Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have said goodbye to the summer break as championship leaders, even though Ferrari has the fastest car – F1’s head of sport Ross Brawn is nevertheless convinced that Ferrari have enough time to catch up.
Former Ferrari’s chief technology officer Ross Brawn, now part of the Liberty Media ruling trio, is now responsible for the sporting and technical development of F1 going forward.
“Last year, Ferrari said goodbye to the summer break with a great one-two, Sebastian Vettel leading the championship with 14 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.” says Brawn.
“One year later, the roles are reversed , because now it is Vettel, who is behind and has to catch up 24 points on Hamilton. In addition, Ferrari was quite aware last year that their package was generally inferior compared to the Mercedes.
“This year, I would estimate that for the first time since 2008, Ferrari has again the fastest car capable of winning pole position and victory on every type of track.”
This time last year, Hamilton is trailed 14 points behind Vettel, who took the chequered flag at the Hungaroring – a fourth victory of the season at the time. At that point, Vettel had lead the championship battle all season.
Hamilton had also won four times – in China, Spain, Canada and at Silverstone – but those victories had been surrounded by a number of inconsistent displays of performance. Furthermore, Hamilton allowed team mate Bottas to repass at the end of the previous Grand Prix in Hungary just before the summer break, gifting more points to Vettel.
This year, Brawn appraises the points situation in a similar vein saying: “It’s a mix of mistakes, crashes and missed opportunities that have led to the current situation for Ferrari.
“There are still nine races left, because Ferrari has enough time to close the gap, after all, the SF71-H is currently the best car in the field.”
Ross Brawn is perhaps the best for gauging such a situation between 2 teams, with his remarkable past achievements from a technical standpoint. Indeed it was he who setup the Mercedes dominance that began in 2014, the year he quit Formula 1.
Ferrari had opted for the most drastic change of philosophy among the big three Formula 1 teams with its 2018 car compared to its ’17 challenger. Adopting a longer wheelbase concept – similar to the one employed by Mercedes in 2017 – and the high-rake approach traditionally used by Red Bull over the years, and now McLaren, the 2018 SF171H has taken the best aspects of the competition to improve it’s car.
But in a broader sense, Ross Brawn recognises just how much the recently passed Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne had contributed to Ferrari’s philosophy since his take over from Luca di Montezemolo in September 2014.
Brawn concludes that Ferrari having the “fastest car” in 2018, is “solid proof that the efforts on the technology front, initiated by Sergio Marchionne, are now worthwhile. ”
Brawn certainly has a soft spot for Ferrari having shared huge success with the Italian team during the 2000’s and the Michael Schumacher dominance.
Brawn was renowned for his race strategies as the team began to challenge for the championship from 1997, despite the superiority of the Williams cars that year and the McLarens from 1998 onwards.
After these “rebuilding” years, he (as Ferrari technical director) helped Ferrari regain glory when the team won the Constructors’ Championship in 1999, the first of six consecutive titles. The Brawn-guided Scuderia also powered Schumacher to five consecutive drivers’ titles, from 2000 to 2004.
Brawn’s contributions to this unprecedented string of titles has led many to label him as a vital member of the Ferrari “dream team” along with Schumacher, team principal Jean Todt and chief designer Rory Byrne. In 2005 Ferrari never quite found form, and had to relinquish the title to Renault, and Schumacher passed the crown to Fernando Alonso.
In 2006 Ferrari had a poor start to the season, but clearly had the fastest car by the end of that season.
On 26 October 2006 Ferrari announced that Brawn was to leave the team. It was believed that he would take a one-year sabbatical, to allow other members of the Ferrari technical departments to advance within the team. Alas, it was the last time Brawn was involved with the red team having moved onto Honda.
Back in the summer of 2016, Marchionne wanted Brawn to return to Ferrari and assist the team since the big slump of 2014 and to some extent, the period before. Ross Brawn declined this ‘advisory role’.