The teams: Ferrari (F1 2008)

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Felipe Massa scored his first of six wins in 2008 at Bahrain

Ferrari won yet another constructors’ championship in 2008, to the surprise of exactly no-one. Since 1999, they’ve only failed to win the title on two occasions, when Renault interrupted them from 2005-6.

What was fascinating about Ferrari this year was the shift in the balance of power between their drivers, with Felipe Massa taking over from Kimi Raikkonen as the main man.

Strong start

At the beginning of the season it seemed to be business as usual for Ferrari. The F2008 was quick over a single lap, and consistent over a stint.

Melbourne looked like an aberration – the drivers and the team both went to pot with mistakes in the race and unreliability. They hit back with consecutive wins at Sepang, Bahrain, Catalunya and Istanbul.

After a shaky start to the season Massa dominated at Bahrain and Istanbul. That came as no enormous surprise – he’d won both those races in 2007 and the form book painted Massa as the kind of driver who ‘tuned in’ to circuits he had an affinity for and was hard to beat when he started from pole position. But, over the course of the season, Raikkonen was the better bet for the championship.

Massa takes control

Monte-Carlo began to shake the foundations of those beliefs. Massa delivered an assured pole lap and led away at the start. He made an error at Ste Devote, but kept the car out of the barriers and finished third. While he collected useful championship points, Raikkonen crashed into a Force India.

It’s true that both drivers suffered from unreliability in 2008, much more than, Lewis Hamilton or the BMW duo did. Both drivers stopped with engine failure at Melbourne (though Raikkonen still collected a point), Massa lost a dead-certain win at Hungary, and so did Raikkonen at Magny-Cours, but he at least kept second place, Massa grabbing the win. Raikkonen was also halted at Valencia.

At the beginning of the decade Ferrari’s rock-solid reliability was the cornerstone of five years of dominance by Michael Schumacher. This year the MP4/23 and F1.08 were the cars to have from a point of view of reliability.

Failures on and off the track

Taking the season as a whole, the F2008 was surely the quicker machine, certainly in dry conditions. Witness its 13 fastest laps in 18 rounds, ten of which were Raikkonen’s.

Ferrari contrived to throw away more of that advantage with some woeful pitlane blunders. Massa’s disaster at Singapore was the most high-profile, but he’d also been lucky to escape a penalty at Valencia. Raikkonen also ran into trouble at Valencia, though that was of his own making. That wasn’t the case at Silverstone, where his race was ruined when the team elected not to change his tyres.

Would these pitwall gaffes have happened in the days of Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn? Schumacher recently revealed he was offered Jean Todt’s job as Ferrari team boss after announcing his retirement. Had he taken it, might we now be celebrating Felipe Massa’s first world championship?

A bad year for Raikkonen

The combination of reliability problems and team errors held Massa back in the championship battle. Raikkonen, however, carried much responsibility for the damage done to his chances of retaining the title.

At the root of Raikkonen’s problems in 2008 was an inability to get the maximum out of the car in qualifying. Despite his ten fastest laps – equalling his own all-time record co-held with Schumacher – Massa out-qualified him 12-6.

That often left Raikkonen languishing in the pack on race day. And he compounded it with driving errors: spinning out at Spa and crashing in the closing stages at Singapore. Late in the season he rallied, but it was too late for the championship, and he ended up having to sacrifice second place Massa at Shanghai.

The other concern for Ferrari was the car’s wet weather performance. In the tyre war years we became used to hearing that certain tyres performed better in certain conditions. Now it seems some cars are better suited to wet conditions and the F2008 was not one of them. It also struggled in cooler conditions, creating an impression that this was the car to have in perfect conditions, but in adverse weather an MP4/23 was the place to be.

Unusually, towards the end of the season, Ferrari revealed it was having trouble with the KERS devices that will be legalised next year. Are they really struggling or just pretending to be?

After two seasons together as team mates, its one-all in terms of championship performances between Massa and Raikkonen. How will we review their partnership after another two seasons together?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “The teams: Ferrari (F1 2008)”

  1. It’s looking like they may be getting medals instead of points from next year on , but that aside I believe Massa will emerge the stronger driver.

  2. Something that cost them the drivers title ultimately. but also the factors that contributed was inability of Ferrari car to handle wet conditions, which they finally fixed after “private” test session in concluding phase of campaign.

    Another big issue with all big teams is too much reliance on the “Automated Data” and inability to “Think on feet” McLaren and Ferrari have been both culprit on that front. Ferrari relied so much on their weather system in Silverstone that they went all the way under assumption that last 2/3rd of Race would be drier and their drivers looked like bunch of clowns on the track.

  3. Ferrari could REALLY be struggling with KERS. And there are plenty of symptoms to prove that.

    Historically; Ferrari have found it difficult to adapt to changing regulations ( Funnily enough, their car also suffers from the same problems). Eg: 2003, 2005.

    Force India snapping ties with Ferrari: I am sure Vijay Malaya didn’t have enough faith in Ferrari KERS; prompting him to switch to Mclaren.

    Ferrari devoting extra time to solve wet weather problems; and now a long and elaborate program for Kimi to work on his qualifying issues.

    Clearly; the head-honchos at Ferrari underestimate the advantage brought by KERS; so less efforts are being done in that direction

  4. Bad luck for Kimi….

    Oz, Silverstone, Monaco, Canada, Valencia, Magny Cours, Hockenheim, Interlagos…. plus I’d count Spa…

    Good luck for Kimi….

    Almost none…

    Bad luck for Massa…

    Oz, Hungary, Singapore….

    Good luck for Massa…

    Magny, Spa, Shanghai, Canada ….


  5. Lady Snowcat;

    How do you classify Interlagos, Australia as bad luck for Kimi? And Canada as Good luck for Massa; surely you gotta be kidding me..

    Of the few races you mentioned as Bad luck for Kimi; you must realize that at France (2), Valencia(3), Hockenheim(5); he lost only 10 points together. Massa lost 10 at Hungary alone.

    And the column you left empty: Good luck for Kimi

    How about Hungary, and even Australia ( whoever heard of a point in spite of not even finishing the race) ! ! !

  6. Ferrari failed to win the driver’s championship for 3 reasons:

    1. Rain
    2. Reliability
    3. Relative performance of drivers

    If Kimi drove the car Felipe had qualified he might have been WDC again.

    Ferrari were faster over the course of the season. Their fastest race laps increased from a tenth slower than Mclaren to being nearly eight tenths quicker at the end of the season, [CHART]. The same chart shows that McLaren’s Q2 performance was initially about 2 tenths slower, but had improved to about a tenth quicker at the end of the season.

    In Q2, Ferrari were faster than McLaren in 11 of the 18 races [CHART]
    In terms of race pace, Ferrari had far more fastest laps, beating McLaren in 14 of the 18 races [CHART]

    That said, the differences weren’t huge. Ferrari’s and McLaren’s best Q1 and Q3 times were on average within a tenth of each other, and their Q2 times much less than that. Ferrari’s fastest lap advantage was on average 0.3% (just under 0.3 seconds per lap), but some of that could be attributed to Kimi venting his frustration towards the end of a race.

  7. sumedh – points are awarded if you finish a certain percentage of the race. Learn little.

    Massa didn’t have bad luck in oz, it was just terrible driving.

  8. Hi sumedh…

    In Oz Kimi’s car broke down in qualy putting him 15th on the grid….

    Interlagos he had mega fuel and then was called in late for the earliest tyre change allowing other top runners to get in front of him…

    Massa was nowhere in Canada whilst Kimi was all but in front when Lewis killed his race… indeed given how the Ferrari tyre/ brake strategy was turning out Kimi could well have won… and Felipe made up one place from his grid position…. which if Lewis hadn’t mucked up would have been a one position deficit…

    France we know about, Valencia his engine blew and at Hockenheim if he hadn’t had to queue behind Felipe at the safety car pitstop (he was 3rd at the time) his feat in overtaking more than anyone else would have taken him above Felipe and probably Lewis…

    Against that you have him gaining a one position more from 4th to 3rd in Hungary…. one point!…

    Kimi certainly had most of the bad luck in 2008…

  9. Bridgestone says the Mclaren is a natural oversteering car, while the Ferrari has a natural tendency to understeer. How then can the Mclaren instill any confidence in its drivers when it rains

  10. Lady Snowcat
    Kimi won the 2007 championship, then took a vacation in 2008.

  11. Lady Snowcat; I take back Oz;

    But you certainly forgot about Massa’s fuel-rig problem at Canada. He was dead last after the fiasco; and still came up to 5th.

    At Hockenheim; Kimi was 5th not 3rd before the safety car situation.

    Kimi had more bad luck if you count number of races he was affected in. But Massa had more in terms of points since he was leading both the times (Singapore; Hungary) when luck deserted him.

    About Hockenheim; when Kimi was queued up behind Felipe; what else could have Ferrari done?? Keep Felipe who was P2, out on track? Due to the new safety car rules; 1 of the team-mates is always going to suffer.

    And BTW; at Canada, Massa queued up behind Kimi.

  12. Is Kimi learning from Alonso and just quietly simmering because he’s not automatically No 1 driver?
    Did it upset him when he realised where the fortune and favour were going?
    I think this semi-feud is going to continue into 2009, with Massa being covered in glory and Kimi keeping well away from him, even if it means losing the Championship.
    Unlike Alonso, Kimi will follow the official line and not go into hysterics, since he is still a team player.
    However, if Ferrari are really thinking of bringing Alonso on board anytime soon, they will look back at Kimi with regret they didn’t push him to his full potential…..

  13. Lady Snowcat: In Canada, Ferrari messed up Massa’s pitstop. He stoped during the safety car as everybody else and then had to stop again, right after the safety car, because the re-fueling had not worked in the first pitstop. As a result, he had to claw back to the front from dead last. Serious bad luck. In Spa, Kimi was by no means unlucky – he blew it himself.

    Nick: In Australia Massa had a suspension problem. After his mistake in the first curve, he had managed to bring himself up from 22nd to 10th before his car broke in the middle of the race. In my book he was unlucky again.

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