Ferrari playing catch-up but still expect to be contenders

2013 F1 season preview

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Ferrari has met the disappointment of its 2012 campaign and the heartbreak of seeing Fernando Alonso narrowly miss out on the drivers’ championship with a measured response.

The top technical staff have not been held up as scapegoats and dismissed, and the F138 is not a red RB8.

A lack of reliable wind tunnel data caused and later exacerbated Ferrari’s 2012 troubles. The team produced a car which was well off the pace in the opening races.

A series of upgrades introduced after the flyaway races brought them into contention for victories, but the same core problem undermined further development efforts.

Chief deisgner Nikolas Tombazis explained: “For various reasons, our development over the latter part of last season stalled and because our rivals continued their development to a certain extent, the gap between us grew, especially after the summer break. A gap which we had closed down to three tenths, thus became around eight in Brazil.”

The 2013 Ferrari has been developed at the Toyota Motorsport wind tunnel in Cologne while their own facility is brought up to scratch. Operating at multiple bases is obviously not desirable but it’s a compromise which the team expects to reap benefits from in the long-term.

Another key area for development is the simulator, where Red Bull and McLaren have stolen a march on their Italian rivals in recent years. The hiring of Pedro de la Rosa, with his extensive experience of McLaren’s state-of-the-art technoogy, is a coup, though one which will also take time to pay off.

Stefano Domenicali, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Ferrari F138 launch, 2013Team principal Stefano Domenicali is satisfied that Ferrari’s calm response to four years without a championship is the correct one, and will allow them to compete this year:

“The new business structure, the working methods, the modifications to the equipment that we have used to work on this car, the consistency of the results compared with our targets and what we saw in the recent tests ?ǣ these all seem to tell us that we are on the right path at last compared to the past.

“So, to make an analysis that is purely centred on ourselves, unless someone else has done an exceptional job I?m convinced that Ferrari will be in the battle to the end.”

Throughout the winter Alonso’s mantra has been that if the team can come as close to success with a car as inadequate as the F2012, a championship victory is a possible with a machine that’s only slightly sub-par.

That may exaggerate how poor the F2012 was for much of last season, but Ferrari’s core game is very strong.

Alonso left few points on the table last year and the team’s sharpness operationally and tactically meant they usually extracted the maximum from each race weekend. Their pit crew was seldom the quickest in the pit lane, but they were rarely far off and made few mistakes.

Four victories in two seasons is not the sort of win rate F1’s most successful team demands. And with arguably the best driver in F1 today in their line-up they will surely be in championship contention again this year. But they are taking care not to raise expectations:

“We have a well defined development plan and we are reasonably sure that the new components tested on track have produced positive results,” said Tombazis. “The Melbourne package worked as we had hoped, with no particular unexpected problems, but it?s still difficult to say where we are compared to our competitors, so it?s better not to speculate.”

Car 3: Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013For a large part of last year it looked as though Alonso was going to pull off the remarkable feat of securing his third drivers’ championship title despite having started the season with a significant handicap.

But he was undone by the sheer effectiveness of the Red Bull-Newey-Vettel machine and left wondering how different things might have been had his F2012 just been a few tenths faster at crucial points in the season.

Vettel knows Alonso’s consistency in a race and his cool-headed tendency to avoid mistakes make him one of his most formidable competitors. And Alonso knows if he is to keep Vettel from a fourth world championship he is going to have to start more races from the front of the grid.

Alonso is overdue a third title, having missed out by one, four and three points in 2007, 2010 and 2012 respectively. But there’s no sense of entitlement as he embarks on his fourth season of Ferrari – just an acknowledgement that they can and must do better.

Car 4: Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013After his dreadful start to last year – a continuation of his indifferent 2010 and 2011 performances – there can be little doubt that Massa’s continued presence at Ferrari owes a lot to him not being quick enough to ruffle Alonso’s feathers.

Massa raised his game when he needed to last year. He out-qualified Alonso in the final two races and was quicker than him in the races too, having to make way for his team mate in Brazil.

Can he carry that form into the new season? He shares Alonso’s optimism about the F138, but was unsatisfied at spending half of his pre-season testing allocation doing donkey work at a track the teams don’t even race at.

Massa will have to sustain his improved form to stand a chance of retaining his place at Ferrari. One threat to his seat may have vanished in the form of Sergio Perez but the appearance of Nico Hulkenberg in Perez’s place at Ferrari-engined Sauber shows Massa can’t afford to be complacent.

Ferrari F138

Ferrari championship form

Ferrari is the only team to have competed in every season since the world championship was inaugurated in 1950.

Championship position22316414254523462111211051122442323443322211111132114332

Ferrari in 2013: Your view

Will this finally be the year that Fernando Alonso claims his third drivers’ championship? And will Felipe Massa carry his late-2012 form into the new year?

Have your say in the comments.

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Images ?? Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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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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  • 50 comments on “Ferrari playing catch-up but still expect to be contenders”

    1. lol @ the graph. you can clearly see the msc time :P but what was after 1990? the graph seems to go down to 0…

      1. Ferrari has had less successful periods before as well. At the time it was first McLaren and then Williams having the successes.

      2. Why is 1950 missing? Not that they scored victories that year, but for the sake of it :P

        1. It’s been added I see

      3. Yes the Schumacher years are in fact a very obvious anomaly, so why did we have to have so many rule changes to correct an anomaly, particularly as the end result has changed nothing but the name of the unbeatable team and driver.

      4. And 2008? Although I think Massa deserved that, I he isn’t the champion.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      7th March 2013, 12:06

      I reckon Alonso is maybe 2-1 for the drivers championship but I think they’ll struggle to finish in the four in the Constructors.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        7th March 2013, 12:07

        I meant top four

        1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
          7th March 2013, 16:06

          That’s true, and the one and only one reason is Felipe Massa (going by 2012 season). Massa just did well in the last 2 races, and if he carries that form into 2013, Ferrari may well be on their way to a Constructor’s – or atleast a second place.

    3. Funny enough, I would be perfectly happy if they win another 2-4 races this year, would be nice to see Massa have a couple of times where he can do the job (meaning Alonso is not able to for whatever reason), but I would rather see it a close battle between the likes of Perez, Button, Vettel, Webber and the Mercedes guys with maybe Kimi snatching the WDC in the end or something.

      1. @bascb based on the end of last season, that could happen and would be a nice scenario. I personally don’t see Perez fighting up front (at least not in the first races), but I expect the other you list to be the main guys occupying the podium for most season, maybe with one or two other apparence from guys like Grosjean, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Maldonado and Perez.

        For the article, nice sum up except that we tend to forget that ferrari being well off pace last year came at the best time. When the inconsistancy of the tyre avoid RedBull and McLaren to rack up to many point. So if a car is well off pace this season, I won’t expect that kind of scenario …

    4. What happened in 1980? Ferrari finished last in the constructors?

      1. That year, Ferrari ran an old 12-cylinder boxer while pretty much everyone else ran DFV V8 engines. The DFV is much narrower than the F12, which meant that the non-Ferraris were much more efficient in using ground-effect. I believe that was also the year that a Ferrari did not qualify for one race.

      2. IIt is incredible to see that they went from 1st to 10th then to first again two years later. Talk about varying form!

    5. For the first time ever, I can say that I actually wouldn’t mind a Ferrari driver taking the WDC. I like Kimi, but was very bitter over him leaving McLaren when he won his title. If Lewis can’t win, then Alonso is my pick. I regained an awful lot of respect for him last year.

      1. Kimi won his title with McLaren????

        1. Murali – I mean that when Kimi won his title with Ferrari, I was still annoyed at him leaving McLaren at the end of the previous season.

      2. Well can you blame him, he would’ve been (most likely) a double world champion before 2007 if it weren’t for McLaren designing ridiculously unreliable cars?

        1. @tmekt looking back now, no. My opinion of the team changed completely last season.

    6. James- I did not gain any respect at all for Alonso last year- I ALWAYS had it!! The guy is awesome.

      What I dont really like is how his team SOMETIMES goes about their business. For me Ferarri is the ‘spoilt brat’ of F1. When things are good, its all good, when they dont win there is always an excuse- its someone else fault.

      In Brazil last year I wanted Alonso to win, but even after Seb came through the pack Stefano will claim his man was the champ, Suzuka cost him etc………… to me its bad sportsmanship. I cant see Horner or Newey publically saying the same!!

      1. @garns

        In Brazil last year I wanted Alonso to win, but even after Seb came through the pack Stefano will claim his man was the champ, Suzuka cost him etc………… to me its bad sportsmanship. I cant see Horner or Newey publically saying the same!!

        You won´t see them doing it openly, Horner has had one or two lapses where he has hinted it though and anyways… that is what they have Helmet Marko for…. he always makes up excuses for “wonderboy”.

        I agree though, Alonso is just a beast when it comes to racing… he is no slouch… he has proven that when it counts (rain conditions), he´s got the hands to put that Ferrari on pole… He just hasn´t had a car capable enough to help him in qualy and I also have to agree that although I fully understand Ferrari´s driver policy, I sometimes do not aprove of how they go about business some times… I totally agreed with the Austin decision but although I did not completely agreed with the Hockenheim debacle, I also understand why they did it…

      2. RedBull got Helmut Marco for that :)

      3. @garns his behavior in 2007 seriously dented his reputation for me, as well as many other people. Now, following him on twitter and his driving last season have completely changed my opinion of him.

        No, I don’t like the way Ferrari conduct themselves either most of the time. But then, you can say that about Red Bull and McLaren as well, they’re all trying to get the upper-hand on the other two.

        @njoydesign – that is very true!

        1. following him on twitter…have completely changed my opinion of him.

          Me too: it made me think he is slightly manic with all the samurai tweets!

          Seriously though, I think making up excuses just makes people look like sore losers. Better to stomach it and use the drive to win to your advantage next season than reminisce over what might have been…

          1. @garns
            Do you not remember Marko whining about how Vettel’s penalty in Germany was like “death penalty for stealing a chicken”?

            Marko defended Vettel for cheating/illegally overtaking. Big difference.

            1. @kingshark – I think it’s best by and large to ignore Marko: he gives Red Bull a bad image. I do appreciate the fact though it means that Vettel doesn’t have to play the political game, which is a pointless endeavour in my opinion: actions speak louder than words.

    7. Interesting graph. Everytime Ferrari secured only 3 wins in a season.. they haven’t been able to follow it up with more than 5-6 wins the next season.

      Honestly, I’d be glad if they can manage 5 to 6 wins in 2013.

      1. They will do more, this year will be easy for them.

        1. @todfod
          You need to have a look at the 1996-1997 championship again! ;-)

          1. @kingshark

            Well.. they did get 3 wins in 1996 and 5 in 1997.

    8. We’ve got some formidable talent in F1 at the moment. As fans, we should be appreciative of this. I agree Alonso is the most complete driver. Then there’s also Hamilton, Vettel, Button and Raikkonen – all outstanding. Here’s hoping Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Rosberg, Perez and Maldonado take their games to the next level this year. Let us not bemoan the loss of would-be greats such as Kovalainen or Kobayashi, and instead look forward to the strengthening of the Formula 1 grid even further as the wheat gets separated from the chaff.

      1. The machinery and engineering are awesome (if somewhat unsighthly) including telemetry, aero and enery recovery systems. The media circus does plays up the drama but at least you have multiple channels to enjoy it, and races around the globe. It IS s a good time to be a fan.

    9. Will FA win his 3rd WDC? Will FM continue his strong form of the end of 2012? I think there is no reason to think otherwise, but then thats why they run the races. I think the degrady tires will make for another lottery for at least the first half of the season, so since F1 has decided to shape itself this way I think there is no way of predicting much until we see how a few races go, if not the first half of the season. Not to take anything away from FA because he is awesome, but last year he had some luck in that even though the car started off slow, the tires allowed for a lot of points to be spread around a lot of drivers. Had one team somehow run away from the start, or even just been a little more consistant, FA (et al) would have been screwed. Last year FA needed SV’s car to konk out a few times to have ended up a contender in the end. Not taking anything at all away from FA. Even if SV’s car was more solid more often, and he ran away with the WDC, FA still did wonders with that car. But if the Ferrari is much better, and the Red Bull is a titch more reliable, then it could easily still come down to FA and SV for the WDC in the end.

      What I prefer not to see, but what I think may well happen, is that it will come down to the luck of the lottery draw as to what team can get some kind of a handle on the tires, just like last year. And even then, the tires were still too much of a factor, imho, even at the very end. I think too often we will hear ‘conserve, conserve, conserve’ and yes, while always being a factor in all racing, I think it is too much of a factor in F1 these days and they can find better ways to make for closer racing that don’t take it so much out of the drivers hands and leave it in the designers’ and engineers.

      Again, while fully understanding tire conservation has always been part of the car racing game, I think it is too much the limiting factor and is unfortunate that F1 has felt it has had to evolve this way to keep an audience share. The tires and the DRS are gadgets that take some of the shine off the apple in terms of fantasizing about what one’s favourite drivers may or may not be able to do. One’s favourite can easily be going along fine, enthralling his fans, only to all of a sudden hit the tire cliff and start looking silly, being passed as though defenseless, just as the DRS does. Not very inspiring, but to F1 I guess the end justifies the means, and they want close Championships that come down to the last race, no matter how contrived. How unfortunate.

      But at least it is the same for everybody. Just too bad it’s as much an engineer’s race as it is a driver’s.

    10. I want a year in which Kimi wins the WDC but Ferrari takes the Teams Championship. I hold new respect for Alonso after the last 2 seasons, but still prefer the Iceman, which I was disappointed when Ferrari sacked him.

      On Massa, I guess he should have been sacked long ago, but his clear #2 spot has always secured his seat. I find it interesting the Jules Bianchi scored a ride with Marussia, specially since he did it with Ferrari backing him up. So he might be the next #2 at the team, given that no top driver wants to walk into a position in which he will be second to the Asturian and the Scuderia has always been adamant to keep a 1-2 driver layout.

    11. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      7th March 2013, 15:59

      Alonso would be a 5-time world championship by now if he hadn’t missed 3 championships by 1-3 points. I mean, that is just plain bad luck. The fact that Ferrari bounced back the way they did in 2012 is enough proof that they would have bettered their car. It’s still not the best, if Alonso’s and the team’s comments are anything to go by, but I am pretty sure Alonso has the highest probability of winning the Championship this year. As for Constructor’s for Ferrari, I am not so sure, as Massa struggles to finish in points sometimes. But as for Driver’s Championship this year – I am pretty sure it will be Alonso’s third.

      1. Alonso would be a 5-time world championship by now if he hadn’t missed 3 championships by 1-3 points. I mean, that is just plain bad luck.

        I don’t believe in luck and I also believe there is no point reminiscing over what might have been; much better to focus on the future and make it your own. So saying he lost out by 1-3 points simply means he (or the team) has to improve in my view!

        1. Yeah if you are gonna play woulda shoulda coulda with one driver, you might as well say that if SV hadn’t had the unreliability he did last year (ie. had Ferrari’s reliability), he would have made more of a cakewalk of his 3rd Championship, it would have been sewn up with 2 or 3 races to go, and FA wouldn’t nearly have come off as performing miracles with a dog of a car. It’s not just about a level of luck, it’s how the chips fell. It’s about mistakes that were made too, and about the actions of other teams and drivers and how the points played out beyond the control of, in this case, FA and Ferrari.

          FA correctly said at the end of last season that if they could come so close with such a problematic car, then surely they have a great chance at the WDC in 2013 with even just a slightly improved car. But what he didn’t say was that if they only slightly improve then they would still depend on Red Bull and others having some unreliability issues and some bad luck of their own. And perhaps depend on many points being spread out among many drivers for the first half of the season as happened last year. Ferrari has to greatly improve and assume that Red Bull will have less unreliability before they can realistically go after FA’s 3rd WDC.

          1. @robbie – exactly, +1 to you sir! I’ve never really liked how Alonso thinks he can perform miracles: he does what the car is capable of on a consistent basis, but he is not a god compared to Vettel who is a mere mortal.

            Nonetheless, I firmly believe it will be yet another Vettel/Alonso shoot-out, which will make for some great viewing I’m sure!

            1. Yeah given the consistancy of the regs for this year I think it is safe to assume all the teams will have improved in performance and reliability to at least some degree such that they may be closer, that the tires will continue to give them question marks and us a lottery for the first half, and that when it all comes out in the wash it should be a SV/FA shootout. But anything can happen and usually does. And teams’ performance and reliability is a moving target. And tracks treat different teams/cars differently. So many variables. Thats why they run all the races to decide a Championship. There’s gonna be mistakes made by drivers and pit crews and strategists, there’s gonna be unreliability, crashes, but hopefully no injuries, and there’s going to be brilliant drives in there too. And weather. And surprises.

    12. Ben (@scuderia29)
      7th March 2013, 17:25

      I really do hope this is ferraris year, a few too many heartbreaks in recent years

    13. Simply put, may the best man and team win. If you lose, try again next year…

    14. Seems like a lot of people are buying into the notion that if Alonso can start in a decent position, he’s gonna win the WDC!

      His average starting position in various years –

      2005 3.8
      2006 4.3
      2007 3.1
      2010 5.8
      2011 4.7
      2012 6.1

      There’s no relationship between where Alonso starts and his level of success, because his level of success depends much more strongly on how other drivers are doing. (As is the case for every driver, of course)

      You can have the best year of your career qualifying wise and not win the WDC for other reasons beyond your control, as happened to Alonso in 2007. Or you can have a poor year in terms of qualifying but mount a very strong challenge because your competitors are also having problems, as happened for Alonso in 2010 and 2012.

      I expect Alonso to do better in qualifying this season compared to last. But it’s very far from a foregone conclusion that this will translate into a better season in 2013 when compared to his rivals.

      1. @jonsan – I don’t think there’s any guarantee that if Ferrari are on-par with Red Bull he will beat Vettel in qualifying: I think it’s the general consensus that Vettel an Hamilton are the top two qualifiers and Alonso is a slightly better racer, but if we are talking about a fight for pole position Vettel has a formidable record from starting from there. Of the 36 pole positions he has had, he has converted 19 of them into race victories (53%) and 28 into podium finishes (78%). So by no means will Alonso starting higher guarantee him the title or anything of the like.

    15. I cannot agree with the phrase “significant handicapp” Keith said above. Because:
      There is no one here, literally no one who has access to any technical data of the cars. e.g. Bhp, torque, center of gravity of the cars, the aero dyanmic drag coefficient, engine map and so on unless you work for Ferrari or FIA.So how can you come up with the idea such “flawed car” or “handicapped ” etc.?

      By the way, The Red Bull car was more flawed (alternators, Kers) and otherwise the championship would have been decided in India. Hayving say that all, I do recognize that Alonso had also his own share of bad luck (Spa, Suzuka and Monza)

      1. @sl300forf1 The F2012 was 1.26% off the pace over the first four races of last year, ranking at best sixth in terms of pure performance at the time. That was a “significant handicap” from the point of view a driver hoping to with the championship.

    16. @kingshark
      “Marko defended Vettel for cheating/illegally overtaking. Big difference.”

      Yes mate I do and agree with your comments- I have said before I take Marko’s comments with a grain of salt and wished he had nothing to do with Red Bull at all. But yes, I guess it does allow Horner to get on with it and let someone else make the comments instead.I just think that like the gearbox seal, while well within their rights as a team, and rules of the game, would not have been done by the vast majority of other teams on the grid, thats all.

    17. ‘Massa kept his Ferrari drive by not being fast enough to ruffle Alonso’s feathers’. I liked that, sad but true.
      What surprises me is you would have thought Ferrari would have had the most advanced wind tunnel in the business, or the most advanced simulater. Having to use Toyota’s windtunnel in Cologne for me is nothing short of embarrassing for a team of Ferrari’s standing, I don’t think Enzo would have relished that one.
      That being said, atleast Ferrari appear to have identified their errors and have admitted them in public. Their approach is not too different from the one Lewis Hamilton is taking, a ‘lets wait a see’ stance which kind of gives them the air of an underdog. Let Red Bull have all the pressure of being defending champions, let them have to answer all the questions if their car is not fast enough.
      For me though, the pressure really is on Ferrari. This is Fernando Alonso’s fourth season with the team and he is yet to win the championship, through no fault of his own ofcourse. One has to wonder how the relationship between driver and team will fare if Alonso has to endure several more fruitless campaigns?
      Ferrari know that in Alonso they have one of the very best, possibly the best, driver on the grid. In Massa they have a very loyal and on his day quick number two driver. The pieces of the jigsaw are all there it is just making them all fit into place.

    18. A lack of reliable wind tunnel data caused and later exacerbated Ferrari’s 2012 troubles. The team produced a car which was well off the pace in the opening races.

      Alonso’s ineptness in qualifying really flatters his Sunday drives. If the F2012 were genuinely slow I’d expect it to be slow in Q1, Q2, and Q3. But throughout 2012 Alonso was frequently slower in Q3 than Q2, which is an unusual trait in any champion F1 driver. He often did very competitive qualifying times – just not in final qualifying when he needed them.

      Look at his qualifying times in China.

      Q1 1:36.292
      Q2 1:35.982
      Q3 1:36.622

      He set his worst time of all three qualifying session in Q3, while all the other drivers were getting faster from one session to the next. If Alonso had merely duplicated his Q2 time in Q3 he’s have started 4th in China instead of 9th. His 9th place start was not down to a “slow car”.

      And that”s no anomaly – several times during the season Alonso went backwards during qualifying.

      At Monza Alonso set the fastest time in Q1 with a 1:24.175. He set the fastest time in Q2 with a 1:24.242. Then, while every driver either got faster or stayed about the same in Q3, Alonso set a 1:25.678. He did not lose 1.5 seconds of pace over a matter of hours because his car was badly designed or Ferrari had a poor wind tunnel.

      Those are just two examples out of many. Granted that the F2012 was no rocket ship, there is abundant evidence that Alonso’s poor starting position last season was caused in large measure by his own errors on Saturdays.

      1. Fernando s rear suspension broke in Q3 at Monza last year, i m guess the same problem that Lewis had in Singapore, that s why he lost 1,5 sec…

    19. Avanti Fer, this is going to be your year !

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