Many questions were raised during the Formula One off season of Ferrari and McLaren. While fans worldwide were either rejoicing in, or recovering from the results of the 2008 season; none of them were expecting to be nervously awaiting answers to the types of questions plaguing them in 2009.
McLaren's lackluster pace in testing had their supporters questioning whether or not the team was sandbagging. This question was put to rest during the practice and qualifying sessions at Albert Park. It became clear that McLaren has a lot to work on throughout the course of the season.
Ferrari was looking strong in early testing but their pace was eventually overshadowed by various teams. In addition to that, the worrying questions regarding their reliability that many believe cost Felipe Massa the 2008 title only intensified after Kimi Raikkonen's car lost hydraulic pressure in Saturday practice and Massa was forced to retire early on Sunday with what looked to be power steering issues.
The various questions in the minds of both Ferrari and McLaren fans eventually funnel down to one. Can they get back on top this season?
As I stated in one of my previous articles, most often teams and drivers will shed little light regarding their opinion on the severity of their situation when they face difficult times but that does not seem to be the case with Felipe Massa as he has forgotten to sugarcoat his comments thus far in the season.
Massa was quoted saying the following regarding his team's current position.
"It was not so easy on the race." "If you take the whole race, we had the Brawn which was in another planet, then we had the Red Bull. Vettel was quite strong, quite a good pace, maybe a bit better than us. Then we had Kubica who was also competitive. I think we are in the middle of these teams."
When asked if he thought his team could catch the pace of the front runners he replied
"I don't know if it is possible. When you are three or four tenths behind it is always possible, but if it is a second then it is quite difficult."
"We need to improve very quickly the car. But in my experience when we see a car that is one second in front, to improve one second from one day to another is very difficult."
If Massa is so sceptical about his teams return to the front then McLaren, being even further behind certainly has very little chance through his eyes.
To add contrast to the situation, Brawn GP's budget, although expanding with the addition of their new title sponsor, is limited in comparison to that of the other teams so catching up to their pace remains a possibility, although a distant one according to last year's WDC runner up.