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GP Week : Issue 146
T he Ferrari – the blandly-named F2012 – had been unloved from the start. They said it was ugly. They said that it wasn’t kind to its tyres. They said – shouting the forbidden word from the rooftops of Maranello - that it was slow. Lenta. Fernando, lean and cool, Mr Ferrari Driver for evermore, kept his head. There would be improvements. There would be changes. And there would be days when the rains came, or the winds blew - and suddenly, regardless of his car, he could again be a racing driver. In Sepang, sweltering in the humidity and the heat, the weekend began calmly enough. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa (now in the spare car, chassis 294) worked their way through the jigsaw- puzzle of new aero bits that had been flown, post-Melbourne, to Malaysia. There were so many tests for so little time ... No-one expected a breakthrough but there was a stabilizing sequence, a structure, to that first day of running. There were no real mechanical glitches. And the drivers kept their cars on the island. And that was aside from the Pirelli compounds they needed to evaluate. Fernando finished Friday P6, Felipe P16. After Melbourne, the shock factor had evaporated. Saturday morning – FP3 – passed in a similarly perfunctory way. There was even talk, not quite persiflage, amongst the mechanics as they prepared the cars for qualifying. “We’ll be home by Tuesday. It’s been about a year since we left...” And qualifying, too, was relatively straightfor ward, although on both the hard Pirellis and then the mediums, Fernando found a much more accommodating chassis balance. He could flick in the front through Turn Five and now actually have a back end he could feel. Live with the throttle just long enough to have the right rear slip into oversteer – then it was a quick flick the other way, for Turn 6, and a nice, clean exit. Fernando’s in-car body language said it all. There were no mid-corner jinks, as in Melbourne. At Sepang, on Saturday, the Ferrari looked much more fluid. Fernando’s KERS unit gave trouble in Q3, so for a real downforce comparison we could only look at Q2, when the Ferrari’s balance was still good and the tyres were the option Pirellis. Best lap? 1min 37.3sec – a lap only 0.2 sec slower than, say, Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren MP7-27, slightly quicker than Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and virtually the same as Mark Webber, in the other Red Bull. (The Ferraris were almost as slow as the Red Bulls in a straight line, too, which was also indicative of some decent, drag- inducing downforce.) Sure. The Ferrari was not a pace-setter (Kimi Raikkonen was actually quickest in Q2 in the Lotus E20-Renault with a 1min 36.715sec). What the Ferrari was, though, was up there. The KERS issue dropped Fernando back to P9 in Q3 (P8 on the grid with Kimi’s gearbox-change penalty) but Fernando could return to Pan Pacific Hotel on Saturday night in the knowledge that he had some sort of race car for Sunday. And, with the late race start (16:00 local), there was half a chance that the weather might also do something nice. Like rain. Indeed. A “change in climatic conditions” said its textbook understatement as the cars rolled into place on the grid. Umbrellas coloured the grandstand. And all but the HRT drivers decided to start on Pirelli intermediates. Fernando made a clean start, moved to the right to cover Sergio Perez’s Sauber, then back to the left again – for the outside line at Turn 1, where he could brake later, avoiding the traffic jam. No surprise here: there’s about as much chance of Fernando ever taking FERNANDO, LEAN AND COOL, MR FERRARI DRIVER FOR EVERMORE, KEPT HIS HEAD. Lewis led intially, but Alonso came through mixed conditions the best ... " 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> MALAYSIA