After their shock defeat in the final round of 2010, Ferrari are set to resume their battle with Red Bull in 2011.
For the second time in three years, Ferrari came close to seeing one of its drivers crowned world champion, only to fall at the final hurdle.
The team pledged it would not make any hasty decisions in the wake of Abu Dhabi. Strategist Chris Dyer eventually had to make way following the error that cost Fernando Alonso the championship.
Ferrari also took on two prominent members of staff from their biggest rivals: Pat Fry from McLaren and Red Bull’s Neil Martin. They will bolster the strength of a team with impressive resources – one which has grown used to unprecedented success.
Six races wins in the last two seasons would thrill most teams. But compared to the levels of dominance with which Ferrari began the last decade, team principal Stefano Domenicali must dreading the thought of a third consecutive season without a championship trophy.
In Fernando Alonso, the team has its new figurehead driver. Both uncompromising and galvanising, he is the successor to Michael Schumacher that Kimi R?â?ñikk?â?Ânen and Felipe Massa were not.
By the second half of last year Alonso was back at the height of his form he hit in 2005-2006. The victory grabbed from Sebastian Vettel at Singapore showed he is at the top of his game.
At Korea he demonstrated an element of his craft that should serve him very well last year. While his rivals shredded their intermediate tyres late in the race, Alonso kept his alive and they were in visibly better condition by the end of the race.
If it’s possible for a skilful driver to eke out another lap or two on disintegrating Pirellis this year – and save themselves a pit stop by doing it – Alonso may well be the driver who can.
At the launch of the new car – called F150 at the time and since re-named the 150?é?? Italia – president Luca di Montezemolo complained about F1’s “excessive” reliance on aerodynamics: “In the 1970s it was more about the engine and mechanics, now it?óÔé¼Ôäós all about aerodynamics.”
There is a sense of frustration at tight restrictions on engine development, traditionally a Ferrari strength, with the greater opportunities for aerodynamic development – where Red Bull and Adrian Newey reign supreme.
The 150?é?? Italia carries on the conservative appearance of recent Ferraris. But while it may not look as innovative as McLaren’s MP4-26 or Renault’s R31, it has shown promising form in testing on long runs.
It has also been very reliable – Ferrari lead the way in terms of distance covered so far. Nailing the reliability at the start of the season was key to their win in the first race last year.
Ferrari’s strong development was clear from the progress they made with the F10 in the middle of last year. Expect them to push Red Bull every lap of the way for championship honours in 2011.
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