Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2016

Vettel’s Ferrari honeymoon ends with win-less year

2016 F1 season review

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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.

Ferrari team stats 2016

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 ranking5

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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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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54 comments on “Vettel’s Ferrari honeymoon ends with win-less year”

  1. My profile picture says it all, I mean honestly

  2. Ferrari wasted a huge chunk of Alonso’s career and now seem to be set to do the same with Vettel. The team has turned into a blight for some of Formula 1’s best racing talent. So telling Vettel to ‘stay calm’ while they come out with contradictory nonsense to justify the mess they’ve made really must be hard for him to take.

    1. Fair, Ferrari had their share but boy did Vettel crack under pressure too…

      1. Ferrari threw away wins for Vettel and have failed to develop a car fit to fight the championship. Vettel still arrived this season on as good a form as ever and only towards the latter half of the season was he beginning to underdeliver by which time there were limited results on the table to squander.

        I know to some people Ferrari are F1 and are bigger than any other driver. But those are people who remember seeing Ferrari win. Any fans that only came to F1 in the last 10 years of so aren’t going to have that image of Ferrari as the biggest name in the sport, but boy are they going to know who Vettel is! And they are going to see a 4x back to back world champion, go to supposedly the biggest name in the sport to languish in 3rd and 4th in the championship behind the 2 teams that have dominated 80% of the last decade.

        1. Some of us are old enough to remember Ferrari’s previous dark era, in the early 90’s, during a title drought that started in 1980 and lasted until 2000.

          It seems that Ferrari is so complicated that it only works under very special circumstances, but, when it does, it’s unbeatable.

          Vettel-Allison partnership showed promise, but ended long before it could become a Schumacher-Brawn…

    2. In fairness to Ferrari, it’s the rules’ fault or at least has been in the last few years. Mercedes had an extreme advantage which the poorly-crafted, poorly-applied regulations have carefully preserved for them.

      1. ALL the big teams agreed to the current regulations. Mercedes worked very hard and Hamilton made the jump at the perfect time.

    3. How did Ferrari waste Alonso’s time. They give him two championship challengers in which were guicker than Red Bull on day. Why didn’t Ferrari win a championship? Becauae when it came to qualifying Alonso fluffed it Multiple times. If the qualifying specialist Hamilton was in them Ferrari’s(2010) I guarantee you he would have been champion. Fernando kept putting thr second faster car on third and fourth grid. So please spare me you’re babbling. Fernando was much too blame.

      1. *quicker on most race days

        1. I wouldn’t worry about the spelling until you get the rest right!

          1. So you’re telling me that Fernando didn’t lose championships when he was qualifying 5th and 6th?c’mon now. When it came to race day he made his way up through the field but by the time he got to 3rd seb was gone. As I said Lewis would have won a championship during Red Bulls dominance if he was at Ferrari. Even Pat Fry called out Fernando when it came to Saturday’s. He’s average over one lap.

      2. They give him two championship challengers in which were guicker than Red Bull on day

        Didn’t know you had a sense of humour.

        I’d always thought Alonso gave Ferrari a championship winning chance… every other Ferrari driver in the last 10 years has failed to do so.

        1. So Abu Dhabi 2010 Ferrari were not challenging for the championship? Oh boy. I do understand the bias though going by you’re profile pic.

        2. But then again if I was the head of FIA, Nando wouldn’t have even got a chance to drive a Ferrari.. Because he would have been banned for life after the Singapore fiasco.

    4. Just like they did with Alesi!

  3. Does anyone have racing/performance stats on Vettel on races he did not start from the front row? I notice a bias I have on him as not being special at all just having had the right material. But am happy to be proven wrong

    1. @mayrton Same here, I just can’t get away from the idea that he must be one of the most overrated drivers in history. For me the 2014 season with his embarrassing performance against Ricciardo says it all, and this year too, he didn’t do much better than Raikkonen at the very end of his career. Bwoah!

      1. Vettel is the most successful driver this decade. there are strong rumours he underperformed at Red Bull to enable him to leave for Ferrari. He did look off.

        1. Hamilton’s resume is better than Vetted’s limo. Even though Lewis has 1 less title, he has way more wins/poles/podiums. Lewis also hasn’t had multiple seasons with ZERO wins like vetted. LEWIS IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DRIVER OF THE DECADE.

          1. No he isn’t. Vettel has 4 titles, Hamilton 3.

    2. He won 28 of his 42 wins from pole position.
      From 2nd place, he won : Abu Dhabi 2009, Brazil 2010, Spain 2011, South Korea 2012, Bahrein, Germany, Belgium, Japan and Abu Dhabi 2013, Malaysia 2015.

      And finally, out of the first row, there is Hungary 2015, Singapore 2012, Malaysia 2010 from 3rd.

      You’re welcome! :)

      1. I count 28+13, so I’m missing 1.

        1. krxx, that would be the 2011 South Korean GP, where Vettel also started in 2nd and went on to win the race.

          Mind you, I would argue that is more of a reflection of the fact that, on a purely statistical basis, the odds of a driver winning a race drop off extremely quickly as you move back from pole position.

          Just over 65% of all victories in the history of the sport have come from drivers who were either 1st or 2nd on the grid at the start of the race, whilst drivers starting in the top three grid positions make up nearly 80% of all race winners.

          By the time you get down to 4th place, only around 6% of drivers have ever won from that position, and even great championship winning drivers have rarely won from that position – so in that respect, I think that Vettel’s performance is actually quite typical by historical standards.

          For example, when you look at Ayrton Senna, I believe that only two of his 41 wins came from outside the top three (the 1993 European GP, where he was 4th on the grid, and the 1990 US GP, where he was 5th on the grid), whilst 29 of his victories came from pole position (so Vettel’s split of 28 of his 42 wins from pole is actually pretty similar to Senna in that regard).

          Realistically, only Prost was able to pull off the trick of winning from a position other than the front row on a very regular basis. Out of his 51 wins, three came from 6th on the grid, seven came from 5th and five from 4th place (or about 30%, compared to about 5% for Senna).

          1. ok anon, thanks.

          2. krxx, glad you found that useful – it is one of those things where, when you dig into it, it is interesting to see what the stats say.

            I imagine that some might be interested in seeing how some of the more recent WDC’s stack up in that regard, so I’ve taken a look at them as well.

            With Rosberg, out of his 23 wins, 15 came from pole position, 6 came from 2nd place and 2 came from 3rd place. As an aside, that is pretty much the polar opposite of his father, Keke – only one of his five victories came from within the top three, and indeed Keke never won a race from any of his 15 front row starts (although he did win from as low as 8th place twice).

            Moving onto Hamilton, out of his 53 wins, 32 have come from pole position, 15 from 2nd, 3 from 3rd, 2 from 4th and 1 from 6th place.

            Vettel has been discussed above, so we can move onto Button next. Out of his 15 wins, five came from pole position, four from 2nd place, one from 3rd place, three from 4th place, one from 5th and once from 7th.

            Kimi has 20 wins, of which 6 came from pole, four from 2nd, two from 3rd, two from 4th, one from 6th, three from 7th, one from 10th and one from 17th.

            Alonso, finally, has 32 wins: 14 from pole, 4 from 2nd, 6 from 3rd, 2 from 4th, 2 from 5th, 1 from 6th, 1 from 8th, 1 from 11th and 1 from 15th (although the win from 15th is the highly controversial win in the 2008 Singapore GP).

            Out of the drivers listed, Alonso stats are unusual in that he has been more successful from 3rd on the grid than 2nd, going against the usual statistical trend for most drivers.

            To some extent, the fact that Alonso, Kimi and Button have won from a wider range of grid slots is perhaps representative of the fact that they have had much longer careers than either Vettel, Hamilton or Rosberg.

            Since winning from lower down the grid becomes increasingly rare – only around 6% of all races have been won from 4th, falling to less than 4% from 6th – just having raced more often will have increased the likelihood of starting from one of those grid slots and eventually winning from there.

          3. It’s complicated, because it’s also a consequence of Senna’s absurd one-lap pace, thaf even in Lotus he qualified at the front almost always

          4. Really interesting, thanks for taking the time to compile this

          5. @anon im sure buttons first win hungary 06 was from 14th on the grid, not fourth – he had a ten place grid penalty!

          6. Daniel, in the case of Senna at Lotus, it also helped that he had a significant technical advantage (Lotus were one of the first teams to introduce tyre warmers, giving him a major advantage in getting his tyres up to the right temperature in qualifying trim and the early stages of a race).

            @x303, glad you found it useful – I think that, whilst we talk about drivers fighting their way through to the front, it demonstrates that it is actually fairly unusual for that to happen.

            Under normal circumstances, you’d expect the fastest combination of car and driver to be starting from the front row of the grid given that the grid is determined by qualifying performance, rather than being on the third or fourth row of the grid (or even the second row, to that matter).

            Often, the races where somebody has won from an unusually low grid slot have required an unusual set of circumstances – highly variable weather conditions, safety cars at fortunate times, other competitors retiring from the race and so forth – or a case where the driver has an extremely fast car, but has had to start in an unusually grid slot for other reasons (such as Kimi’s win from 17th in the 2005 Japanese GP – he has a very quick car, but had been compromised due to bad weather under the qualifying system that year).

            After all, if you look at many of the great drivers of the sport, even they have a similar record to Vettel – for example, I believe that Fangio never won a race from lower on the grid than 3rd place (although it should be said that Fangio over ever started from outside the top three five times in his 53 race career).

            Returning to that earlier point I made, Prost is perhaps one of the few drivers who was able to consistently win from further back on the grid (getting on for nearly a third of his victories coming from outside of the top three).

            I think that whilst quite a few drivers are praised for battling through the field to a victory, even though they only rarely managed to do that, Prost seems to me to be extremely under rated in that respect – I’ve not heard anybody praise Prost for “battling his way through the field”, despite the fact that he did it more frequently than his rivals.

          7. rick, true, I had forgotten that Button had a grid penalty in that race – that said, didn’t he effectively start from 13th as Klien, who had been 13th, had to start from the pit lane due to a clutch problem on the formation lap?

      2. Hmm – Vettel has never won a race from a worse position than third.

        His contemporaries in terms of titles certainly have. In some cases podiums galore from the last third of the grid. Seb not so much.

        While flattered by the ebd cars and a gifted driver from the front in the Rosberg mould, it is fair to say they are not as gifted in race craft or battling in the mid field as either Hamilton or Alonso – to make it worse we now have two further such racers at Red Bull.

        Yes he has four titles. All in a period where his type of driving and the aero genius of Newey worked wonders. But take a look at the true stats – no one can argue he was well favoured at RB and shocked when the cars did not work quite the same and he had to face a fast team mate. The reality is his poles and wins are nothing to say Hamilton or Alonso who at least had some serious competition for them. In Hamilton’s case, in team competition.

        One has to suggest that 014 or Kimis performance against Seb this year and the subsequent (but justified) meltdown shows what happens when Seb is ‘stressed’ but there is no getting away from it. He cannot cope well. Imagine he had Hamilton’s or Alonsos 012?

        It might have helped his racing if he had not been quite as favoured. Who knows.

        Outside of that? No sorry Seb just quite simply is not measuring up. Not losing much but enough.

    3. Want an interesting stat? In a straight fight, he only got overtaken once in 2016 – Verstappen at Brazil.

      1. Didn’t Kvyat overtake him once as well? In china?

        1. The overtaking data from Pirelli exclude the opening lap, which I think is fair.

    4. (@mayrton)
      A lot of people are finally waking up to his mediocrity, including Ferrari I reckon. If they were serious about improving themselves they would have got rid of Kimi, but kept him despite being way, way past his prime because they their ‘No. 1’ simply lacks the talent to beat a better driver. Even then, this year they had to keep giving Kimi horrible strategies to keep him behind. And I think 2014 speaks for itself.

      Adrian Newey is an astounding genius, and has won championships for sub-par drivers since the 90s (JV and DH spring to mind), and Vettel has never performed better than ‘OK,’ even in this height of the Red Bull dominance. His stats are incredibly disproportional to his talent, which you can’t really blame him for. But it’s also stupid to put him up with the likes of the Alonsos/Hamiltons etc.

      1. Kimi is “way past his prime”? 2016 has been his best season in points since 2012 with Lotus. He matched his team mate in qualifying, he was consistently scoring points for the WCC and in wheel to wheel racing against the Mercedes he overtook Hamilton on track in Singapore and Rosberg had to push him out of the way to get past him getting a penalty in Malaysia while in the fight for the podium in both cases.

        And in the Autosport survey, the team bosses rated Kimi in seventh place just behind Alonso, so his performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by the people who have the best access to the big picture of his racing data and behaviour as a team player. The words of praise of Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president, also speak volumes of how highly Kimi is regarded in the team these days.

        As for the crazy race strategies that made Kimi lose positions he had gained in qualifying or fighting on the track, no argument there ;)

  4. I thinks Allison leaving put a hole in Ferrari’s development. so many comments on sites like this on the internet bash and bash on Ferrari when they are not winning… and apparently if ferrari are only 2nd or 3rd best, then that makes them the devil. i for one believe Ferrari did as well as they could this year, they started off the year close to Mercedes, lost Allison, then played a good recovery to be top 2/3 team till the end.

  5. I mean, honestly. What are Ferrari doing? Racing or play ping-pong? Honestly!

  6. Vettle is amongst the best of current drivers today. The fact that Ferrari are unable to produce a decent again (times 5 years) is alarming. Look at the career years wasted by Alonso while at Ferrari and now McLaren. Vettle once King at RedBull is now given nothing but crap from Ferrari to race. It really shows the strengths of Mercedes now year after year

    Good Luck Scuderia

    1. Vettle? That must be the one who races with Halmiton and Alosno. And Verspatten.

      1. LOL……I loathe bad spelling too! :)

      2. Well, maybe we should start spelling it that way so that the English can start pronouncing his name correctly.

  7. Last time Ferrari had a good, championship contending car, it wasn’t quite as good as the McLaren (Kovalainen made that car look pretty terrible), but Massa still got within 1 point, was in 2008. That’s 8 years. 8 years since the biggest team in the sport won the constructors championship. It’s really sad, I do hope they have a competitive car next year.
    My personal hope is we’ll see them and Red Bull with similar level cars at the front, I think that could be a fantastic 4 way battle for the title. However I expect a 3 way battle with the two Red Bull drivers and Hamilton, Bottas a bit behind in 4th, and Ferrari with the 3rd best car but not good enough to really challenge even for podiums unless the teams ahead mess up (except maybe tracks like Monza where Red Bull struggle).

    1. Hear you there mate. I’m a long time Ferrari fan and I’ve been lamenting their situation for ever so long :(

      I think the aspect that frustrates me the most with their lack of recent success is that they are so big. There’s really no excuse for them being so rubbish. They cannot cry ”poor”, they cannot cry ”under resourced” and they cannot cry ”terrible facilities”…

    2. “Last time Ferrari had a good, championship contending car, it wasn’t quite as good as the McLaren (Kovalainen made that car look pretty terrible)”

      Ahem. You could also argue that Kimi made the Ferrari look “terrible”. But of course having observed your comments on this site I know what the undertones of that statement are. Fact is Ferrari won the constructors in 08 and therefore had the best car. No?

      1. Kovalainen wasn’t exactly good though, we all know that, especially in comparison to Hamilton, Massa and Raikkonen. Kimi still came 3rd in the championship, and Kovalainen came 7th, so not sure what your point is.

  8. Red Bull have terrific management. There were articles about how Newey encourages everyone, gives them scope, rewards risk-taking. You get the impression it’s all positive, cohesive, with a great sense of working together. The boss is rarely seen.

    Ferrari must be a major culture shock for Seb, and he’s tried to change a few things in the factory and the existing managers didn’t like it. I think they’re in a tier below Merc and RBR now, looking over their shoulder at McLaren and Renault. Vettel’s only hope is the Merc seat, for now. I expect some uber matiness towards Lewis this year :)

  9. I dono why some is underrating seb!! He is 4 times world champ with alot of titles alot of big numbers wonderful overtakes winner of race of champions bla bla bla alot of old f1 drivers team managers f1 experts who really knows what does it mean to be f1 driver mentioned him as one of the best and not overrated he is a team player he hard worker a unique personality smart….bla bla bla.. So still can’t figure out how can some consider themselves genius!?!?

  10. How do you get an ‘@’ link next to your name? Sponsoring the site?

    1. Deleted account.

      1. Oopss sorry, didn’t read carefully your question, @bascb was right.

    2. you sign up to the site and log in Reganamer

  11. Huge year for Vettel Next near. Pressure is on

  12. Vettel will be back, He has shown enoughin his career to say that he is quicker over 1 lap and over a grand prix than other top drivers like Lewis Hamilton. Whenever Ferrari does not win the championship, everyone looks down on them, but come on, they are consistently top 2/3, not like McLaren. Allison’s departure hurt Ferrari this year, they started off quite close to Mercedes, and then the development did not come, in line with Allison’s departure.

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