MELBOURNE, Apr 2 (Reuters) Michael Schumacher said Ferrari faced an uphill task to get their world championship campaign back on track after he and Felipe Massa crashed out of today's Australian Grand Prix.
''It's clear we have work to do,'' the seven-times champion told reporters.
With their domination of Formula One rapidly becoming a distant memory, the Maranello team suffered a dire weekend.
Massa crashed in qualifying and started the race from 15th on the grid, while Schumacher failed to make the top 10 of yesterday's shootout.
The Brazilian crashed again on the first lap, taking Williams' Nico Rosberg with him, before Schumacher completed the team's nightmare by spinning off on lap 33 while challenging Honda's Jenson Button for fifth place.
''I was pushing to the maximum to try and close on Jenson,'' said the German, who had won four of the previous six races in Australia. ''I tucked in behind him and unexpectedly I got some heavy understeer and finished on the grass.'' Schumacher's shunt scattered debris across the track and prompted the third of four safety car interruptions.
''Our main problem today was keeping the tyres up to temperature, especially in the first part of the race and also because there were a few safety car periods,'' said the German.
''We had chosen the compound especially for this race and once they reached the right operating temperature they worked well.
''At first it was difficult to drive, after locking the tyres a few times they were completely finished.'' After a promising start to his campaign in Bahrain, where he finished second to Renault's champion Fernando Alonso, Schumacher's attempt to recapture the title he held for five years in a row until 2005 has stalled.
Ferrari and rivals such as Toyota, who also use Bridgestone tyres, have struggled to get heat into their tyres.
The Italian team, who have promised big improvements for the next race at their home Imola circuit, are also lacking the basic speed of champions Renault and Honda.
''It was a weekend to forget,'' said team boss Jean Todt.
''Going home without points is a very bitter feeling, given that we have all we need to succeed.
''Now we want to show with results that we have what it takes to get back on top, starting when we race at home at Imola.'' The San Marino Grand Prix opens the European leg of the calendar on April 23.
REUTERS PDS BS1524