Ferrari has admitted that it is struggling for answers as to why its new car has proved to be no match for McLaren and Red Bull Racing so far this season.
The Italian team had headed into the Malaysian Grand Prix seeking confirmation as to whether its Australia form had been the result of an aerodynamic deficit or tire issues related to the cold weather. Having failed to get anywhere near Red Bull Racing and McLaren at Sepang, however, the team is now in no doubt that it is simply not fast enough and needs to undertake a major development program to get itself back in the hunt.
Technical director Aldo Costa admitted that the team was still baffled as to why all the aerodynamic updates introduced at the final Barcelona test had not worked – and that it could take further testing in China, or even a straight-line run before the Turkish Grand Prix – to get to the bottom of the issues.
"If it was easy, we would already have fixed it," said the Italian. "We don't know yet where the problems are coming from. We are working on it, but it's quite a complex evaluation that we are doing in several environments, not only here at the track."
Costa believes that if the team found out the answer to understanding its problems then that would help deliver a good step forward in form – with more to come from updates.
"If we are able to discover what went wrong in the initial part of development, that would be quite a good chunk of the performance deficit," he explained. "Then, we have to be very aggressive in the development, that's for sure. We need to ask ourselves how we can try to do it and for sure we will have to change our approach.
"These guys here [Red Bull Racing and McLaren] are putting the bar higher, so we have to react and I'm sure in Maranello we have got very good talented people. They will be very upset. For sure, they will react and I trust in them, I trust in the team so we will go for it."
Costa said that Ferrari had an upgrade program in place, and the lesson of the past two races was that it had to ramp up even this.
"The program is to recover, to catch up," he said. "We are working on several items, several areas. We have good developments for China, we have got really good developments for Turkey, there is some interesting stuff coming for the middle of season races.
"We have got our program. Is it enough? I don't know. We need to go home and we need to push even more. We need to develop faster than the other people, you need to have a certain pace week by week inventing new stuff, inventing new systems.
"These two teams have done a better job than ourselves, so we have to learn from them and then we have to do the changes in our approach that are required. The important part is that the car is fast, parts that are faster landing on the car at a higher speed compared to others."
Costa admitted that the focus on its aerodynamic problems had cost it valuable set-up and tyre evaluation work in Malaysia, but that he still felt quite prepared for the race.
"Unfortunately, when you start working on Friday doing constant speed, you do not concentrate enough of the setup," he said. "You do pay some penalty in arriving very late to fix the set-up for that race, which I think we did.
"We lost a lot of time in constant speed aerodynamic tests and we didn't work at all on tyres and setup. You pay the bill then. During the night and this morning I think we caught up and we arrived in qualifying with a reasonable car in terms of balance.
"In terms of the race pace and tire wear, I think we did interesting progress during this weekend. So let's see tomorrow. I don't expect that we will go as fast as the first four, but we will do our best."