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This year's championship is moving along at a fast pace, as after this Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, almost a quarter of the season will have been completed in the space of one month.
The cars, equipment and Ferrari personnel have all transferred from Shanghai to the Sakhir International Circuit, both venues being among the most modern facilities on the calendar. This year sees the sixth running of this race, which has been won three times by Ferrari, with Michael Schumacher at the 2004 inaugural event and for the last two years by Felipe Massa. Bahrain signified the arrival of Formula 1 in the Middle East and this year it is only the first visit to the area, as the teams return to this part of the world for the season finale at the new Abu Dhabi circuit. With support for the Maranello out coming from Mubadala and Etihad, this is an important weekend for Ferrari.
The team is preparing for the Bahrain Grand Prix in more or less the same condition in which it tackled last Sunday's race in China, as no new components will be on the cars this week. It will be the last time the F60 is seen in this configuration as work is progressing back in Maranello so that a new aero package, including a double diffuser, should be available when the series makes its first visit to Europe, with the Spanish Grand Prix.
"We have endured a very difficult start to the season," admitted Stefano Domenicali. "We knew we would suffer in China and in all probability, we will be suffering again here this weekend. After that, it is to be hoped that we will make a step forward as from the Spanish Grand Prix, even allowing for the fact that we cannot expect those teams currently ahead of us to wait for us to catch up and they too will be developing their cars further. However, the most important point is that the entire team and everyone at Maranello, is working very hard to extricate itself from this situation as soon as possible.
"We have no points yet and so the gap to the leaders is a big one," he continued, "but I want to make it very clear that we have absolutely not given up fighting for this year's championship titles. And why should we, when theoretically there are still 252 points available this season per team. Development will be ongoing, as it is every year and this will continue whatever the results over the next few races. Even if the situation was worse than this, we still would not give up because this is absolutely not part of the Ferrari philosophy and, with the same group of people we have now, we have fought back from situations like this, from situations which the outside world saw as impossible. The same group of people have won three of the last four titles available over the past two years."
As a team, Ferrari worked well in Shanghai, taking the difficult decision to run without the KERS system, which was the correct decision as there were concerns about the safety of running it and safety has to be the number one priority. In Maranello this week, engineers are replicating the conditions that affected the KERS system in Malaysia and China, to solve the problem. Engineers will continue this task through to Thursday, when a final decision will be taken regarding running KERS in Bahrain. The F60 is very well suited to running the energy recovery system, especially in terms of car balance and specifically for Felipe Massa, for whom there is less of a weight handicap. Therefore, everything will be done in the next few days to get the KERS validated again, so that the car can benefit from the very definite performance advantage it confers.
This weekend will not be Ferrari's first visit of the year to the Sakhir circuit, as it tested here in February when, despite losing a couple of days to sandstorms, it acquired valuable data about how the "new rules" car copes with the demands of this track on slick tyres. However, such has been the pace of development since that time, the figures in the notebooks cannot be regarded as an accurate guide of what to expect when free practice begins on Friday. Apart from anything else, temperatures are expected to be much higher than in February.
The results of the Chinese Grand Prix threw up some interesting points, not counting the fact that Red Bull Racing took a one-two: the previously all conquering Brawn team seemed to have lost some of its advantage and so too did the Toyota team which had been the other major force at the opening two rounds. "The lesson to be learned from this is that it is far too early to draw conclusions about how the season will evolve," concluded Domenicali. "That is further reason for Ferrari not to give up on chasing its aim of winning the titles."
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