As the curtain fell on the European season in the late summer sunshine of Monza, Ferrari also effectively drew a line under their 2011 campaign.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali explained, with an air of resignation, that another technical set-back had derailed Ferrari and Fernando Alonso’s fight back.
“We have stopped the development [of the car],” Domenicali had said. “It is very, very, very, very, very difficult now.”
With 13 races run – and just six to go – Alonso’s victory in Great Britain in July remains Ferrari’s only win of the season.
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Highlights of the Italian GP (UK users only)
At the time Ferrari had celebrated Silverstone as a significant turning point, laughing off suggestions the win might be a one-off because it happened to coincide with a one-race ban on so-called off-throttle blowing of the diffuser and also relied partly on an error at Vettel’s second pit stop.
Ferrari were confident they were now able to interpret data from their wind tunnel correctly – something that had hit them in the early part of the campaign – and that a new package of upgrades was giving them strength in their previous area of weakness – high-speed, high-downforce circuits.
At the next race in Germany, Alonso kept up the charge, narrowly losing out to Lewis Hamilton in a three-way fight to the flag, before the wrong tyre strategy and a late spin relegated him to third in Hungary.
But following the summer break, Ferrari fell off the pace again when they were forced to abandon failed upgrades planned for Belgium and Italy.
“We were expecting a bigger step in our development in Spa,” Domenicali revealed. “Unfortunately we discovered it was the opposite so we took a step back, and that was also a step back for Monza.”
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Ferrari say this time muddled wind tunnel data was not to blame, simply that the upgrades – which focused on a new exhaust system – did not deliver what was expected of them.
Domenicali is optimistic the gap between Ferrari and rivals Red Bull and McLaren will be smaller on Singapore’s street circuit, a race Alonso won last year – but closing the gap completely is now a task for 2012.
Top of the Englishman’s to-do list is to improve the car’s “absolute downforce” levels and to help with that he says the team will still drip through small developments to the 2011 car for analysis.
Ferrari’s failure to effectively interpret new regulations in time for the start of the season has seen them come unstuck in 2009 and 2011.
But with technical rule changes only focussing on the design of the car’s exhaust in 2012, Fry is cautiously optimistic that Ferrari can hit the ground running.
“The stability should help,” he said. “But it does not mean that automatically you will be able to catch up your opponents.
“We know we have a gap to recover in terms of performance and we need an extra effort to get rid of it: this is one of the main targets of the winter time.”
Some F1 experts have ear-marked the former McLaren engineer as the brains behind McLaren’s “F-duct” which quickly became 2010’s must-have aerodynamic device.
Whether Fry was the anonymous figure behind the creation or not, innovation and fresh-thinking at Maranello will be key when it comes to matching the grey matter of Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey.
“Adrian’s Red Bulls have been the quickest cars in the last two or three years,” said Fry, who worked alongside Newey at McLaren in the Nineties.
“[But] to be honest I do not think this is a man-against-man sport, not at all. It is a very complex sport in which a very talented engineer cannot make everything along as he needs the support of many people to succeed.
“At the moment, Red Bull are the reference; our aim is to win, whoever will be our opponents.”
President Luca di Montezemolo underlined Ferrari’s task when he stalked around the team garage during the Italian Grand Prix weekend and casually strolled across the open pit lane to shake his fist at the tifosi in a gesture of intent.
“I am not happy,” said Di Montezemolo, who became founder Enzo Ferrari’s right-hand man when he joined the team nearly 40 years ago. “Next year, I expect a competitive car with a clear interpretation of the rules. I hope to win the championship again.”
For Fry and Ferrari – and at rivals McLaren where the team are also running over the first interpretation of their 2012 car – the hard work has already begun.