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A one-man mission? Ferrari's mid-season report 28 Aug 2012

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 25 March 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday, 24 June 2012 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday, 24 June 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations Day, Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, 26 July 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 27 July 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 9 June 2012

When you’ve hit such historical heights and boast an unequalled level of popular support, fourth in the constructors’ championship is not great news. But given the F2012’s difficult inception and the fact that one driver - Fernando Alonso - has completely dominated the other (Felipe Massa), fourth isn’t too bad for Ferrari. Without Alonso - currently leading the drivers’ standings by 40 points - on their books, it could have been lot worse. As it is, the Italian team have made the best of a poor start and with their radical car gradually coming into its own, their title hopes are still very much alive…

Season in numbers
Constructors’ standings:
4th, 189 points
Drivers’ standings: Fernando Alonso (1st, 164 points), Felipe Massa (14th, 25 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 1st (Alonso - Great Britain and Germany)
Highest 2012 finish: 1st (Alonso - Malaysia, Europe and Germany)

Car
After two frustrating years of Red Bull dominance, Ferrari designed the F2012 to be deliberately aggressive. But whilst the car was radically so in concept, it was horribly unwieldy in reality and started the season significantly off the pace. Over the first few races, its shortfall to rivals was obvious and it was only by swooping in when unusual conditions presented themselves - like Alonso did in Malaysia - that the team had any chance of victory or even points’ finishes. Back in Maranello, the design department worked day and night to make amends, coming up with new ideas for upgrades and even putting together an entirely new exhaust concept, to extract the most out of their troubled creation’s ever-increasing potential. Slowly but surely the car has started to transform from lame duck to a true prancing horse. But with the deficit to the faster cars still very much apparent in Hungary (Alonso qualified almost a second off Hamilton’s Budapest pole time), there’s plenty to be done.

Team
Ever since changes in regulations limited testing and then instituted a new tyre manufacturer, Ferrari have been somewhat out of step. It’s possible, however, that this poor start to the season - and, more importantly, their subsequent impressive recovery - may well have spurred the team on to finally lay to rest the Brawn/Schumacher glory years and rebuild a new empire, with Alonso at its helm. Pat Fry, who took over from Aldo Costa as technical director (chassis) last year, has introduced a great many organisational changes, which will no doubt bear fruit over the coming years. The difficulties faced by the Scuderia this year have also led to some criticism of team principal Stefano Domenicali, but with the turnaround now in full swing Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has bestowed his full support on the affable Italian. They are a team on the mend.

Drivers
Alonso has been phenomenal this year. Repeatedly beating far superior cars in his hard-to-handle F2012, the Spaniard went on his summer break, safe in the knowledge that he is leading the championship by 40 points. Taking brilliant advantage of every opportunity and never letting his eyes veer from the prize, the 31 year-old has extracted everything from his machinery and has galvanized the Ferrari team behind him. Massa, by contrast, is a man under pressure. Languishing 14th in the drivers’ table and yet to qualify or finish higher than sixth, the Brazilian has been hung out to dry by a team mate who has won three races and taken two pole positions. He knows there’s a very real chance he may lose his Ferrari drive this year.

What they say: “There’s a lot of very strong competition who are just waiting for us to drop the ball and it’s down to us to disappoint them.” Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director

What we say: What Alonso has achieved this year has been remarkable. The drivers’ title is more than within his reach, but in terms of the constructors’ crown, he can’t do it alone. He needs his car - and his team mate - to work with him.

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