Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali admitted to being mystified after team drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were beaten into second and third places by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in thes Chinese Grand Prix. He said there was a lot to understand before going to the final round of the World Championship at Sao Paulo, in two weeks time, with Massa seven points behind Hamilton.
"The thing that we need to understand, going to Brazil, is why and how this was possible, considering that in Singapore and in Fuji we were really fast, both in terms of quick laps and race pace," explained Domenicali. "For sure, this race was the worst, from the performance side, that have had this year in these conditions, together with Germany. The only point in common was that it was the same kind of tyres and we need to understand if that was the problem, but I don't think so. Sure, on the one hand, we were complaining that this weekend we didn't have enough grip to be competitive but also we didn't have the car handling in the first sector, above all.
"We cannot be in Brazil fighting - as we said at the beginning of the season - for the titles in the condition where our car is less competitive in these conditions, with such a big gap to our main competitors, to McLaren."
Domenicali paid tribute to McLaren. "This weekend our main competitors were faster than us. They maybe did a better job, but in any case they were faster, for sure. We have seen that right from Friday they had better pace and better quick laps. We saw today that they were not doing something special. They were simply much faster than us and this is the reason why I have to say that if you consider what we could achieve in these conditions, we achieved the maximum.
"Honestly today Lewis was in another league, he was driving perfectly, fast, consistent and we couldn't even think of attacking him. In our briefing this morning we said that we had to try to attack Lewis, above all at the beginning of the race, to see how the situation was, but we really couldn't do so because he was too fast."
But Domenicali refused to concede that McLaren is the faster car. "One week ago that was not the case. Two races ago, it was not the case. We need to understand why there was this kind of change on the performance side. We need to make a careful analysis to understand exactly the reason why we lost performance. This weekend, we were slower, the others were more or less consistent with their pace or their expected pace, so we were the ones that were not so strong to be honest. I don't believe that in one week all the others have made a step which we haven't, so it's something connected to our performance. This is why we need to work hard because we are heading into the last race of the season and we need to make sure that we do everything in order to make sure we have a good car for the last Grand Prix."
Domenicali said that the approach would not change even though the team's chances are really in the hands of others. "I think that the approach cannot change because on the one hand, our destiny is not in our hands, because to win the title with Felipe we need to win, first of all, and we need to see a not really good race from Hamilton.
"On the Constructors' side, the situation is different because we know that we have this margin which is not enough because you never know what can happen. You saw today that once again Kovalainen had a problem. He may have another puncture at the wrong moment so it's still open, but this can happen to all the four drivers that can influence the result of Drivers' and Team's championships. The only thing we can do is try to work very hard to try to understand the performance of the car. We don't need to panic because, as I said, only a week ago it was different, and to make sure that we working well, with the right concentration."
But the pressure is shared, said Domenicali. "I think that the pressures are on both sides to be honest. I was discussing that this morning with Martin Whitmarsh . We know that everyone is concentrated but terrified that something unexpected can happen. For sure, I'm expecting Lewis to think 'oh my God, I'm not expecting to have another difficult race.' On the other hand you may think that Felipe is doing the same, and we are doing the same as a team, so I think that in a way, it will be very important to keep cool, drivers' side and teams' side , and let's see what will be the outcome of both championships in Brazil."
Domenicali expects his Brazilian championship contender to be in a better frame of mind at his home race. "I think that today was the most tense race for Felipe because today there was the possibility for Lewis to win the champion at this Grand Prix. Considering the fact that he has seen that he was not competitive enough to beat Lewis today, and the fact that you never know about the reliability, you have to really arrive at the point where you say 'listen, OK, we've done what we could have done, the maximum.' So I am expecting Felipe to be more - I don't think it's correct to say relaxed - but more tranquil in Brazil rather than here, and I'm pretty sure that he will handle the pressure in a positive way."
Finally, at a Ferrari post race press conference, Domenicali was asked about the difference between this Chinese Grand Prix where Raikkonen let his teammate past, and Austria 2002 where Rubens Barrichello allowed Michael Schumacher to win. "This was completely different. You don't remember what happened in Germany and no one has complained, between Kovalainen and Hamilton? I know why you are asking that question so I am saying the same thing. You can ask the same question in that respect. Today was pretty normal, I would say. The drivers know the team's interest without saying anything. I respect what Lewis said in the press conference. Lewis said it's a team game and we did a good job."