Despite having won three times last year Ferrari were realistic about their prospects of becoming title contenders to Mercedes in 2016. That will have made ending the season win-less – for the second time in three years – a huge blow.
It could have been very different. The red SF16-Hs stormed off to lead one-two at the start of the opening race in Australia. But two of Ferrari’s major 2016 weaknesses thwarted their efforts.
|Best race result (number)||2 (5)|
|Best grid position (number)||3 (9)|
|Non-classifications (mechanical/other)||7 (3/4)|
|Laps completed (% of total)||2,151 (84.75%)|
|Laps led (% of total)||97 (7.64%)|
|Championship position (2015)||3 (2)|
|Championship points (2015)||398 (428)|
|Pit stop performance ranking||5|
A technical failure which caused an airbox fire ended Kimi Raikkonen’s race. Ferrari got on top of their reliability troubles as the season went on but they did the most damage early in the year when the team were most competitive.
And a questionable strategic call cost Sebastian Vettel a potential victory. While other teams used a mid-race suspension to fit tyres on which they could run to the end of the race, Ferrari chose not to, and paid the price. They blamed poor tyre life on the medium compound for the decision, but it wasn’t the last time the Ferrari pit wall came under scrutiny.
Again in Canada a potentially race-winning position for Vettel was lost when the team hurriedly took advantage of a Virtual Safety Car to make a pit stop. This brought a potential time saving, but as the period quickly ended Vettel was unable to reap the maximum advantage, handing victory to Mercedes. Raikkonen suffered a similar blunder and the team dropped the ball for him again in Singapore.
Had the team converted their two early-season opportunities for victory their 2016 performance would have looked somewhat more respectable. Although they slipped to third in the constructors’ championship they had the second-quickest car in terms of one-lap pace, narrowly edging Red Bull. However having been 0.77% off the benchmark last year they drifted to 0.88% away in 2016.
Ferrari invested their hopes in a car which was a significant departure from past designs, particularly in terms of aerodynamics and suspension. Variations in tyre performance due to temperature caught them out on more than one occasion and was a key part of the reason why they often flattered to deceive.
The departure of technical director James Allison at mid-season was not unreasonably attributed to his recent bereavement. However questions arose about his satisfaction with how the team was being run. What is not in doubt is they have lost the aerodynamics expert at the worst possible time ahead of 2017’s regulations overhaul.
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Maurizio Arrivabene, who faces a degree of media scrutiny beyond that of most team principals, has persistently rejected suggestions that his technical team has been left short-handed. “We have a new technical group led by Mattia Binotto,” he insisted. “They are enthusiasts, they are working very very well.”
Seasoned Ferrari-watchers drew the conclusion that the team was sharply focused on 2017 in the second half of the season, during which time they scored just two of their eleven podium finishes. But if it was the case that practice sessions were being used to prepare for next season, it came as little consolation to an increasingly frustrated Vettel.
He blew a fuse on several occasions, sometimes with good reason: such as when Daniil Kvyat turfed him into the barriers in Russia. But his Mexico meltdown was on a completely different level. Before his infamous four-letter tirade at race director Charlie Whiting he’d already sharply criticised the team’s qualifying performance and complained about several of his rivals during the race.
Vettel failed to conceal his frustration at how disappointing his second season at Ferrari had been. If things don’t turn around next year, how much longer will he stay?
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