The last time Ferrari came away with anything substantial in terms of titles was in 2007 when Kimi Raikkonen ambushed the McLarens in the final race of the season to take the drivers’ title.
Ferrari also clinched the constructors’ crown by virtue of McLaren having their points taken away in Hungary before they were also disqualified altogether for their part in the “Spygate” espionage controversy.
Will Ferrari dominate F1 again as they did in the early 2000s?
Since then, despite the best efforts of Fernando Alonso, Ferrari have managed only three drivers and two constructors' runners-up slots to the all-conquering Red Bull team.
So the question must be asked, are the Ferrari glory years over, and will they ever dominate the sport again?
There are several good cases both to argue for and against, but with new budget cap restrictions in place from 2015 onwards and engine regulations set to level the playing field, at least initially, it’s fair to say that it will be harder than ever before.
From as long as Ferrari have existed in Formula One, the glamorous Maranello outfit has been the team with the most attention focused upon it.
Unquestionably the sport’s most famous and successful team, Ferrari has almost double the number of constructors’ titles than its nearest rival, Williams, with 16 and more drivers’ titles than any other manufacturer, with 15.
Much of this success is down to the sheer weight of resources, and, with the might of major stakeholder Fiat and sponsors Shell behind it, Ferrari has the big bucks to spend on the best drivers and car development to more than match any other team.
And yet money does not always guarantee success, and it’s often about hiring the right people for the job and having the best infrastructure in place.
Ferrari waited 21 long years before Michael Schumacher delivered their first drivers’ title since Jody Scheckter triumphed in 1979. Much of the success was down to the leadership of Jean Todt and technical and tactical nous of a certain Ross Brawn. And with the right combination of elements in place, Ferrari dominated the opposition for the next five seasons.
Todt, Brawn and Schumacher have long since left the Ferrari scene, and Red Bull is now the team with all the right elements in place. For Todt, Schumacher and Brawn Red Bull has Christian Horner, Sebastian Vettel and Adrian Newey.
In Alonso, Ferrari certainly have a driver who is more a match for any other on his day. But he has endured his fair share of frustrations in 2013, and it all boiled over in Hungary when he received a public dressing-down from president Luca di Montezemolo for criticising the performance of his car.
Di Montezemolo has since rebuilt the bridges with his star driver but realizes more than ever, saying to RAI UNO (h/t ESPN F1), that now is the time to deliver a car worthy of his talent:
For next year I would like to present him with a car that's even better than Red Bull. Let's not forget we know how to do that: one only has to think of the five year period from 2000 to 2004 and the wins in 2007 and 2008. I thank him for all his efforts and the determination he showed this year and for the fact he would have been prepared to let [Felipe] Massa get onto the podium last Sunday back in Brazil, as it testifies to the nice atmosphere in our team.
[Adrian] Newey isn't his opponent: there are the drivers, starting with Vettel, then [Lewis] Hamilton and [Nico] Rosberg, who has improved a lot, and there's [Kimi] Raikkonen who will be trying to win, which will give us a boost and should bring the points we were missing this year.
A new era of equality?
As Ferrari found out in the mid-2000s, all periods of dominance eventually come to an end. And with the new engine regulations in place for 2014, the Scuderia may have good reason to believe Red Bull’s time may be just around the corner.
As Formula One switches from normally aspirated 2.4-litre V8 engines to turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 powertrains, all teams will be taking a leap into the unknown.
Although the engine is smaller, the much-larger ERS unit and turbocharger will generate a great deal of heat and energy, and it’s possible we will see more engine failures as teams adjust to harnessing the extra 160 bhp the system will provide.
In Ferrari’s favour is that they produce their own engine, and tests on the new unit will already be well underway, as they will be at Renault and Mercedes. Much of the design of the chassis for next year’s challenger will be with the new powertrain in mind, and Ferrari has the luxury of doing all of this under one roof, as do Mercedes.
What will be a worry to Ferrari and the other big manufacturers is the new budget cap regulations that were announced earlier in the week. As reported by Autosport, it is not yet clear how this cap will be structured but it is sure to impact on the bigger teams with the aim of helping struggling ones and leveling the playing field yet further.
It is also possible that the budget cap may also extend to a driver salary cap, although that seems unlikely. Ferrari have always had the financial clout to pay the top drivers handsomely for their services, but such a scenario should not overly worry them.
They have the drivers to deliver
Ferrari has always been one of the teams for which every young driver has dreams of driving, and Sebastian Vettel has strongly been linked with a drive there in the future—Mark Webber, for one, told Sky Sports in September that he expected the move (h/t ESPN F1).
Should Ferrari pull off signing Vettel in the future, it’s unlikely they will have a greater or lesser chance of dominating the opposition than with Alonso. What is important is that the whole package works, as it did with Schumacher.
For the moment, the hunger for Alonso to add to his two drivers’ titles burns as brightly as ever, and he told BBC Sport that he believes he will do just that with Ferrari:
Inside, I am still thinking that when I retire I will have more than two. I don't know how many, but I will have more than two.
If I cannot achieve that it will be a shame, it will be sad, because I had so many opportunities - but at the moment I am thinking we will have more opportunities and the next ones we will not lose any more.
Having all your team principals in your own expo is the best recognition of the dedication as a driver. Thanks pic.twitter.com/hCKv5ZQHCh— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) December 2, 2013
Whether or not Ferrari will dominate again as they did in the early 2000s remains to be seen, but in sport, everything is cyclical.
It is not so much a question of "if," but rather a question of "when."