Ferrari hope to challenge Mercedes in 2016 looks ‘optimistic’

vettel

The hope of most F1 fans for 2016 is that Ferrari will be competitive and challenge Mercedes in 2016, yet the evidence for this optimism may appear thin following the 2015 Mexican GP. This was the first race since 2006 when neither Ferrari car was classified at the finish.

Kimi Raikkonen is currently driving like a rookie and has racked up three DNF’s in the past three races, all of which can be put down to driver error. In Russia he T-boned third place Valtteri Bottas on the final lap – a move which saw the younger of the Finn’s retire and Kimi receive a 30 second penalty post the chequered flag.

At the US GP in Austin, Raikkonen put his car into the wall following a switch from wet tyres to slicks and admitted to being guilty of pushing too hard on an out lap.

Following Vettel’s first lap coming together with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo – which the stewards deemed a ‘racing incident’, Kimi was the lead Ferrari driver in Mexico and carrying the flag for the team. Yet again he clumsily collided with his fellow Finn, though unlike in Russia, this time it was Raikkonen who suffered terminal damage. Kimi told Finnish TV after the race that if Bottas ‘continues driving like this, it will damage his career.’

Any hope Kimi will carry the challenge to Mercedes in 2016 appears one of wishful thinking.

So what of Sebastian Vettel? His Mexican GP was a disaster too. He collided with Daniel Ricciardo on lap one – an incident the stewards decided was a ‘racing incident’. This left Seb with a puncture and he limped his way back to the pits, put on the harder prime tyre and proceeded out plumb last.

Then having made his way up to P12 on lap 16, Vettel appeared to lose the car and spin off into a run off area, narrowly avoiding the barrier. The German driver was again third last in the running order.

Both this off and the incident, which saw Vettel, hit the wall to retire from the race on lap 51, raised questions amongst F1 pundits. Suspicions of torque blips like Kimi has suffered earlier this year looked to be possible explanations for Sebastian’s off track excursions.

That said Vettel took it like a man, and accepted responsibility for “a shit weekend”.

However, the key to understanding where Ferrari are in relation to Mercedes was in the laps Sebastian Vettel traded laps with the Merc’s following his second pit stop, which brought him out a lap down behind Nico Rosberg but, between the race leader and Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel was on fresh rubber and the same prime tyre as the Mercedes duo, though his tyres were 9 laps newer than Lewis Hamilton and 11 laps fresher than Rosberg’s. Yet despite putting in one lap, quicker than Hamilton whilst in between the Mercedes and a fastest lap of the race after being forced to allow Lewis through – Vettel’s average lap times during these laps were between 0.3-0.4 slower than the fastest Mercedes.

Vettel then put it into the wall after hanging out with the Merc’s for almost 11 laps.

This gap between Ferrari and Mercedes during this phase of the race was huge, given the brand new tyres Sebastian was running. And it leads to the conclusion that the Scuderia need a very big step forward if their 2016  battle with Mercedes is to be as close as many in the F1 media suggest it will be.

27 responses to “Ferrari hope to challenge Mercedes in 2016 looks ‘optimistic’

  1. Grammatically a fair few of the recent TJ13 articles have been pretty fruity but I think you’ve out done yourselves with “Both this off and the incident, which saw Vettel, hit the wall…”

  2. Given the current gaps between the manufacturers I have to ask myself, “Am I interested enough to sit down in front of the TV next year, with many beers and watch the same thing all over again or shall I go and paint the spare bedroom and watch it dry”.

    The bedroom is going to get several coats, based on todays tedious display of dominance by Mercedes and their drivers. Utterly untouchable by the the rest of the pack, to the point where they have a pitstop in hand. Even with the safety car, there was no challenge from anyone.

    Kimi, who really should to clear off back to mediocrity in rallying, drove like a tool. Someone of his experience should have backed out of that one but given his idiotic attempt at sticking one down the inside at the previous race, it was inevitable.

    Same for Vettel – daft crash in turn 1, followed by what we can only assume were driver errors based on his comments, although I suspect he was covering up a fundamental issue with the car as his spin and eventual crash were very strange.

    Everyone else merely trundled around – even Alonso with his one lap heroic effort. It was mildly interesting seeing just how weak the Honda engine STILL really is, but that was about it. Apparently Nasr’s brakes caught fire, but I can only assume I was in deep REM sleep by then.

    I thought I’d seen some dreary races in the past, but this one was right up there on the “just how shit can this get” scale. “A perfect 10” is the phrase apparently. We come from COTA, where the weather produced a cracker to todays coma-inducing procession.

    I really cannot wait for Abu-fucking-dhabi… the shed needs creosoting.

    • Hard but fair comment. I agree with the spirit of it. I’ve dropped off watching the last three GP’s since Sochi, which in 20 previous years I’d never, ever thought that would happen. I sorta, kinda, maybe regret Austin, but not really…

      The only entertainment for me this weekend has been watching Lewis’ attempts at inflating his achievements and reputation by trying to undermine Schumacher’s career. This never works long-term. He also doesn’t need to become the next Jackie Stewart.

      Classless, clueless, disingenuous and unwise, at best. I won’t say what it is at worst.

      Nevertheless, and while it’s no secret I’m a Schumacher fan (and thus will be accused of bias and incapable of fair, reasoned judgement), I genuinely find the attempt amusing, ironic and needless. But you all can decide for yourselves… you’re all grown ups. And hey, it’s only sports at the end of the day.

      For anyone who hasn’t seen the quote. “I’ve never ever done the things that Michael has done to win a championship. I’ve won just through natural ability.”

      I’ve a video on my Twitter feed if anyone wants proof, as I in fact needed given how outrageous and ironic a comment like that would be given the ’14/’15 Mercedes.

      Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my new Twitter BFF and brother-from-another-mother, Fortis, will hereby present mitigating circumstances.

      Peace,

      WTF

      • Well Schumi did need to take others out in some years. Once it brought him succes, once it didn’t… but I agree, it’s a bit low to make comment like that. Only reason he thinks that way is because nico doesn’t have the same set of balls as hill or villeneuve had. (BTW the reason why Rosberg will never be champion)

        • …and yet, he adores Senna.

          A bit ironic, wouldn’t you say?

          …and yet, he’s got the ’14 / ’15 Merc.

          A bit hypocritical too, methinks.

          • Fully agree…that Merc was yrs in development and I have no doubt that the initial input and focus came from two key players, a Mr Brawn and a little known driver called Michael. Pundits tend to forget that Mr Schumacher was a Merc man through his core,they gave him his first break in a big class and brought him out of retirement to,and imho, develop the new car. Lewis was brought into the fold once the package was rough cut but showing promise and I can imagine the sales talk to get him to move from his beloved McLaren

          • It’s a bit like his vettel wins mean nothing because of his car comment…

          • My long lost brother WTF? He gave you a quote, but I gave him a video.

            You should join us in twitters-fare, it’s sooooooooo much fun…😉😉

        • Hahahahahaha…

          That’s the best possible response. I hate that I like you, you bastard.

          That’s the best. No semantic opening for me.

          LOL!

          In Aussie, that’s “suffer in ya jocks!”

          Brilliant.

          Case closed.

          You win.

          • Lewis doesn’t ask for a no.1 driver status in the team, nor does he ask for or get any help from.the “no. 2” in the team.
            And still he rises.

          • @ Craig G. Ever been involved with a high budget, highly confidential contract?

            You do know that there could easily be a #1 clause in Lewis’ contract without him admitting it to the public right? This is a billionaires playground… Confidentiality is the most important thing.

            When you say things like ‘he still rises’ it makes you seem like the sorta person who has lewis as your desktop photo rather than someone objectively understands the business of F1.

    • I only managed to stay awake because the BBC highlights are so short. If that really was the highlights of the race I was guaranteed to fall asleep attempting to watching the full run. Fast loosing interest in modern f1, Merc need some competition to spice things up (and Hamilton needs a new teammate).

  3. I think it would be fair to say that Ferrari have been walking a fine line between aerodynamic performance, and that of the PU. Last year it was clear that there were deficits on the PU front, and correlation made aerodynamic progress difficult. It appears as though this year they have made a clear step forward with the performance of the PU, but still lack the finesse in the aero department that RB and Mercedes have unlocked with these regulations.
    One off poor performances such as this highlight how difficult it is to make meaningful progress. I assume that even if they were running a Monaco package to get Monza aero, they would still be running a knife’s edge in terms of their actual peak downforce.
    Finally, you basically have a recipe for disaster when you add on the stress of the last three races of the season and the desire to attempt to show up a team that has been dominating the last two seasons (to say nothing of their favoritism for next season).
    In my humble opinion, it is very difficult to judge the future performance of a team in a vacuum. Judging this performance one would question how they have second place in the WCC and both drivers in the top five of the WCC.
    Whatever, life is tough and only three get champagne at the end of the race.

    • They’re 2nd by dint of being the best of the rest.
      @ thevoid,
      i guess it is, indeed, difficult to judge future performance in a vacuum. Why, then, is it so easy to judge current performance in said vacuum – in the next sentence, no less!
      @SteveFlynn,
      I agree with most of your post re: the racing.
      However, lacklustre performances aside, why should Kimi back out of a corner when he’s ahead on track, with Bottas off track and behind him? I still think Bottas’ deliberate and dangerous ‘revenge’ strike should have warranted some kind of penalty, unless Senna/Prost tit-for-tat behaviour is acceptable.
      And why should Vettel have yielded to an over -optimistic move from Ricciardo? He was never going to make it stick, and let himself run into the Ferrari – Massa, alongside him at the time, flat-spotted his tyres to avoid a collision. Ricciardo should watch Perez later in the race for a lesson in how to fight closely, yet still not smack into the car in front – on the very same corner.

      • From what I could tell, Bottas was on the inside and actually *locked up* trying to avoid getting to the apex before Kimi. Kimi had plenty of room on the outside to complete the move, he just chose not to use it and expected Bottas to stop his car on a dime.

        • To me, it looked as if Bottas went for it, realised Kimi wasn’t going to give him space, tried to get out of it but couldn’t. Bottas was only off track because if he hadn’t been Kimi would have hit him sooner.

          Maybe trying to go around the outside there to get the inside of the corner where they actual crash happened was optimistic but there is no doubt to me that once he’d committed Kimi needed to leave more space than he did. You could also argue that Bottas was ahead at the first corner so could well be expected to be alongside at the second.

  4. Nice writeup Judge but given the blip of a track its still open in my book for next year. The problem faced by all teams is the shear distance the Mercs have in performance. They are still light years ahead in regard to a smooth power delivery curve and basic grunt from an outstanding engine and given that they will not be offering a standing target for the others to aim for then the task of catching,let alone overtaking becomes obvious..but and here is the thing, Ferrari won’t be focused on this year’s design right now, these last races are just a show as both championship titles are over. No team will be bringing the next new thing,design idea or innovation for fear of a copy and loss of advantages. One another point…did you see the rake angle of the Redbull? Damn,it must have been nearly a foot off the ground at the rear!! My thought was that Renault had screwed them again and switched the motor with a twingo

    • But wouldn’t it be a good idea to test out a few of these ideas now to see it works or not? Doing so now, would give the added benefit of developing that idea further.

      Case in point, Mercedes bringing forward their development ideas for their power unit? Now they’re able to analyse and come up with alternative development strategies. They’ve already gotten a head start in that area already.

      • I’m still not convinced. Given that any new development has to be passed through the relevant bodies then there is always a chance of a leak of the idea. I know it sound odd but even with Ferrari still way behind the Merc and only just ahead of the Renault the chance of next yrs designs landing on someone’s desk would be a disaster for the team. I still believe that Merc will have a pretty large advantage next year and even though i bleed red I don’t believe that until 2017 we will have a fight for the top step as their engine is just out of reach.

    • The thing is, it’s not just engine. Williams, Lotus and Force India have pretty much the same engine but are miles behind. Yes, it’s likely that if you put the Merc engine in to a Red Bull or event a McLaren they’d be up there, but we seem to have a perfect storm of only one good engine and only one team using that engine that has a good car.

      To me, however, we have another issue. The cars just can’t follow each other. What we need is a massive rules shake-up in the aero department. Smaller wings, more mechanical grip, maybe some form of ground effect that isn’t as influenced by following another car as a wing is. To me, it doesn’t matter if Merc took a 1-2 in every race if there was some fighting going on down the order, but this track seemed to exacerbate the inability to follow another car closely.

  5. Vettel was trading fastest laps on the medium compound after his puncture forced him to the early first stop while the Mercs were on their softs for the first few laps after the start..

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