The mist might have lifted slightly over the mysteries of the current hierarchy in Formula 1 this season, but unfortunately that mist has been replaced with a black cloud hanging over the Scuderia Ferrari garage after what was a disappointing afternoon. If this is unsurprising because of the honest assessment the team has given in recent weeks, about its winter testing activities, the degree to which the two F2012s failed to deliver was worse than expected. However, it has to be said that Fernando Alonso was looking comfortable to get into Q3 which at the very least means a top ten grid position, but the Spaniard proved that even double world champions are not infallible, getting caught out and spinning into the gravel trap, before he’d had a chance to do a really quick lap on new rubber.
As for team-mate Felipe Massa, the Brazilian and indeed his engineers, remained baffled at the fact he could not get the car balanced the way he wanted and was fighting it around every corner. Without starting to add all sorts of excuses, that is why the Prancing Horse drivers will see the start of the opening round of the season here in Melbourne from the sixth and eighth rows of the grid: Fernando Alonso was twelfth this afternoon and Felipe Massa sixteenth. Clearly, tomorrow’s 58 laps will be all about keeping out of trouble in the notoriously tricky middle of the pack, while hoping to exploit the fact that the Ferraris have a history of being very good off the line when the lights go out, in making up some places. But there will be no miracles, therefore points, not podiums are the more likely targets here in Australia.
It has to be said that the overall results of qualifying have not produced a really clear cut picture as to the order the teams might find themselves in. McLaren went well over the winter and backed that up by making the front row their own – Lewis Hamilton on pole and Jenson Button alongside him. Row 2 provides one of the big surprises in that while the Lotus has looked good in Jerez and Barcelona, it was not Kimi Raikkonen who shone, but his less experienced team-mate Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman taking third spot on the grid. He is the only driver in the top two rows not to have won a world title, as he shares it with fourth placed Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes. Red Bull was expected to be the dominant force yet again, but at least this afternoon, that was not the case, as both cars occupy Row 3, Mark Webber in fifth place and Sebastian Vettel sixth.
Fernando has a rookie alongside him in the shape of Jean-Eric Vergne in the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, while Felipe finds himself on the outside of Paul di Resta in the Force India.