlier today, and couldn't nail the laps. I don't think that it is a surprise, if you don't get it together here it can be quite costly, and we know this."
The German admitted, "we couldn't get on the window during qualifying", which seems to indicate he never got the tyres to the correct operating window, adding that, "at this stage we don't really know what went wrong - if it was something with the car or with the set-up."
Raikkonen, for his side, explained that, "my car improved with the changes we made after the morning session and I went a lot quicker. Obviously we aren't where we want to be and we don't know why the car didn't have the same grip, the same feeling, we've had in other tracks. We'll work hard to understand what happened and how to fix it for tomorrow."
According to sources from the team, the track conditions changed quite a lot from FP3 to qualifying, as the tarmac temperature went up from 28® Celsius in the morning to 44® Celsius at the start of Q3. But while the other teams were able to make the most of the increased grip available, Ferrari failed to follow the track and evolution and, as a consequence, dropped down the order and has seriously compromised its chances to be able to fight for victory in Sunday's race.