Is the Prancing Horse slowing its pace?

Ferrari F1 Britsh GP

Words by Jack Milburn

Ferrari’s recent outing in the British Grand Prix was not one of their best outings for the Scarlet Red Ferrari team seeing as the spinning, grid penalty struck Sebastian Vettel finished 9th and sort of average performance by Kimi Räikkonën finishing 5th. Even though Sebastian’s spin after coming out onto the still slightly damp track and wet Abbey (turn 1) with the white stripe mediums on, was one of the easier things to do in a car which has 900+ horsepower under the drivers’ right foot. It was still just another compounding problem which Ferrari are definitely having a lot of recently. Tyre blow out for Vettel and a gearbox penalty in the week before at the RedBull Ring in Austria, and then again another gearbox failure at Silverstone for Vettel, which still had the brand new gearbox from Austria.

http://formula1.ferrari.com/en/austrian-gp-sunday/
Austrian GP – Sunday. Kimi Räkkonën.

Ferrari is also having troubles with strategy calls during a race because ever since the first race of the season in Albert Park in the ‘land-down-under’ they have been trying things and none of the strategy calls they have made have worked out. The strategy in Spain did not work for either driver and nor did it work in Canada, they have the same issue which William’s have had they both do not take control of a race and do what they want to do or need to do. They [Williams & Ferrari] have also waited and reacted to whoever was around them at the time of the race or have made completely out-there calls such as the call in Canada with Vettel’s tyre calls, which I even thought to myself: “well…why the heck have they done that?!”. Even Vettel himself, has started to question the tyre strategies from the Ferrari pit-wall, in Baku with the call from the pit-wall to come in and Vettel responding with a sort of sarcastic question of: “Are you sure […that’s right] …?”. It is a team sport, yes, but, Ferrari have a certain way of doing things and not all the time it is the optimum way. Example being recently Sergio Marchionne putting more and more pressure on the team to win and the master mind behind Ferrari’s success in the early 2000’s, Ross Brawn, saying they need to calm things down and take off the pressure and work together to achieve what they desire.

In 2016, we have seen a few more retirements/failures in the top teams than we saw in 2015, this is because they [all the engine manufactures: Mercedes, Renault & Ferrari] are all starting to push the limits on these new Hybrid Power Units and therefore are getting some cracks into their reliability. We are seeing a lot more issues with MGU-K’s and Turbo Charges on the Mercedes PU’s [Power Units] than we have ever had before in this Hybrid era, so this does tell us that even the dominant team is pushing everything to its working limits.

Mercedes F1 Power Unit
Mercedes AMG Petronas’ v6 Hybrid Power Unit. Image Credit: Motorsport.com

During the British Grand Prix weekend, it was announced that Kimi Räikkonën will be staying at Ferrari for, at least, another year. This puts a massive damper on the driver market for me because I was hoping that we might have a Sergio Perez or a Romain Grosjean sitting alongside Sebastian Vettel in the 2017 season, which would’ve been fantastic to see! Sergio Perez is a driver that is performing at his best at every race, and which team doesn’t want that, he is out-performing his team mate, Nico Hulkenberg who is a Le Mans winner so is no slouch. The reason why I don’t include Valtteri Bottas in this topic is because his personal ‘stock’ within Formula 1 has gone downwards if he seriously wants to be sat in a red car at some point he needs to be out-performing his team-mate constantly and by a bigger margin than he has at this point in the 2016 Season, if Bottas cannot put Felipe Massa, his team mate, into his spot at every point on a race weekend then why would Ferrari want him over Sergio Perez or Romain Grosjean because they out-score and out-perform their team mates by a massive margin in Romain’s case.

Ferrari F1 Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Räikkonën at Silverstone.

Another issue I have with Ferrari’s choice of sticking with Kimi for the 2017 Season is the simple fact of performance and development of the car, if a team wants to improve their car in every area possible (aerodynamics, engine performance/reliability/fuel saving and the teams functioning) they want the best possible drivers to be driving their cars to be pushing everything of that car to its limit. Without this, they fall back on developments and that enables other teams like Renault to catch up and even pass them [Ferrari] in race performances and championship results, and it also enables Mercedes to pull away even further. I am a big fan of Kimi but there is a time when you are just taking up space in a Formula 1 team and I think he isn’t giving the team what they need to be able to push for a championship anytime soon. I might be eating my own words next year but we will have to wait and see if Ferrari’s crystal ball is right or not.

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