SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Ferrari were already feeling the frustration and Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix added a measure of embarrassment to the mix for Formula One’s most successful and glamorous team.
With company president Sergio Marchionne present and hoping to witness the team’s first win of the season, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen could not have chosen a more unfortunate moment to collide.
“It isn’t something you usually see with Ferrari,” Marchionne told Sky television after the first lap coming together between the two red cars.
“I‘m more embarrassed for them than me, if I‘m honest...but the comeback was a masterpiece so I‘m happy about that.”
Both cars were damaged and had to pit but Vettel still finished second, behind the Mercedes of championship leader Nico Rosberg, with Raikkonen fighting back to fifth.
The presence of the big boss went some way to explaining Vettel’s very public spat with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, who was angrily accused by the German of charging through ‘like a torpedo’ and forcing him into Raikkonen.
Ferrari have made too many mistakes this season, however, and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was not a happy man either.
”I don’t want to talk about the others, Red Bull or any others,“ he told reporters. ”I think that today in normal circumstances we would be able to have a very, very good chance to win. That’s for sure.”
“Of course it’s frustrating when things happen and you know that you have a good car.”
Ferrari had been expected to threaten the Mercedes dominance this season but have now failed to live up to that promise in Australia, Bahrain and China.
A bungled tyre strategy cost Vettel a potential win in the Melbourne season-opener while Raikkonen retired with flames shooting out of his car’s airbox.
In Bahrain, Vettel did not start after his engine blew on the formation lap. Raikkonen, who qualified fourth, botched his getaway and dropped down the field.
China, a country where red is considered a lucky color, appeared to signal a change with the Maranello-based team topping every practice session except the first on Friday.
Qualifying saw both drivers make mistakes in the dying seconds, however, and end up on the second row.
“They tripped over each other at the start which heavily compromised their race,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told reporters.
“If you consider where they were after lap one and where they ended...then that must be a satisfying result for them. So we very much see them as a strong competitor and a threat.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin