April 20, 2009
Scuderia Marlboro Ferrari are facing the hardest Formula One title campaign in the past 25 years.
Ferrari are the most successful Formula One team, with huge resources that would put other F1 teams to shame, except the team from Maranello are yet to get off the mark and lie at the bottom of the constructors table. This article is to explain how the mighty have fallen and larger Ferrari concerns.
Ferrari concentrated on winning the drivers' title in 2008 with Felipe Massa, which they failed by one point. They achieved the Construction championship instead, which was not what they wanted.
They devoted time and energy into their 2009 project but understandably less than other teams who were not fighting for the titles. McLaren are in the same position for the same reason, although they developed till Brazil while Ferrari stopped in Japan.
New regulations have changed F1 in more ways than technical. Ferrari's main issue is the ban on in-season testing and the limitation of wind tunnel usage. Ferrari could test all their new updates whenever they wanted last season (within the testing limit) but cannot this year.
They now rely on Friday practice, which means less time on set-up management. They now also have to make sure the parts they bring improve the car and not simply add themselves on.
Ferrari's main concern is reliability. The Maranello-based squad spent time in winter '08 studying why they failed in winning the drivers' title that year. The reason they would have come to sitting around the table in northern Italy was Hungary.
They then spent energy in making the cars reliable, but KERS proved not. The device failed on Raikkonen in Malaysia while Massa has suffered issues unrelated to KERS, which proves Ferrari have not learned from 2008.
Sticking on KERS, the team must carry it or face fighting the McLarens (which are improving at a striking speed) and Torro Rossos instead of the Toyotas and Williamses. The device is worth around 0.2 per lap to the Scuderia and is exceptionally valuable in qualifying and race starts.
Ferrari are facing an uphill struggle. The one area they can count on, the one area they can feel proud of, is their driver. Massa has given everything possible in the races with the machinery he has.
He fought hard in the start in Australia and tried to recover in Malaysia. He stormed through the field in China in difficult conditions and was in the shout for a Podium. Raikkonen has been less impressive but was nonetheless in a points position before Ferrari made a poor mistake with his strategy in Malaysia.
Ferrari have to accept that they are not as quick as last year and must act accordingly. They have to fight to get to Q3 and must fight to catch the leading cars or else face a 2005 season with long faces and no champagne. The mighty have not given up, but with both their drivers disappointed and with a rumored Alonso hanging in the corner, Ferrari must act, and act with the heart.