Have Ferrari really improved this year

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The simple answer to a simple comparative – is yes.

But then 2014 was a year the Gestione Sportiva historians would prefer remain blank in their compendiums. Ferrari were fourth in the constructor’s standings and a it could have been worse. Briefly there was hope for fans of the Woking team that McLaren would catch and pass Ferrari – though Fernando Alonso’s results ensured this challenge failed to materialise.

However, where have Ferrari been in recent times? In the past 10 completed seasons, Ferrari have won two constructor titles (2007-08) and one driver championship for Kimi (2007).

3 out of 20 titles (15%) is hardly befitting of the iconic Italian racing marque, yet for a number of reasons that is the way it has been. This is particularly evident when we look at the Scuderia’s CV section listed, ‘F1 achievements’.

  • Most Constructors’ Championships: 16
  • Most Drivers’ Championships: 15
  • Most Grands Prix participated (all-time): 895
  • Most Grands Prix started (all-time): 893[5]
  • Most wins (all-time): 222[6]
  • Most podiums (all-time): 684
  • Most one-two finishes (all-time): 81
  • Most one-two finishes with the same drivers (Michael Schumacher – Rubens Barrichello): 24
  • Most pole positions (all-time): 207
  • Most WCC points (all-time): 5,966.5
  • Most WDC points (all-time): 6,868.27
  • Most fastest laps (all-time): 231
  • Most consecutive seasons with at least one victory during a season: 20 (1994–2013)
  • Most engine wins 223

To understand just how bad Ferrari’s year was in 2014, the statistic above, ‘Most consecutive seasons with at least one victory during a season: 20 (1994–2013)’ – says it all.

Prior to the start of the European leg of this year’s F1 season, there was significant hope amongst neutral F1 fans, that Ferrari had found a silver bullet. The team in red were about to step up and challenge the might of the German Mercedes dominance.

A win for Vettel in Malaysia set the cat amongst the pigeons and the keyboards chattering because in 2014, it was round seven in Canada before Mercedes slipped up handing Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo the victory.

Yes, Vettel’s win was also a ‘proper’ win because there were smoking or shattered Mercedes brakes responsible. Of course the safety car had an impact in Sepang, but it was Ferrari’s quick thinking and the fact that in those conditions their car was quicker than the Mercedes given the Pirelli rubber on offer.

So this is why the F1 fraternity was buzzing, Mercedes had been beaten by Ferrari and on merit.

Fernando Alonso was Maranello’s lead driver for 5 fallow seasons of out of the last 10, and following the Spanish GP and another podium for Ferrari, he was predictably asked whether his move from Ferrari had been the right one.

“I was in the Ferrari last year half a minute, a minute behind Mercedes and on Sunday they were 43 seconds behind in Barcelona”, Alonso told SKY. “Nothing has changed – and that is one of the reasons why l moved. I saw nothing change for five years and l didn’t want a sixth or seventh.”

Alonso understands the significance of the result in Barcelona. The fact is, the fundamental capability of the SF15-T are way behind those of the W06.

Ferrari have the second best of the 2015 F1 cars, but they are Mercedes main rival for one reason alone. Those ahead of Ferrari in 2014 have fallen further behind the Brackley outfit this year.

Luca de Montezemolo made this point, the week before the race in Barcelona.

“I honestly think they [Ferrari] have been a bit lucky: This year, apart from Mercedes, they have no other rivals,” the ex-Ferrari chairman said.

“Williams has not improved and Red Bull has imploded and McLaren are in crisis. In short, Ferrari starts every race with a podium in its pocket. But luck is useless if you don’t take advantage of it.”

Alonso has frequently been cast in the role as a divisive figure, and his comments about Ferrari’s progress could be taken as sour grapes.

Yet the cold hard reality is – at this stage of the season – the red team are hardly better placed in F1’s pecking order than when the Spaniard was driving for them.

Despite the fundamentals of the SF15T having been exposed as lacking at a circuit where the cars pure performance is revealed, Ferrari still have a hope for 2015. And it is cast in the form of the black stuff provided by Pirelli.

Monaco and Canada will see the debut of this year’s super soft tyres. The early signs in Malaysia and China was that the SF15T was kinder to its tyres than the Mercedes car and that the W06 design had a penchant for eating rubber.

But Monaco and Canada have big traction requirements, and it may be that Alonso was so dismissive of his old team’s chances this year was because the Ferrari cars were half a second slower in S3 at the Circuit de Catalunya. This sector’s configuration places a premium on traction. So it’s not much good being gentle on the tyres if the car is slow.

So in the grand scheme of things, given Ferrari’s history, Alonso is also correct and “nothing has changed.”

Ferrari’s results may be better in 2015, but this will be yet another year Maranello has failed to build a championship winning car.

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11 responses to “Have Ferrari really improved this year

  1. I have to admit I could not agree more. You hit the nail on its head. As for Alonso he wants to win and not finish 2nd. So literally it doesn’t make a difference whether he finishes 2nd or dead last several laps down.

    • I have a similar feeling. While Ferrari is now the “best of the rest” team and stands on podium every race, the car still can’t compete for titles and it can compete for wins only when the cars in front make a mistake. That’s exactly the situation Alonso did not want to be in once again. Now, for a change, he moved to back to UK, spends time helping with a new car and engine development, and still gets paid possibly the highest salary in F1.

  2. As a ferrari fan, i have to admit you are correct here judge. But this is what Ferrari was aiming for when the year started. The team had low expectations this year and deemed it to be a rebuild year in the first place. So the occassional 2nd place for me is very welcome. As a fan I’m happy where they are now and everything else is just icing on the cake considering where they came from last year and with all the staff reshuffling they did.

    • nenox- I can understand being happy with what could well be a move up from 4th to 2nd at season’s end. The downside is, as tj pointed out, that neither Williams nor RB, have, so far, shown improvement from 2014. Ferrari is only illustrating that, in a competitive environment, standing pat – Williams – actually equates to taking a step backward.

      Had Williams entered this campaign with improvements Ferrari is in 3rd place right now. And without Red Renault Bull’s near-complete implosion, Ferrari would be battling to keep from being seen as a midfield team.

      And I’m actually of the opinion that Seb’s win not on merit but was the direct result of all-around poor strategy by Mercedes, not accounting for potential brake issues included. Without proper preparation panic often ensues in fluid situations, which can result in leveling the playing field. In the case of Malaysia this lack of preparation by Toto and gang resulted in an illusory win for the Prancing Horse.

      • Well, geee. I don’t think you discovered America here. Ferraris have a chance to best the Mercedes cars only when the Mercedes cars, mechanics, pilots, or strategists screw something up. When things run smoothly, then Ferraris won’t be able to catch them. However, I’d give Vettel credit for actually being there when there opportunity existed.

  3. As a life long fanatical follower of the prancing horse Its with a heavy heart that I put my fingers to work on the keypad,you are absolutely spot on with what you say Judge. I could go on record and try to defend my stable but why bury my head,we are just not quick enough,I would still put ‘the beast’ a good second off the pace of the mercs and around 4\10th quicker than the customer cars. I still think the fuel sensor placing had something to do with their sudden burst of speed,bloody clever by the way😀,rather than a hot surface and given the bad press about mercs dominant season again after the Australia win I would imagine words were spoken behind closed doors(silver caps at the ready but this is only my own view so don’t get the lawyers just yet MrE)

  4. This is a really good read. Thanks for putting things in perspective, in fact, the perspective here @TJ13 is the reason i keep showing up. Keep up the GREAT WORK!

  5. Thanks Judge for a very well presented and accurate depiction of the state of play at Ferrari so far. Undoubtedly as you have so elecuantly illustrated Ferrari may yet find that extra requirement to be on par with Mercedes before the end of the year which would truly set the cat amongst the pigeons.

  6. “Monaco and Canada will see the debut of this year’s super soft tyres. The early signs in Malaysia and China was that the SF15T was kinder to its tyres than the Mercedes car and that the W06 design had a penchant for eating rubber.”

    Does this mean we’re in for yet an other monaco grand prix where mercedes is going to drive extremely slow to maximise their efforts and minimise the ferrari threat?

  7. I hope they get their new parts working – and mix it with the Mercs – but I think it will be hard.

    Still, I think they did gain: they have a relatively better engine compared to Mercedes, I mean they improved more and closed the gap almost.

    Aero is still not allright as we’ve seen with the Barcelona parts. But Allison had another priority: stop the car from eating it’s tyres.

  8. Well done Judge. Spot on.

    Ferrari are stuck in a comfortable #2 slot. If Merc don’t f*ck anything up, they will finish 1-2 at every race, and Ferrari will be 3-4, with Williams leading the rest. Of course Ferrari have improved their car over last year. If they hadn’t they would be in the dunce corner with RB. But they are still no where near Mercedes. Merc are toying with the field. As I said in the podcast chat, they backed down their PU after AUS to stop the “equalization” talk, and are now slowly adding back more power.

    Lap 46 Radio call to Rosberg:” …Nico just make sure you are working the tyres hard enough, though, so that they do work.”

    In clean air the Mercs are just cruising along. Nico wasn’t even pushing hard enough to get the tires up to temp.

    As I said weeks ago, the Ferrari win allowed all of the press talk to shift from Lewis vs Nico to Merc vs Ferrari. Mission accomplished, though I don’t buy any of it.

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