Just three races ago at the Malaysian Grand Prix Ferrari seriously blundered by not sending Massa out for a second run in Q1 and so he was eliminated. Would you believe it, they have done it again in Spain with Kimi Raikkonen this time.
With the close qualifying and racing that we have had this year, you just cannot take any chances.
In Malaysia Q1 there was just 0.826 seconds between front runner Rubens Barrichello and 15th place drop zone marker Sebastien Bourdais, so you could understand Massa mistakenly thinking that he could safely stay in the pits and save a set of tyres for later. After such a disastrous blunder by one of the major teams and the “supportive attendance” of Ferrari top brass in Bahrain, you would think that it could not possibly happen again. But you would be wrong!
So where did it all go wrong for Kimi Raikkonen in the Spanish Q1?
On a lovely sunny 23C Spanish afternoon in Barcelona the first qualifying session began.
Unusually within five minutes over half the drivers were out on the track. A few minutes later Raikkonen ventures out and winds up for a fast lap. His first sector (22.7 seconds) is the fastest so far, then his second sector (30.8 seconds) is just 0.3 seconds slower than Vettel, the best man so far. His thirds sector (28.0 seconds) is again the fastest of everyone!
So… With a great first flying lap he is just 0.3 seconds off the perfect lap (so far!), and he is in 2nd position, just a tenth behind Vettel.
Massa followed him out of the pits on soft tyres and improved on Raikkonen’s first sector with a best so far time of 22.5 seconds, then puts in a second sector of 30.3 seconds, just a tenth behind Vettel. His third sector is another best so far time of 27.8 seconds.
Ferrari does it again… First flying lap of 1:20.759 seconds puts Massa in second, just four hundredths behind Vettel ‘s flying Red Bull.
After taking a breather on his next lap Raikkonen winds up again for a quick first sector of 22.7 seconds (same as before) and second sector of 30.5 seconds (0.3 seconds quicker). His final sector of 27.9 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker) for a total lap time of 1:21.291 seconds put him into a good 5th, 0.576 seconds behind Vettel and half a second behind Massa.
With the “job done” and comfortably in 5th with just 8 minutes remaining Raikkonen slows and heads back to the pits.
Meanwhile… Massa keeps pedal to the floor for his “breather lap” and winds up even more for another “fast one”. He goes faster than everyone in sector 1 and sector 2, then does a personal best for sector 3 which puts him in P1 with a lap time of 1:20.484. So he too slows and heads for the pits.
We all watch in anticipation as first Hamilton pops into P4 relegating Raikkonen to 6th and then it’s Kubica into P4.
With just two minutes to go Raikkonen looks “safe” in 7th, as everyone realises that to be sure of staying in they need to switch to soft tyres (which give about 0.6 seconds advantage over the hard tyres at Barcelona).
Then the whole field, running on softs, seem to pop into position ahead of Raikkonen. Alonso goes P5, Glock P4, Rosberg P5, Button P2, now Webber P2, Barrichello P5, Heidfeld P12 and Piquet P13.
With the session clock stopped Raikkonen is 15th and still in, but Trulli is still to complete his final lap. He beats Raikkonen by 0.1 seconds and pushes him down to 16th and out of the qualifying.
With Massa’s Ferrari in P1 and 15th placed Trulli on the relegation threshold just 0.605 seconds behind you simply cannot take any chances in Q1 anymore. No doubt there will be some explaining to be done at Ferrari.
Massa ended up 4th in Q2 and qualified 4th on the grid.
So, with the giant leap forward that Ferrari have made with their new interim semi-double decker diffuser, front wing, side pods and front suspension , we can only wonder where Raikkonen would have ended up, considering that he finished 2nd behind Massa in the practice session this morning.