Rejuvenated Ferrari falter with titles in sight

2017 F1 season review

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Was Ferrari’s 2017 season a success or a disappointment? It was certainly the most competitive of any team other than Mercedes since the V6 hybrid power unit regulations came into force.

Yet Sebastian Vettel could have made Lewis Hamilton work harder for the drivers’ championship over the final races. The fact that he did rests partly in his hands, partly in his team’s.

In February few expected Ferrari would give Mercedes more to worry about than Red Bull. But consistently strong performances by the red cars in testing warmed Tifosi hearts.

Ferrari team stats 2017

Best race result (number)1 (5)
Best grid position (number) 1 (5)
Non-classifications (technical/other) 5 (1/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,100 (87.35%)
Laps led (% of total) 326 (27.12%)
Championship position (2016)2 (3)
Championship points (2016)522 (398)
Pit stop performance ranking4

Then came the breakthrough result in Australia. While Hamilton started the season-opener from pole position Vettel hounded him then jumped ahead and was the first person to stand on the top step of the podium in 2017. Mercedes’ fears and Ferrari’s hopes were realised.

What Ferrari had achieved was a car in the SF70H that worked in all conditions and was able to manage and manipulate the new Pirelli tyres – which allowed them to operate consistently every race weekend. Whilst they might not have had the best car in qualifying or down the straights, they dependably quick on race day across a broader range of conditions. This was the case for much of the first half of the season.

Until the summer break the team was in the fight for both world titles. Vettel led the driver’ title fight for more than half the season. But defeat to Hamilton at the team’s home race put the Merceeds driver ahead.

And then came Ferrari’s Asian collapse. Singapore typified their reversal in fortunes. Vetel claimed pole position and had his team mate plus the Red Bulls as a bulwark to the Mercedes, the team lost both cars in a first-lap crash while Hamilton took his most surprising win of the year.

If Vettel’s risky gambit in Singapore handed Hamilton the initiative in the title fight, Ferrari technical problems in the next two races virtually killed off Vettel’s championship hopes. Aside from a pair of punctures at Silverstone, Ferrari had a strong record of finishing races. But it failed to maintain that record as power unit problems wrecked its next two races. A spark plug failure which ended Vettel’s race in Japan was blamed on a £45 (€52) part.

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Raikkonen had his first pole since 2008
In contrast Mercedes were almost bulletproof. Revisions to the technical regulations on how engines consumed oil also eroded another of Ferrari’s strengths.

In the latter years of Luca di Montezemolo’s Ferrari championship near-misses resulted in a traditional rolling of senior heads. This has not happened so far. Inevitably paddock rumours swirled around president Sergio Marchionne’s faith in Maurizio Arrivabene but Vettel gave his team principal a strong vote of confidence. He unsurprisingly did the same for Raikkonen, who largely failed to offer any serious competition in the second car.

“In the end Mercedes was better,” was Vettel’s assessment of their season. “They were faster – look at the amount of pole positions, of race wins”. However the fact Mercedes took 12 wins to their five somewhat embellishes the advantage the silver cars had for much of this year. It was a closer title fight than the final scoreline looked.

For Vettel, “the positives outweigh the disappointments” and that is hard to disagree with. But if the team don’t build on the progress they showed in 2017 he may yet regret committing to them for another three years.

2017 F1 season review

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25 comments on “Rejuvenated Ferrari falter with titles in sight”

  1. I’d forgotten how close Ferrari were to Mercedes in the WCC up until Canada when it started to slide. Raikkonen’s form was very poor in truth and in my opinion, the team were right to back Vettel so blatantly in Hungary (and to a lesser extent in Monaco).

    Ferrari have Vettel to thank for being so close to the WDC and they can also blame him to some degree for losing it. Without over-aggression at the start in Singapore and a red head in Baku, things would have been very close come the final race of the year. Japan and Malaysia were very unfortunate.

    I really hope the team can build on the 2017 form next year and really mount a good challenge, though in truth I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull leap them, as they were closing in towards the end of the year.

    1. At the same time they no one but their Golden boy to blame for losing the drivers title. Canada(start of race tangle with verstappen), Baku(Road rage), Silverstone(Pushing too much on tyres when stuck behind Verstappen who was due a pit stop) and then Singapore(another 1st lap nutcase).

      1. Biased much lol?

        In canada it was Verstappen who chopped the across the nose of Vettel and if you’re referring to his tyre giving up in Silverstone, have a look at what happened to Raikkonen the lap before

        Baku was stupid yes and if anyone can be blamed for the Singapore crash it’s Vettel, i’ll give you that

        1. Look at onboard footage, Vettel went too defensive against Bottas in turn 1 leaving door open for Verstappen to cut across on outside. Without those incidents all incurred by “the golden boy” the gap to Hamilton’s title win would have been much smaller. In silverstone after being stuck behind Verstappen instead of settling down, pushing on those tyres hurt badly also it might have been a bad call to gamble so much on softest tyre and doing minimum laps on intermediate and harder option: that I can accept was a gray area in terms of putting blame on either.

    2. Ferrari also pretty much has a one driver focus though and it’s been squarely on Vettel.

      Raikkonen’s mechanics seem less skilled resulting in more issues for Raikkonen. Almost every race there was some performance hindering niggle on his car.

      Also the strategy for Raikkonen is always an afterthought. Or often even something to aid Vettel rather than help Raikkonen get maximum results himself.

      Car development will no doubt also be completely focused on what Vettel prefers rather than Raikkonen. At least Raikkonen has never gotten the car to feel the way on turn in the way he likes it.

      So it’s a bit daft to throw Raikkonen under the bus while in fact for a large part he’s simply feeling the compounded effects of the Ferrari driver pecking order.

      Although I will agree that Raikkonen is way too sensitive to car setup. He had the same issue in 2007 where he was the one heading for the WDC until the car was changed and suddenly Raikkonen couldn’t drive it properly anymore. In the end Raikkonen went back to the old package and performed a lot better again. Albeit that by then he was so far behind in points that he started taking too much risk which only made matters worse. Still he did go from the back of the field in Singapore in 2007 to P5 (before he crashed) while Massa just prattled along at the back of the field.

      1. Patrick
        That is a pretty fair balanced assessment of Ferrari today.
        As for 2007/2008: it was Schumacher’s toxic advice as team consultant that created problems for Kimi, intentionally so it would seem. Schumacher was striving to gain for his pal Massa the upper hand in the team, and marginalise Raikkonen. That’s because Raikkonen had hastened Schumacher’s departure from F1 and taken his place at Ferrari. Simple psychology really.
        When they focused on Kimi he won the titles for them 2007.
        When they decided to focus on Massa in 2008, Massa failed. It wasn’t Brazil that did it. He simply did not win enough races to be champion, even though he was gifted a few.
        I don’t believe Vettel will become the new Schumacher and achieve 7 titles. It’s the wrong time to be trying. Kimi will remain Ferrari’s last champion till after 2021, when Verstappen will do it. [I know, but contracts are not unbreakable in F1]

    3. Ben Needham (@ben-n)
      That is Ferrari’s conundrum. Only Vettel can be relied on to score big points and wins when their car has pace. Raikkonen simply is not reliable enough. More often than not, when Lewis is on pole, Bottas is 3rd. Mercedes know, at least from his 1st season with the team, when Hamilton has an off day Bottas can at least step up. Can Raikkonen. Doubt it.

  2. As a strange observation, I often note how much broader Raikkonen seems to Vettel in the shoulders when they stand side-by-side (as in the picture above). Looking at pictures of 2003-spec Raikkonen, he seems more slight. Random musings, but I wonder how this would affect a racer’s driving… probably very little, but curious nonetheless. It’s a tight space in the cockpit…

      1. Fat shoulders!?

  3. The Nokia 3310 theory was so perfect, so well balanced, and yet didn’t materialised. No wonder I can’t get the predictions right

    1. The actual phone was maybe an indication of what to expect…

  4. “It was a closer title fight than the final scoreline looked.”
    Yeah, but 363v317 (wdc) and 668v522 (wcc) doesn´t look close at all.

    1. I think you missed the point…

    2. Re-read what you’re written very slowly

    3. I concede it wasn´t a particular high quality of thinking on my part…

      1. I would say 363 vs 317 final standings, points thrown away that drivers were in control of? Hamilton had very bad races in austria, russia and monaco not that bad, but qualifying ruined it, I’d say in russia he threw away 13 points and vettel gained 3 as a result of his underperformance, so 16, in austria it’s only likely 3 since he had the penalty anyway, in monaco probably 6 again, so that’s 25, and it’s obvious he lost more after he won the championship, but we can assume he wouldn’t have made the same mistakes had the championship been still on, as for vettel he lost 13 in baku and I think in singapore he’d have got 3rd, with hamilton 2nd and verstappen first, so I think he lost 22 there in the comparison with hamilton, for a total of 35 till there.

        So if drivers had corrected these mistakes overall vettel would’ve gained 10 points on him before the final 2 races, so instead of being 56 behind then he’d be 46 behind, still unrealistic to get past him, even if hamilton had the same relatively bad 2 weekends.

  5. You have to wonder with the cars being very much an evolution and Mercedes struggles with tyres this year (and in many years previously since they came back into the sport infact) if the 2 step softer Pirelli’s next year won’t firmly put the ball in Ferrari’s court for 2018…

  6. Vettel flattered the Ferrari IMO. It was as much about his performance both on track and in the garage.

    As noted in the article, he thoroughly backed (and maybe even helped start) the new team spirit of standing together through thick and thin and resisting the traditional decimation.

    1. Hamilton does the same for his team (if not more) and Hamilton didn’t make as many mistakes.

      Vettel might be the better of the two drivers at Ferrari at the moment, but if Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso or Ricciardo were driving that Ferrari I cannot help thinking they would have gotten more out of it.

      1. Patrickl (@patrickl)
        In what sense? Performance wise I think Vettel did OK, with the Ferrari. He got the peformances out of it that were there. Where he let himself and the team down are his brain fades. Those have proved costly in the end. I agree with you when you say if Verstappen, or more so Alonso where driving that Ferrari they would almost certainly have gotten more out of it. Despite his aggressive driving style Verstappen does usually get it done when the opportunities present themselves, which for a driver so young is gold dust for red bull, especially with that power unit.

  7. I called it at the time that Singapore wouldn’t be a single point of blame for Vettel’s championship.

    If Vettel had finished 1st there, and without the carnage Hamilton in 5th, that would still have been 6 points in Hamilton’s favour. But with Verstappen likely taking 1st off him, that would be 13 points in Hamilton’s favour. The gamble of being aggressive was worth it.

    The 13 points he lost in Azerbaijan wouldn’t even have been enough because of count back. You might argue Spa would also have sealed it if Vettel had pulled off that pass. But seeing as Mercedes could have swapped their drivers in Abu Dhabi if needed, Vettel would still have tied on points but Hamilton one more win.

    The blame deserves fairly splitting between Vettel and Ferrari. Neither reliability nor driver error alone lost Vettel all the points that would have been needed.

  8. Ferrari might have won a championship if they hired two proper drivers, rather than an old man and a fraud.

    Both got slaughtered by their prior teammates, and it shows.

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