Ferrari believe they can close on Mercedes in Malaysia

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Ferrari believe they will be able to reduce their deficit to Mercedes at the second race of the season in Malaysia this weekend.

Mercedes out-qualified the field by over 1.3 seconds in the Australian Grand Prix, but Ferrari technical director James Allison says his team can close some of that gap regardless of how Mercedes perform.

“Let’s assume for a minute that Mercedes don’t make mistakes,” said Allison, “I think with the gaps that we saw in Melbourne it’s reasonable to expect Mercedes will be at the front”.

“However we think we can be a fair bit closer to them than we were in Melbourne if we get everything right. We didn’t get everything right in Melbourne and in Malaysia we hope to. I would hope we can put our car in a strong third and fourth on the grid”.

While Ferrari’s rivals Williams expect the different characteristics of the Sepang circuit compared to Melbourne to suit them better, Allison says the two tracks actually have quite a lot in common.

“Sepang is obviously a totally different climate. The track is not so different at the end of it”.

“We look at tracks normally in two main ways. We look at how sensitive they are to horsepower and how sensitive they are to downforce. And if you look at Sepang compared with Melbourne in those ways then Sepang is very similar to Melbourne. So a car that was at a certain level of competitiveness in Melbourne should really inherit that in Sepang”.

“The difference is that Sepang is very hot and Sepang is therefore a challenge to keep the car at the right temperature and also, more critically, the tyres at the right temperature. So management of those tyres is a bigger deal in Sepang than it was in Melbourne”.

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    Keith Collantine
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    65 comments on “Ferrari believe they can close on Mercedes in Malaysia”

    1. I think this is true. Ferrari’s race pace looked really good and they had a bit of a mess in qualifying. Kimi could’ve gone 0,3 secs faster and Vettel was far from brilliant. I think they’re like 0,8 secs behind Mercs and hopefully can make inroads into that gap as the season progresses.

      1. The flaw in your comment is the assumption that the Mercs will not improve as the season progresses.

        1. well in past seasons mercedes have been one of the worse for improving as the season goes on. they were one of the worst besides last year where their advantage was so big it didnt matter.

        2. Or showed their best in Melbourne.

      2. The flaw in your assumption is that Mercs were running at full power in the race. I also second @tmoore

      3. The flaw in tmoore and David Jones comment is the assumption that Ferrari cannot gain more speed than what Mercedes can achieve and that @osvaldas31 would have not taken that into consideration :)

        1. Ferrari have been trying to gain speed for the past 6 years, and after so much time, they haven’t made it to the front yet.

          1. Well, they also won 5 titles between 2001-2005, which shows that given the right set of personnel, they are able to find the speed. They have not been at the peak but neither have they fallen like McLaren have done this year as well.

            1. @evered7 actually that’d be wrong because Ferrari are the ones playing catch up and admitting they’re throwing everything at it. It’s not like they’re nipping at the heels of Merc and are just being slightly out played. They don’t have any major tricks up their sleeve and if they did, they wouldn’t be waiting to show it.

              Mercedes on the other hand though knew from FP2 and FP3 that they’d be out at the front (probably before than) . This allows them to play it however they want and thus they hold the cards and are able to decide how much or how little they want to game the field. If you think the Sunday drive both boys put on was their peak…then you’re in for a long season of upsets and misplaced optimism.

              You other comment is irrelevant to the current situation. Why relish or bring up past success as if that knowledge is going to help them now?

            2. Too bad this was 10 years ago.

            3. @evered7 Yeah,they won 5 titles in the most cynical unsporting fashion,let’s hope they dont resort to those desperate tactics and spoil the sport for everyone!

            4. @magillagorilla I didn’t say Ferrari are snapping at the heels of Mercs, I only said Ferrari ‘might’ be able to get time out of the car than Mercs could. The opposite could also be true, I agree.

              Whether Mercedes were at 100% or not is anyone’s guess. No arm chair critic has got the facts to state it as a truth. For that matter, we don’t know if Ferrari were at a 100% on Sunday.

              Rosberg had a free reign last year and couldn’t have bothered to be on the pace every single lap because of the speed differential. But this year both Hamilton and Rosberg were racing each other and would certainly have been pushing each other for the win.

              I brought up the past because a door was opened saying how Ferrari have been trying to get the speed for the past 6 years (even though it was a different formula). If we strike off that argument, then I am glad not to bring up the Schumi glory days as well.

      4. @osvaldas31 I would like to think so too. How exiting will it be if true? I miss the multi team heart pumping fights in qualifying and race. When drivers are neck a neck pushing their cars and team to the limit to get pole or win a race. Oh.. the tension in the hair or even on the commentators’ voices! Great stuff. That is why I wake up at 4 in the morning.

      5. I think Ferrari can get closer to Mercedes during the season. After all the Mercedes of 2015 is an evolution whereas the Ferrari of 2015 is very different car than last year. Ferrari will take some time to unlock the true potential of the car while Mercedes probably are closer to unlocking the full potential of their car now.

        I would also like to add that Mercedes domination now can become a double-edged sword as the technology matures. The other manufacturers will go radical with their PU. They will go over the limit and take penalties for new PU’s in search of performance. When they find the performance they will fix teething problems “for reliability reasons”. I think Honda has allready opted for this strategy, they were never going to compete for the Championship, better to go for performance over reliability and fix reliability during the season. The only team that can’t go down this route is Mercedes. They have the advantage and has to make it count now. In the end one or several other manufacturers might end up with a better PU than Mercedes when the engines are totally frozen.

      6. Kimi’s new middle name is: could-would-should…

      7. Really?

    2. I hope Allison is right, and I’d be delighted to have both Williams and Ferrari closer to Mercedes, but whether it’s 1.3 seconds or 0.8, does it really matter? Mercedes have an unassailable performance lead at this stage.

      I can only hope that the teams improve massively over the season and by the end of the year Mercedes can be put under some kind of pressure.

      1. Well, I guess if its about 6-9 tenths you can have to occasional slipup from Mercedes that will allow them to get in front of one or even win those 2 races, I guess @colossal-squid.

        On the other hand, with Mercedes saying that they have a lot of things not quite working as they should on this car yet, its not going to be easy. And I doubt Mercedes were running full power or even full fuel flow for any larger part of the race, so they will have some in reserve

    3. Another wishfull thinking. Their gap to Mercede is the same as last year.. Just look at their finishing time. 2014 Alonso 35 sec.. 2015 Vettel 34 sec. So what made them think its different this year? Cause of their engine improvement? Mercedes didn’t sleep in the winter havent people notice that, they out develop Ferrari and Renault. So in Malaysia will be another boring race.

      1. I really hope it’s not boring, although the first and second spots seem somewhat of a formality.

      2. IN 2014 — safety car turned out in round 12 to round 16 , while in 2015 the safety car turned out in round 2 to round 4 . The difference is how many rounds remain until the end of the race, in 2014 remain 41 rounds , while in 2015 54 rounds . Add approximately 15 seconds plus on Alonso’s time and you get the right picture

      3. I think it’s unfair to compare Ferrari’s progress like that! The problem last year was they began bad and they become even worse. Ferrari’s development during the last season was almost none (I think they even went backwards if we look to Abu Dhabi). So if we compare Ferrari SF-14 in the end of the season with Ferrari SF-15 we can see a clear evolution. Now the question is: are they capable of doing a better job this year during the season?!

      4. In 2014 Mercedes was taking it quite slow actually. They had no threat from behind and they were worried that the car might overheat. This year Hamilton and Rosberg were sort of racing each other so they were closer to their top speed already.

        That’s the difference with the RBR domination also. RBR simply told there drivers to hold station and maintain a healthy lead (say 10 to 12 seconds or less) and not build it out. Merc lets their drivers race and they pull a much bigger gap than they would really need to get their 1-2.

        1. Mercedes let their drivers race on Safety Mode settings. Cruise speed. They are racing each other on this margin. IF they ever need to fight other car, then they will use what they have.

          Just remember last year on Italy, Hamilton fell to 4th place at the start and the team allowed him to use an extra power mode until he go past the 2 cars between him and Rosberg. He passed Massa and immediately changed his settings back to normal.

        2. If you are to be believed then Red Bull must also have instructed Webber to finish most races in fourth place in spite of the fact that the car was perfectly capable of second! All part of their cunning plan, no doubt.

    4. I don’t think for a second that Mercedes were running at 100% in Melbourne and believe they have enough in hand that if Ferrari make a step closer, they will simply turn it up a few notches. Barring tyre and cooling management and human error they have everyone covered off for the foreseeable future.

      1. Not so sure about this. I’m guessing Rosberg was trying yo extract the maximum he could in the race.

        1. Only for a few laps though. Then Hamilton would pull out the maximum for a few laps and Rosberg would settle down again. Doing that speed throughout the whole race might not have been possible though (fuel or tyre wise).

          Still, I’d say they were closer to the limit than Rosberg was in 2014 when he was the sole Merc easily managing his lead.

          1. and even then we don’t know how hard they were pushing the engine. Let’s say for example they were running 80% to stay ahead of Ferrari but when Rosberg tried he put it up to 85% to close on Hamilton so as a result Hamilton did so too. And so they never went above 85% giving them another 15% to play with if Ferrari come closer. Just assumptions really but I do believe we haven’t seen it all.

        2. Yes but we know from last season that both drivers have to use the same settings when racing between each other, so regardless of how hard Nico was pushing to make up time, he would have the same engine setting as Lewis. I don’t think they would let them run at maximum output from the power units in race one either. The advantage that we’re seeing from Mercedes is not only the power unit, they have done an exceptional job with the aero package too.

    5. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      25th March 2015, 14:14

      It’s great to see them being ambitious but yeah I can’t see it being a reality. They may pick up wins when they falter like RB did last year, but I can’t see them getting close on absolute pace, not any time soon anyway.

    6. I hate to say it, but if I’m Merc right now, I’d likely turn my engine down a bit “to focus on reliability”…and if just happens to make the race a bit closer, then hey, it just happens to stop the whiney twits like Horner from screaming quite so loud. :)

      They could focus on the aero of the car and see how they get on with that side and turn the engine back up when someone actually manages to close the gap a bit. It’s not like they wouldn’t win anyway and it would “improve the show”.

      1. I don’t think they would do that, for one reason at least, drivers make more mistakes under pressure, if Hamilton or Nico was under pressure from a non Mercedes car and as a direct result crashed then the whole weekend is down the drain. I don’t think Mercedes are yet willing to sacrifice results for Formula 1 yet.

    7. Good for Ferrari though, but I don’t think Merc pushed a lot.

    8. Tyre use could be a factor, and both Ferrari and Allison have a good record at making them last, so let’s see. They’ll both have updates that might work better or worse.

      I hope someone had a word about knocking your teammate off at T1…

      1. @lockup

        I hope someone had a word about knocking your teammate off at T1…

        You’re refering to Vettel here? Nothing wrong with what he did. He had the racing line, he had a faster exit. Textbook racing.

        I’m especially surprised to read this comment from you, what with being so vociferous about Spa ’14…

        1. Hahaha @mattds Nico is doing his absolute best to restore his reputation, let’s not get into that again. Especially since that has nothing in common with Ferrari T1 Oz 15.

          Seb was a bit marginal with his speed into T1, being desperate not to let Kimi get ahead; turned in too early, bounced off the inside kerb and damaged the team’s collective interests. The team will have wished he’d left the sister car a bit more room. You mustn’t be too aggressive with your teammate, that’s basic, but Seb may be, if they don’t lay down the law straight away. Is all. I’m not accusing him of cheating :)

          1. @lockup while he might have bounced off the kerb a bit, he didn’t run wider than those in front (who could drive uncompromised lines to begin with). Kimi lost most of his speed by being kicked into the rev limiter by Sainz.

            I don’t think there were harsh words about it – don’t think there should be either.

            1. @mattds Well I’m just watching it again as it happens and Brundle’s given it the same point of view as me. Sainz hit Kimi because Kimi had to lift with being knocked off the tarmac. I don’t know about harsh words, Kimi is more likely to get even than get mad, that’s what the team will want to avoid (see Brazil 07 T2…).

            2. @lockup well, sure Kimi had to lift a bit. But that’s basically what you get when you go two wide into a corner and the outside driver falls behind after the apex. That is how racing works. They can be teammates, but surely they can race as well.

              Just look at some of Hamiltons defenses in Bahrain 2014. Even clearer examples of “hanging out to dry” can be found there.

            3. Well it’s a crucial difference @mattds that Lewis didn’t touch Nico and Nico didn’t lose any positions. Seb did. These small differences are all the difference in the world. The fine line between racing hard and being too aggressive. If it had been Lewis and Nico in Oz they wouldn’t have touched IMO. Lewis would have done it clean or waited and backed himself to do it later.

            4. @lockup Raikkonen and Vettel didn’t touch either. As analysed on Sky Sports and as indicated by Raikkonen himself.

              Of course Rosberg didn’t lose position – they were out on their own in front. My point was that such a manoeuvre is an accepted way of racing and nothing should be said of it. It’s still fair racing.

            5. Okay @mattds well we gotta agree to disagree I guess. Seb pushed Kimi off onto the dirt and cost him 3 positions. It wasn’t Kimi trying to go round the outside it was Seb later on the brakes up the inside.

              IMO it was too aggressive for teammates. Fair enough between teams I agree, but not good for Ferrari. So if I were Arrivabene I’d have had a word. I’d have said “Bambino if you want to be allowed to race like Lewis and Nico you have to judge the limits like Lewis and Nico. Don’t do it again”. Well Maurizio might have had a word without telling us of course, who knows :)

    9. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      25th March 2015, 15:33

      The only thing that gives me some hope is the tokens. I hope Mercedes uses all of them at some (near future) point of the year to increase the gap as much as possible, and then I hope Ferrari can see how much they can get close respect to the “best-as-possible” Mercedes pace.

      1. @omarr-pepper – The tokens could be a factor. I remember reading before Australia that Mercedes had used more tokens than either Ferrari or Renault so far. Haven’t heard much about tokens since then. Certainly Ferrari have made progress in their power unit and aero as their team works together to improve the whole car.

        This aspect of racing is exciting and could become even more so if Ferrari can continue improving in their quest to catch Mercedes.

        So many folks think that Mercedes simply cannot be caught. Remember, no one team stays on top forever.

        1. Mercedes have used more tokens because they were able to get many things they wanted reliable enough to work. They have more or less deliberately kept some tokens for use in the latter part of the season to help with an early start for 2016 development @bullmello, @omarr-pepper.

          So yes, both Renault and Ferrari have more potential to improve the engine during the year, but then again, they first need to catch up. And Renault was also planning to leave many tokens to the end of the season to be albe to do a more thorough reworking of the engine for 2016.

    10. Nice to hear from Allison for a change :)

      Coming to the issue in hand, I certainly believe they can close the gap to Mercedes. I like how they have stopped talking about Williams and RedBull now & have Mercedes in their sights.

      Even if they lack the ultimate pace, if they are able to nurse the tires to produce consistently fast laps, it could ruffle a few feathers in the Mercedes camp.

      As for the reasoning that Mercedes were not at 100%, I think that applies to all the teams. Considering the 4 PU/season rule, I don’t think any team is going to push without a need for it.

      I think the challenge will come from Kimi rather than Vettel. He was fast in Australia but couldn’t make it count.

      Hoping for more cars racing on Sunday with some bit of excitement as well.

    11. Has Vettel responded to Rosberg his invitation? Wondering whether he will be asked about Lewis his comments about Mark aswell…

      1. A lot of posteuring for the cameras it will never happen. Vettel did make a point in showing Rosberg that he can be a better mind game player if ROS wants to start with that sort of stuff though. I think that was Vettel quickly asserting – I’m no Lewis when it comes to mind games Nico, so lets dance if you really want to, i’ll have you for dinner!

        1. @xtwl @DR actually I think Vettel will show up at Mercedes. And this is not really mind games, it’s a bit of banter and I think Vettel will go all the way in this one. :)

          1. @mattds Some might disagree but I always found Vettel to be one of the strongest mentally. To me it looks like aside frustration he’ll always find his cool.

    12. How refreshing it is to hear an F1 team talking about putting their heads down to catch the leader, instead of demanding that the leader get a couple sandbags put into their cars and then slating their own engine supplier in public. Actually it is amazing because it is usually Ferrari complaining about how someone else is Ruining the Sport. Maybe this is the post-Luca Ferrari.

      1. @dmw – It is so refreshing I may be onboard to officially support the Ferrari team this season. This is something I haven’t considered for many years, though have supported individual drivers there at times. The major moves they have been making, starting with Allison joining the team and other key personnel changes since seem to have put a different face and attitude on the whole team. My hope is that Ferrari will make F1 even more enjoyable as this season progresses.

    13. I like the change in mentality of Ferrari; everything feels more positive inside the team, even the drivers appear more comfortable; for instance, I haven’t seen Vettel that much optimistic in a while; Ferrari, finally, after years of saying we will do this and we will do that, have really made a huge realistic progress, something that should have happened years ago. I still think it will take time for them (actually for anyone) to catch Mercedes; but I am really glad that Ferrari finally have gotten somewhere.

      1. Yes, definitely! Too much negative F1 is f**cked!

        New engines are what F1 has always been. Some issues with restricted ability to catch up but McLaren and Ferrari appreciate that this is the nature of competition and are willing to put in the effort.

        Personally last season was one of the best. Who will win the world title…. who will catch up….. who is the best driver regardless of tech…. great drives and great races. More of the same please, and Rosberg CAN challenge Hamilton.

        Watch and learn people! 2015 will be awesome!

    14. ColdFly F1 (@)
      25th March 2015, 21:52

      I’ll comment on this Sunday night.

      1. @coldfly time to comment I guess !!!

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          30th March 2015, 1:31

          @tmax, indeed.
          And good to see how many people were totally wrong when commenting before the race.

          Well done Ferrari! Not just ‘on track performance’, but also working as a team, focus on positive messages, and be more open.

    15. I think there is few chance for this.

      1. Yes you are right, there is a chance! lol

        1. Lol….looks like there really was a chance

    16. In the first race of the season Mercedes was a massive 34 second clear of Vetal in 3rd.This means that the Mercedes car is about 1 mile clear of the rest of the field. Yes its about 1 mile or so. This gap is far too HUGE to bridge in one season unless a miracle happens for some of the other teams, or the FIA change the regulations to slow down Mercedes. Even if the other teams are allowed to unlock their engines to the max, that still wont be enough to bridge a 34 second gap, and even this gap is not considering that the Mercedes team might develop their car even faster throughout the season. In short, all the other teams should forget about winning any of the championships, and maybe forget about even winning any race at all this year unless there are regulation changes.

      1. :) what a difference 2 weeks can make.

    17. Hamilton finally has a car worthy of his speed and we are seeing the results.. All things being EQUAL my money still goes on Hamilton. We should enjoys this era…MERCEDES ARE OFFICIALLY ON THE MAP.

    18. “So a car that was at a certain level of competitiveness in Melbourne should really inherit that in Sepang”.
      so how does this statement apply only to Ferrari? if MB were that far ahead, they should be even further ahead using this logic, taking into consideration where MB strengths lie.

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