Ferrari look weak on paper but great on track

2017 F1 season preview: Ferrari

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On paper, this doesn’t look like being a great year for Ferrari.

Ahead of the biggest shake-up in the aerodynamic rules for several years the team’s technical department has lost technical director James Allison and aerodynamicist Dirk de Beer within the last 12 months.

Having won three times in 2015 the team blew its few shots at victory in 2016. Not only did they commit strategic blunders but the car was not up to the levels of reliability we’ve come to expect from a team with such resources.

As a result they ended the season win-less and fell behind Red Bull in the constructors’ championship. Sebastian Vettel, the team’s top points-scorer of the past two seasons, is yet to renew his contract which expires at the end of this year.

But the early signs ahead of the new season are that the team are in good shape where it matters – on the track.

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Faced with relentless scrutiny from the demanding local media, Ferrari got their championship off to a low-key start. There was minimal fanfare around the SF70H’s launch. Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene didn’t so much play down expectations as avoid saying anything at all.

In testing, despite conspicuously backing off at times, the team posted figures which cannot fail to have set Tifosi hearts beating faster. They lapped 4.1 seconds quicker relative to their 2016 testing pace, a larger gain than any other team, and 4.4 seconds inside their best lap time from last year’s Spanish Grand Prix weekend, better than any team bar Renault.

Of course it’s impossible to say for certain if Ferrari are genuinely quicker than their rivals. They may have just shown their hand earlier than Mercedes and Red Bull. The new car’s novel design elements, such as its distinctive raised sidepods, suggests they might have found something the others have missed. The performance of Haas also hints at the gains Ferrari have made with their new power unit.

Vettel believes that during 2016 the team made improvements which were masked by their performance on the track. The team was rumoured to have sacrificed its race weekend practice running at the end of last season to prepare for 2017, compromising its results, particularly after the summer break.

Is that all about to pay off this season? After eight years without a championship, Ferrari can’t afford to wait much longer.


5. Sebastian Vettel

There’s a lot riding on this season for Vettel. Having committed to Ferrari for three years in 2014, he had to watch as his former team overtook them last season. He hasn’t resigned beyond the end of this year yet, and was even rebuked by his boss last year for giving his attention to areas other than driving. A competitive car could fix everything, but without one he could be a target for Mercedes in 2018.

7. Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s Ferrari return has now lasted longer than his original stint at the team, though it has been far less successful. This is largely a reflection on the machinery Ferrari have supplied but he’s also been shown the way by Fernando Alonso and now Vettel. A return to more extreme, high-downforce cars may be to his taste, though he’s been predictably dismissive of the suggestion.

Poll: Which Ferrari driver will finish ahead in the championship?

Which Ferrari driver will finish ahead in the championship?

  • Kimi Raikkonen (26%)
  • Sebastian Vettel (74%)

Total Voters: 241

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An F1 Fanatic account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

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Author information

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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73 comments on “Ferrari look weak on paper but great on track”

  1. Come on Kimi, i have a beer crate riding on this one :D

    1. If you promise him half he’ll definitely deliver :D

  2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    16th March 2017, 12:42

    And just to make clear he doesn’t dislike Kimi, from all the possible pictures Keith has chosen one when the Iceman crashed.

    1. I imagine it’s because that’s the most animated Kimi has ever looked in a picture.

    2. @omarr-pepper @ninjenius

      from all the possible pictures

      For all the driver pictures in these articles I wanted a clean, candid, current shot of their faces – no helmets, no sunglasses. Raikkonen is the only driver so far for which I do not have one of these. Yes, I know social media is awash with stolen images, but of course I’m not going to use one of those.

      Of course experience has taught me that explaining things like this will be ignored by those who have chosen to believe I hate driver X or love driver Y. It has also taught me that at some later date I’ll be told, with equal certainty and equal uninterest in the facts, that I hate driver Y and love driver X.

      1. Some say that his eyes look exactly like a pair of sunglasses. And that he never recovered from the introduction of alcotesting in early 2006. All we know is he’s called the Iceman!

        1. Haha. +1

      2. Do not worry about it Keith – you can do no right from doing wrong with the majority of the biased.

        By the way – great series of articles this last two weeks.

        1. Thanks very much :-)

      3. LOL…! :)

    3. I think keith has tried to find summing up photos from testing. A blank faced vettel not giving anything away and a reflecting, slightly concerned kimi.

      1. Why would a concerned Kimi sum up testing after he did by far the fastest lap, on a lap where he could easily make a few more tenths up (outbraked himself a couple of times). Of course I’m not saying Keith dislikes Kimi, as I highly doubt he does, but if he wanted to use photos summing up testing, a crashed Ferrari wouldn’t be it. As he said above, there just isn’t many pictures of Kimi that wouldn’t be considered stealing.

    4. @omarr-pepper what if @keithcollantine has some sort of crush on that girl on the white overalls and wanted to use that picture?

      1. Haha @keithcollantine your secret is out

    5. Happy New Year to Keith and everyone, heading to Melbourne next Tuesday and cannot wait till see the last red light going out!!!!…Testing/sand bagging is any ones guess out of the top three teams, l am more looking forward to the team mate battles this year with Bot, Ocon and Ves l hope we get some close racing with the new regs ,and not to many snores.

    6. I knew it! and there was @keithcollantine just recently claiming that he likes the fins… ba da ptsssss

  3. Everyone likes Kimi.

    If Ferrari wins the title this year….

    That would be something.

    1. True that, whats not to like

      1. Kie @jureo The Ferrari-Liberty war?

    2. if.. stupid actions like in Monaco are avoided, that is..

    3. Well I don’t like him. He is an incredibly overrated and his fan base is kinda annoying.

      1. Aren’t all fan bases annoying @lolzerbob?

  4. I think Ferrari’s pace is genuine this time, their car looks very “aerodynamic” indeed, much better than Mercedes, especially the side pods, great season in perspective ? I hope a Hamilton VS Vettel.

  5. IF Ferrari are quick enough to win the championship they better let Kimi race Vettel

    1. Kimi is a real second driver and does not has the ambition to defeat Vettel.

      1. Tell montoya about it

  6. Kimi will give Seb a hard time and i would like to see the Iceman come out on top but something deep down just say that he will come off second best this season. Seb just has something about him – unable to put finger or thumb on it – anyone feel the same?

    1. Feeling exactly the opposite.

      1. Haha… Indeed.
        No no.1 no.2 nonsense though hopefully…

    2. 2 years are teammates, Vettel has shown he is faster, where is your confidence coming from? Kimis best years were 2003-2005 with Maclaren, he won the 2007 championship because of the biggest choke in championship history by Hamilton.

      1. No prizes for guessing your an anti Lewis fan then. That said, your comments on this forum always seem to tow the same line…

  7. I may not be a Ferrari fan but for the sake of the sport I hope they can challenge Mercedes more convincingly this year.

  8. Last year Kimi ran Vettel close, but I feel that with a competitive just with good rear downforce, we will see Vettel regain 2015 levels of performance over Kimi.

    1. @mashiat Vettel and Kimi weren’t at all that close last year.

      1. Yes to add to this remember that during the start of the season 2 of Vettel’s races were ruined by Kvyat. I am still bugged that he rammed him twice in one of that race.

        1. To be fair though, seb also ruined two of kimi’s Races @redbullf1

          1. @mrboerns Which ones would that be? China perhaps, one neither could have avoided,…

      2. @xtwl Only the second half of the season.

        1. Only in qualifying in the second half of the season.

  9. I don’t get the title of the article? What paper? What’s going on? Has the season started yet? Honestly guys, what are we doing here, reporting or ping-pong?

    1. @simeonoff

      What paper?

      ‘On paper’ is an idiom, it doesn’t refer to a literal piece of paper.

      Think of it as the difference between theory and practice – in theory this shouldn’t be a great season for Ferrari but in practice it appears to be shaping up well for them.

      1. @keithcollantine Thank you, Keith. I know what ‘on paper’ means, still, I can’t see how you came up with the “shouldn’t be a great season for Ferrari” proposition, and what exactly led you to that conclusion?

        1. @simeonoff
          He lists the reasons in the first three paragraphs.

          1. @george I see, James Alison and Dirk de Beer leaving is the only valid argument for them looking ‘weak on paper’.

            If only known names could produce great products then this world would be boring as fudge. On the flip-side this year’s Ferrari is a huge departure from the rather boring and conservative aero package approach they’ve been having for years now. So maybe letting these people go can be more of a benefit than a letdown, allowing hidden talent to shine through.

            All other arguments are not real arguments, just logical fallacies. Just because a team wasn’t on top of their game during a certain season, doesn’t mean they will be weak again this season.

          2. @simeonoff, to be fair, there had been further discouraging news during 2016 that suggested that things were not going particularly well at Ferrari.

            The team had reliability issues that year with their power unit, and the rumours in the off season were that although they had managed a sizeable increase in power, it had come at the expense of longevity (with the engines unable to meet the minimum mileage requirements). Those rumours were being driven by talk in the Italian press that the SF70H wind tunnel models were producing less downforce and more drag than expected; it was then claimed that Ferrari had thrown additional resources into their engines in an effort to overcome their aero deficit through raw power, but had to compromise on reliability as a result.

            Given the talk in the off season that suggested the SF70H might turn out to be a bit of a dud, combined with the positive talk that suggested Renault had made a major improvement in form in the off season and could bring Red Bull into play, I can see why people would believe that Ferrari might not be in great shape as we headed into this season.

        2. Keith starts with the fact that some key personnel left, in a season when regs changed drastically. This was probably the main reason why “on paper” does not look very good.

          1. @simeonoff Further to that, Ferrari didn’t just have some hiccups last season…they’ve done nothing since FA left that would have him regretting his leaving, as an indicator as to how they have been doing in recent years. There are also the blown strategy calls. There is always the question of reliability. And there’s also the question of SV’s temper when things have been frustrating for him. Much to be determine such that you are off base harping on Keith who has put this amazing site together for us to all discuss everything F1. We’re not reporting on ping-pong, we’re having some fun with some pent up anticipation of a new F1 season.

      2. sunny stivala
        16th March 2017, 17:57

        so far this year at the eight days of testing FERRARI looked the most rock solid, the most consistent and the fastest on all four tyres compounds used during testing.

      3. @keithcollantine I think @simeonoff comments are more to do with how Vettel talks on the radio and not about the article itself. Very clever indeed

  10. Bwoah!

  11. Andrew Purkis
    16th March 2017, 14:20

    Id say the gap is smaller in race pace, qualy pace is the mystery as I dont think Merc has shown its hand yet

    if Ferrari can get one of their cars on the front row consistently we might have a decent season

    Id say theyll win 4-5 races this year

  12. I voted for Kimi in hope that with cars that you can push in all the time, with no tyre saving, he’ll get back to his 2005 form, when imo he was the best driver that season. Of course this is 12 years later and he’ll be 38 this season, but I can dream.

    1. @hugh11 World Champion 2007, 2017 does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? :-)

      1. Would that be the longest wait between 2 WDC’s?

        1. Yup. Current no. 1 is Lauda from 77-84

  13. After losing James Allison ,De Beer leaving was just a consequence of that, Marchionne decided that no more engineer “Star” recruiting. It’s rumored that Lowe himself offered his services but Ferrari simply declined his offer.
    Instead the hierarchical structure was dropped in favor of a new horizontal one . Now there are 14 teams working in parallel, on behalf of every team a leader is reporting directly Mattia Binotto who is himself reporting to Maurizio.

    I wasn’t myself surprised to see Ferrari taking an aggressive aerodynamic approach for the fact that the new Head of Aero David Sanchez is a very talented engineer who used to work at McLaren (he joined Ferrari in 2012 if i’m not wrong). The main goal behind this change is to get everybody involved in this year’s car and not just the senior figures. Marchionne always believed that Ferrari has a great talent pool which is not fully exploited.

    That said, this may not guarantee immediate success as beating Mercedes remains a tough goal to reach but the most important thing is that we started to see creativity in Ferrari’s approach. A word that has not been associated with the team in the last 8/9 years.

  14. I think on track the times look good but I would say that watching the one onboard we have it isn’t that great from Ferrari. Ferrari tends to start seasons, prepared, they are the type of team that are always quick early on. I think these cars should suit Kimi quite well, so I think Kimi might beat Vettel.

    1. And yet during practice the Ferrari looked fluid and planted with little to no understeer (according to trackside commentators). Guess we’ll see soon enough

  15. Much as i would love it to be Kimi between these two i don’t see it. If Ferrari really are in the hunt Vettel is more likely to steal it in qualifying IMO then well see him do it a la red bull days – dash a few seconds up the road then watch the gap for the rest of the race. Voted for Vettel

  16. On paper Ferrari looks weak all without any substance other than a click-bait article.

    James Allison stopped going to races in 2015 to concentrate on the 2016 car it was no world beater, but suddenly his departure from Ferrari makes them weaker?

    That’s straight out writing off the work of Simone Resta and new CTO Mattia Binotto, who after he was drafted to the engine department oversaw the turnaround in performance of the PU by getting the right people in the right place, something Honda has failed to do in the last two years.
    He has been drafted to over see the total development of the car and surprise surprise the Ferrari looks good on track, other than the english press fawning over Allison, till date he has only been part of a successful team he has not led one himself.

    1. On paper Ferrari looks weak

      If you’d read the article you’d know it says a lot more than that.

      If you’d read more than half the headline you’d know it says a lot more than that.

      1. Rockie Smith
        16th March 2017, 22:39

        “On paper, this doesn’t look like being a great year for Ferrari.

        Ahead of the biggest shake-up in the aerodynamic rules for several years the team’s technical department has lost technical director James Allison and aerodynamicist Dirk de Beer within the last 12 months.”

        Other than this I see no other reason you have given to say they are in trouble.

        Except you have another article hidden that’s not visible to me as a guest on your site.

    2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again , Allison is hyped up. Resta’s sf15t was superior to Allison’s 16 car. They went backwards.

      1. It was not, before Allison’s wife died at least (though to be fair I’ve heard Allison’s leaving was something Ferrari wanted as well)

        1. @davidnotcoulthard
          That was after Silverstone when he refused to join the team on track despite he was actually in England.

  17. I have all my fingers and toes crossed for this year that’s for sure. Forza Ferrari!

  18. If the car is as good as they say it mite be, i fear Vettel will smash Kimi this year. AS much as i would like to see Kimi win another one without other teams tripping up on themselves. It will be Vettel’s to loose (This obviously not knowing if they’ll be fastest)

  19. Both Seb and Kimi have done decent job, given the limitations of the car and of course strategy. The latter must be a key area of development ahead of the 2017 season. Hoping to see a red car in the championship mix till end of the season.

  20. I think both Ferrari and Mercedes have a lesser driver’s line-up than RB. Rosberg was very good quality for a ‘supposedly’ second driver and he is the current WDC as well. Bottas although younger beat only an ageing Massa and Kimi is a year older. Max and Danny are IMHO the best pairing one can have now on the grid.

    Coming to the cars itself, Mercedes being able to run their engine at a higher state of tune during the race sometimes and in Q3 will give them unparalleled advantage. Whether the other manufacturers have found a solution to that problem will determine if Mercedes will not run away with another championship.

    If Ferrari’s revised PU has given them a power advantage, then they need to exploit it early in the season and cut down on the mistakes in strategies. Having bulletproof reliability of the previous years will also help.

    I would like to believe that Ferrari is the fastest out there but Mercedes aren’t going to lose their huge advantage suddenly. Ferrari’s in season development needs to improve big time and this season will be a test of that.

    Three team fight for the championships will be welcome.

  21. Another big praise for Keith. That is why this is the premier site for Formula 1 articles- not only news, but we know those involved actually think, analyse, reflect and care about what they post. Excellent analysis and opinions on the teams so far.

  22. Any F1 fan knows that winter testing times can be misleading and should be taken with a pinch of salt, having said that Ferrari did impress in pre-season testing and they look like they could at least challenge Mercedes this year, but that was also the thoughts of many this time last year.

    At the moment I wouldn’t be surprised if Ferrari are the quickest this season or if on the other hand they still trail Mercedes.

    If Ferrari manage to follow-up on the promise they showed in testing and do have a car to challenge Mercedes I expect Vettel to be the one to be fighting for the championship.

    I think there is a good chance that the driver line-up at Ferrari will change at the end of this season. If Ferrari underperforms and a top drive is available I can see Vettel leaving and Ferrari wanting to keep Raikkonen on for continuity. If Vettel does sign a new contract and Raikkonen doesn’t have a great season I can see Ferrari replacing him.

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