To say that the 2009 season has been hard on Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, and everybody at Scuderia Ferrari would be an understatement. While we all knew the re-written technical rulebook would mean struggles and growing pains for all the teams, no one expected Ferrari to hurt as badly as they did.
They unloaded in Australia, though not as fast as Brawn or even Red Bull, but there was nothing that said they were “off the pace.” Massa and Raikkonen qualified sixth and seventh, and Massa ran near the top three (and easily could have had a podium) until the car failed him. Raikkonen fell victim to the car’s twitchy nature and spun off.
It was a weekend the team didn’t enjoy, but they didn’t look terrible. However, it was indeed a sign of things to come. Whether it was from a lack of pace, uncharacteristic errors, or both, points did come for the scarlet cars until Bahrain.
Massa and Raikkonen looked off form, and the team was making radical calls to move up the grid (see Kimi Raikkonen’s stint on wet tires in a then dry Malaysian race). Oh, and the team’s miscues in qualifying (not running either driver late in some Q1 sessions), and in the race (not giving Massa enough fuel in Spain), weren’t helping.
Even engineer Chris Dyer admitted some of the team decisions were stupid. “Sometimes, you make a decision. And a couple weeks later, you go ‘What were we thinking?’” Clearly, something was missing in Maranello.
But, like all great teams do, they began to get things sorted out. For all the team problems with calls and strategies, the car’s pace was solid. If not for the late-race fuel saving, Massa would have secured a fourth.
Two weeks later in Monaco, Raikkonen and Massa brought the cars home third and fourth. Things are looking up for the Maranello boys.
Of course, Kimi Raikkonen was doing his best to keep it all in perspective. “The Monaco weekend was a step forward as far as the result is concerned, but we have to be patient: I know that our fans want to see us winning immediately, but we have to be realistic," he said on Ferrari’s Web site.
For sure, nothing is guaranteed. But when you look at the history of the Turkish Grand Prix, you’d be hard-pressed to say that neither driver can win.
There have been four races held at Istanbul Park. Only two drivers have record poles and victories: Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, the latter having three straight of each. I think you can say this track is a playground for these two, especially for Massa.
If history is worth any merit, it’s a safe bet that Ferrari will put up a good fight against Brawn this weekend (even if it’s hard to say Button and Brawn won’t continue their dominant form). But Ferrari appears to be back on form.
Turkey presents them with their best chance yet to get their season firmly back on track with a win. Will it lead to a jump-start in their title chase? Well, not necessarily. They trail Jenson Button by 42 (Raikkonen) and 43 (Massa) points respectively. That’s a deficit not even Michael Schumacher could make up.
You never should say “never” in auto racing, but I feel comfortable in believing that neither Ferrari as a driver nor Ferrari as a constructor has a hope at this year’s championship.
But there are still wins and pride at stake. Plus, the further up in the standings you are, the more money you get at season’s end. Titles are out of reach, but more point money isn’t.
Watch out for the Scuderia this weekend. If there’s a team that could dethrone the all-conquering Brawn team, it just may be this one.