- Associated Press - Sunday, April 15, 2012

SHANGHAI (AP) - Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso says his team realizes it can’t fix its problems overnight.

Ferrari has struggled and failed to build on Fernando Alonso’s surprise win at the Malaysian Grand Prix last month, with the Spaniard placing ninth at the Chinese GP on Sunday and teammate Felipe Massa finishing down in 13th.

“There’s no point denying we are disappointed,” team principal Stefano Domenicali said. “We had the potential to get a better result than this, but we did not manage it.”

One of Ferrari’s biggest problems so far this year is a lack of pace in both qualifying and races _ an issue that can’t be addressed until after next week’s Bahrain GP, Alonso said.

“Obviously, this does not leave me very optimistic for Bahrain, on a track where traction and speed are vital, exactly the areas where we are weakest,” he said after the race.

Earlier this week, Alonso said the team was working to improve the car’s aerodynamics to improve its speed.

“We know we are far behind and we need to work,” he said. “One second is a big gap to recover. But the car has some big problems in terms of aerodynamics, which give us the optimism inside the team that we can recover. Maybe not one second, but a lot of time if we put a couple of things that are not working in the right place.

Massa is under pressure to justify his position in the team. In three races so far this year, he’s yet to score a point.


KIMI’S COMEBACK: For a handful of laps toward the end of Sunday’s race, it looked like 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen was going to reach the podium for the first time since his comeback for Lotus.

The Finn moved up to second place on the 41st lap and managed to hold off numerous challenges by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel until the German finally passed him on the inside of Turn 6 seven laps later.

By then, Raikkonen’s tires were just about shot with the Finn having only pitted twice in the race _ the last time on the 28th lap. Vettel went by him first, then Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber in quick succession.

On the next lap, six more drivers passed him, leaving Raikkonen in 12th place. He finished a disappointing 14th.

“We tried to run two stops as it looked to be the fastest strategy, and up until the last 10 laps it was looking good. But we ran out of tire performance at the end,” Raikkonen said. “We had good pace in the race, we tried a different strategy and it didn’t pay off today. It’s as simple as that.”

Raikkonen has had fairly decent results since returning to the track this year, finishing seventh in Australia and fifth in Malaysia.

“It is getting more frustrating for us as we are clearly very close to achieving a very good result,” Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said.


HE SAID, HE SAID: Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Narain Karthikeyan have had a hard time putting their very public spat behind them.

Vettel was enraged when he collided with the back-marker HRT driver with nine laps remaining at the Malaysian GP last month, knocking him down to 11th place by the end of the race.

After the race, Vettel called Karthikeyan a “cucumber” and an “idiot” for the way he was driving, prompting Karthikeyan to later respond by calling the Red Bull driver a “cry baby.”

Vettel said this week at the Chinese GP that the two drivers had talked and Karthikeyan had apologized.

The news of an apology took Karthikeyan by surprise.

“We happened to meet here outside of the paddock and we talked about it. But it was a normal racing incident, so why should I apologize?” he was quoted as saying by the German daily Bild-Zeitung.

However, Karthikeyan said he’s ready to bury the hatchet.

“It’s all OK now and I hope it will be for the rest of the season. There is no bad blood,” he insisted.

He also said Vettel’s words hadn’t really bothered him that much.

“Cucumber? I don’t know that as an insult,” he told the paper.



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