Ferrari bosses return to Italy to probe lack of pace

Ferrari team bosses flew back to Italy on Monday to investigate the reasons behind their poor start to the season and speed up improvements to the car.

Principal Stefano Domenicali, technical director Aldo Costa and assistant Pat Fry had been due to head to Shanghai ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

But they changed plans after seeing Ferrari struggle to match Red Bull and McLaren at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are fifth and sixth in the drivers' table.

Neither Ferrari driver has managed a podium finish in the two races so far this season.

A statement on Ferrari's websiteexternal-link said: "The number one priority is still, naturally enough, an investigation into the aerodynamics and on finding out why the cars' performance on track does not match the numbers produced by the wind tunnel.

"It is a very tricky operation, with consequences for every area of the development process: better to follow it first hand, to push it along a bit further.

"That way some updates planned for later races might actually be available earlier, hopefully starting here in China."

Ferrari appeared to be competitive with Red Bull in pre-season testing, but they have found it difficult to get to close to them in the two races so far this season.

In contrast, McLaren struggled for pace and reliability in pre-season but major changes to their car have made it the second fastest behind Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button each picking up a second-place finish.

Nonetheless, Alonso did find some eye-catching speed in Malaysia on Sunday, only to see his chances of a podium place dashed after a collision with Hamilton's right-rear tyre.

And despite the disappointing results so far this season, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo insists he remains optimistic for the rest of the campaign.

"I am certainly not happy with how the season has started but I have extraordinary confidence in people who, in difficult times, know how to react," he said.

"I know they are working hard and I have complete faith in both the human and technical capacity of our people. I think the period where we can only hope for a podium at the most will end."