Felipe Massa was left to rue a strategic decision that saw him run only two flying laps in his Ferrari during the first segment of qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix today.
That decision proved costly as the Brazilian was bumped out of the top 15 in the closing seconds of the first qualifying stint, causing him to miss out on the final two qualifying segments and to start a lowly 16th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Massa shone during practice for the race, posting the second and third best times in the final two sessions, and the team mistakenly believed his initial laps at Sepang during qualifying would be more than adequate to progress to Q2.
“I went out straightaway on a new set of soft tyres. It was a reasonable lap but not a perfect lap because I ran wide on turn 14. I improved on my second timed lap and the team thought it would be enough to be in the top 15,” Massa explained.
“Maybe I thought so as well to be honest, because when I got back to the pits I was fourth.
“I stayed in the top seven for a while but when I started to drop, it was impossible to go out again because there was no time to do another lap.
“I think that the track improved a lot. With the temperature going down, many people improved a lot and their cars improved a lot.
“We thought we had enough to get into the top 15 but it wasn’t, so we dropped completely.”
Massa felt there was a sense of complacency in the team’s decision not to try to improve on the time.
“Maybe the past is still very fresh in our minds so I blame everybody including myself,” he said.
“I didn’t think... I didn’t believe that I was going to drop out of the top 15. I think after I did my qualifying lap, I could drop maybe to 11th or 12th but not 16th.
“I blame everybody. I blame myself, I blame my engineer, I blame everybody who was working in the pits and working on the lap times as well.
“I think it was a team mistake including myself but also it’s a huge wake up call that now we need to use our tyres and we need to use all we have because it will be difficult to pass through every session.”
Ferrari endured their worst start to the season for 17 years when Massa and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish last week in Australia, and today’s calamitous qualifying session indicated the team still had plenty of catching up to do.
“We already had a wake up call in the first race but for sure after this qualifying, we will be aware even more that we are not so competitive as we expected and we have other teams that are a little bit in front.
“This morning I thought it was maybe possible to fight for the top five but looking how the qualifying went, maybe it was more possible to be top seven.
“It’s probably worse than what we expected but when you look at the end of the qualifying, maybe Kimi was nine-tenths behind Jenson (Button) so it’s quite a big gap.”