x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Team title is Ferrari's consolation

A disappointed Felipe Massa looked like he was hunting for any crumb of comfort in Shanghai when he said: "It was not so fantastic but for the constructors' it is very good."

The Ferrari mechanics get to work on a pit-stop for their Brazilian driver Felipe Maasa.
The Ferrari mechanics get to work on a pit-stop for their Brazilian driver Felipe Maasa.

A disappointed Felipe Massa looked like he was hunting for any crumb of comfort in Shanghai when he said in the post-race press conference following the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday: "It was not so fantastic but for the constructors' it is very good. It is very important to fight for the constructors' and it was good thinking of that."

The Brazilian had just seen his championship hopes take a major dent as he was well beaten by championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who in his McLaren was the class of the field as he won his fifth race of the season. The Ferrari driver will go to the final round in Brazil seven points behind Hamilton, knowing he will need a major mechanical problem to hit his rival if he is to realistically be the champion.

It did look as if he was grasping at straws stating he was pleased that his second place and Kimi Raikkonen's third had boosted Ferrari's hopes of winning the constructors' title for an eighth time in the last 10 years. Eight points at Interlagos will seal that crown and the Italian team probably deserve it over the course of the year as a reward for arguably having the strongest drivers pairing on the grid at present.

Massa has raised his game this season and has been a worthy contender for the championship, while the world champion Kimi Raikkonen may have ultimately had a disappointing defence of his title, but his pace has been strong in patches and without bad luck he would have won more than just two races. Ferrari have an 11-point gap over McLaren and ultimately the British team are trailing because of Heikki Kovalainen's disappointing year.

Yes, the Finn has had reliability problems, but since a strong showing in qualifying in Turkey when he was second despite being heavy with fuel he has tailed off badly and has rarely pushed his team leader Hamilton in the latter half of the season. He inherited his maiden win in Hungary in August only thanks to problems for Massa and Hamilton, and his poor form was summed up in China. While Massa had the help of Raikkonen any chance Hamilton had of assistance from his teammate were ended after Kovalainen blew his last qualifying lap and could only line up fifth on the grid.

McLaren would have wanted Kovalainen to have started ahead of Massa and help protect Hamilton from Ferrari pressure. But in the race he was nowhere after being overtaken by the Renault of Fernando Alonso on the first lap and Hamilton had to rely on his pace to defeat his rivals, gaining only two points on Massa on a day when Ferrari had under-performed. Kovalainen will have to improve his performances if he is to remain in the good books of his McLaren bosses.

With talented drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil all looking to make a move to a top team, the man from Suomussalmi is going to be under scrutiny in the early races of next season. He can put an early marker down with a strong showing in Brazil on Nov 2 to help Hamilton win the championship. gcaygill@thenational.ae