Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Vettel says Ferrari has made a “huge leap forward” since he joined

2020 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari has made great strides since he joined the team five years ago and has proved it can build the quickest car.

But he admitted the team needs to do more to beat the “very, very high standard” set by Mercedes, who are bidding to sweep both championships for the seventh year in a row.

“The team has done a huge leap forward since I joined in 2015 on many, many grounds,” said Vettel. “Obviously the regulations have changed and so on. But I think we’ve proven that we’re able to build the fastest car.”

The four-times world champion with Red Bull has finished second in the championship with Ferrari twice, in 2017 and 2018, but fell to fifth last year.

“If you take 2017, right from the beginning, we probably had the most innovative car. So that speaks for the quality we have in our own roles for the engineering power. In 2018, a large amount of the season we were looking very good.

“Last year, I think we’ve had our strength. Obviously, we didn’t have the strongest package, but we had a package that was strongest in certain circuits and certain areas. So I think the ability to deliver the best is there.”

[smr2020test]Vettel says Ferrari needs to raise its game in many areas to take Mercedes on.

“Obviously what’s missing is to bring everything together and have the best package. Now, it also depends what the others are doing. It’s not like we are massively behind in one or the other area. But it’s small details in the end that can make a difference.

“The competition level is very high. I think Merc is setting a very, very high standard as a team. So it’s up to us to meet these standards. And I think from what I see inside, moving around and so on, the attention, the will, determination, but also the will as an organisation to keep improving, I think is there.

“So it is, I think, about small things, putting them together. It’s not easy. But certainly we’re trying very hard and we do have the ingredients, I believe.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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29 comments on “Vettel says Ferrari has made a “huge leap forward” since he joined”

  1. 🤣🤣🤣

  2. Just not enough to win.

  3. Alas, a huge leap forward from a lot further back.

  4. Vettel confirming what a lot of us already knew to be true: the last three cars from the Scuderia were very good cars (often the quickest). Mercedes runs a tighter ship, but in terms of raw performance the top 2 teams have actually been pretty close.

    1. No, actually like he said 2017 Ferrari started wwith the quickest car, unti Mercedes came with the b spec that introduced the cape nose. Ferrari who were 2nd best PU in 2017 still didn’t have a competitive engine back then, sitting ducks on the straights, but the car was quick enough, Ferrari didn’t match Merc’s strategy, development and PU, and then Vettel tried too hard and blew it himself.
      2018/19 no chance, they blew most of their chances but merc gifted them a few as well.

      1. I think it is true what Aldoid mentions about Ferrari having had a really quick car for each of the last 3 years @peartree. But you are right that they have failed to keep on top of performance for a period, always peaking at a few races, then dropping back, maybe finding something again for a few races etc.
        And if it was fast, they have started shooting themselves in the foot with being too conservative on strategy, to slow to react, throwing in needlessly complicated team orders or just simply messing up somewhere.

        In comparison, Mercedes might not have been consistently the fastest car, but they have been either fastest or second fastest for the last couple of years, and despite a few obvious mess ups have generally been able to get the most out of their strategies, have been able to bring improvements that brought them forward, have had better reliability and off course their drivers have been able to use that to great effect.

  5. Seb is right of course. Alonso era Ferrari circa 2014 were a laughing stock.
    Now they’re front runners, even if there’s no hope of triumph over Merc. But progress was not down to Seb, it was down too some inspired engineering that brought about what was at times the most powerful engine, and let’s not forget Kimi’s crucial excellent feedback in the briefings.

    1. Alonso still managed to mount a bigger challenge with that donkey of a car. So basically what Seb is saying is that Ferrari improved but he himself is not as good as Alonso because its not showing. :P

    2. Kind of interesting to note that both Ferrari and McLaren have raised their game after Alonso left their ranks.
      Indeed there was the Honda saga going on at McLaren, and I won’t credit Hamilton for Mercedes design, but I am genuinely interested in the impact of driver feedback into car design and development.

      Some teams have praised particular drivers in the past for their feedback quality, and it should surely have some consequence in the way teams are developing and designing their cars. It’s not all to build a theoretical fast car if it is so tricky to drive that you can only reach 90% of the potential at best.

      What is the quantified impact? Would teams rather have similar type of drivers to have coherent feedback and develop in a specific direction or different types to develop a more complete package and not leave things unnoticed?
      Would love @dieterrencken to cover that in a future article as I like his approach on such topic.

      More specific to this article, Ferrari has been genuine title contender and has missed opportunities due to other factors than car design. Last season was nice to watch thanks to battles at the front in addition to the tightly fought midfield.

      1. @jeanrien I don’t think drivers really have that much of an impact. Both Ferrari and McLaren improved when Alonso left, but what you leave out is that those teams underwent huge personnel changes the year before. With Ferrari, Arrivabene replaced Domenicalli and Mattiachi, and James Allison replaced Pat Fry. For McLaren, Seidl and James Key joined in 2019, plus they also got a few people like Pat Fry in to sort their technical department out. Looking at Alonso, a lot of teams did improve when he left, but equally, a lot of teams improved when he joined. Renault became more competitive in 2003 compared to 2002, McLaren became more competitive in 2007 compared to 2006, Renault (again) became better in 2008 than 2007, and Ferrari became more competitive in 2010 relative to 2009. So I think a driver’s impact is severely overstated, not that you could ever tell that to Lewis Hamilton.

        1. @mashiat Except that McLaren went on to win WDC in 2008, and even Renault fared better after Nandito’s departure: 8th in 2009 WCC vs 5th in 2010, with lead drivers Alonso ranked 9th vs Kubica’s 8th, respectively, with a single podium for Nandito against Robert’s 3. Just saying, there is a pattern.

          I do believe driver’s impact is really important, otherwise Toyota would have at least a win in their record. Well, BMW, Mercedes and even Honda all achieved.

          1. @niefer Did Renault fare much better in 2007 after Alonso left? Did McLaren improve from 2007 to 2008? They would have won the 2007 championship easily in 2007, but they didn’t win the WCC in 2008. Plus, correlation doesn’t equal causation. It’s no coincidence that Alonso often left teams when they were at their worst point such as Renault in 2009, McLaren in 2018 and Ferrari in 2014. At that point, the only way was up for all those teams. And if you look at each individual case, Renault basically stopped focussing on their 2009 car fairly early, McLaren did the same in 2018, and Ferrari’s improvement in 2015 was almost entirely down to the engine, which a driver has no control over. Equally, I could argue that David Coulthard was the reason Red Bull weren’t successful from 2005-2008 as they became competitive the moment he left. Or that Ricciardo is the reason Red Bull and Renault dropped off in 2014 and 2019 respectively. But it would be nonsense. Fact of the matter is that the engineers design the car and make their own decisions, and then merely ask the drivers for their opinion on how it feels based on certain changes they make. The drivers don’t tell them how to design the car. Engineers will always pursue what they believe to be the best possible car they can create, and then the refinement of the car is done with the help of driver feedback. A driver does not design the car, and don’t forget that often teams will have two race drivers, and several reserve/development drivers helping with the feedback, so to push it squarely at one driver’s feet is ignorant. Alonso may be a demanding and abrasive individual at times, but I never knew that that automatically translated into being a poor development driver.

          2. @mashiat Well, I could argue Renault was downhill since mid 2006 despite the title built by the mass damper. Plus, Fisichella never was at the same league as Alonso, which converges with what I’m saying.

            In 2007 he and De La Rosa had access to Ferrari’s data. Yet they lost. Following year under legality, WDC. KOV & HAM not as nearly close as ALO & HAM, hence it’s kinda obvious points tally would drop. Even so, WDC!

            It’s no coincidence that Alonso often left teams when they were at their worst point such as Renault in 2009, McLaren in 2018 and Ferrari in 2014.

            I totally agree: The common scenario was Nandito drowning them all down with more and more criticism even when everyone were always doing everything he wanted. They made a rookie crash for him to win, buried Massa’s carreer and arguably had a down spec car for Raikkonen. McLaren’s tenure dispenses further comments although it’s important to remember he claimed McLaren had the best chassis only to fail miserably the second they dropped Honda.

            Equally, I could argue that David Coulthard was the reason Red Bull weren’t successful from 2005-2008 as they became competitive the moment he left. Or that Ricciardo is the reason Red Bull and Renault dropped off in 2014 and 2019 respectively.

            Exactly. When it came to his capacity of leading a winner project, Coulthard failed. Meanwhile, Vettel won with Toro Rosso before the parent company itself, then showed Webber how to win at Red Bull. As for Danny Ric I’ll wait and see. Nevertheless he drove a Vettelish season past if you ask me. And, stretching a bit, given that Red Bull changed all their focus to Max without hesitation, maybe Dannyric hasn’t the x factor after all.

            […]the refinement of the car is done with the help of driver feedback[…]
            A driver does not design the car, and don’t forget that often teams will have two race drivers, and several reserve/development drivers helping with the feedback, so to push it squarely at one driver’s feet is ignorant.

            I’m not pushing squarely at one driver. I’m pointing it’s due responsibility, which is different. Refinement of the car is big part of the job, otherwise certain Piquet/Prost/Schumacher would be expendable. You ignored Toyota’s case, now look at Williams: every time they tried 2nd tier drivers, they more often sunk then not.

            Alonso may be a demanding and abrasive individual at times, but I never knew that that automatically translated into being a poor development driver.

            You never hear about his exploits about building up a winning team, but always “oh, look how he outdrove that dog of a car”. Well, he is a great racer, but I reserve my right to be skeptical about his technical input, because I’m yet to see a solid project under his hand like as I’ve seen with Schumacher and Vettel just to name recent past.

        2. @mashiat The first year of the stint is the only one where the driver doesn’t have input in the (early) design, eventually in the development. We can say that Alonso had well timed moves. It might just be an impression but it feels like some teams evolve better around some drivers than others… But as stated it’s hard as a fan to know if it down to “luck” or drivers themselves.

          I don’t see any time during Alonso’s carrier when he stayed multiple years at a team and that given team went stronger and stronger.

          1. @jeanrien His first stint with Renault? They were occasional podium finishers when he joined, and they turned into double world champions by the time he left.

      2. @jeanrien it has to be borne in mind that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, as Mashiat rightly points out that people tend to focus on the driver and ignore the wider changes that were going on within those teams.

        In the case of Ferrari, many felt that Ferrari made several mistakes with the design of the F14-T – the team tried to focus on aerodynamic benefits that they failed to realise, leaving them with a pretty heavily compromised front suspension layout, whilst the engine itself was lacking in peak power and had a fairly rough power delivery curve to boot.

        When you consider that, normally, Ferrari is extremely proud of its engine building ability, the fact that it ended up subcontracting a significant amount of work to AVL to sort out the issues of their engine in 2014 and 2015 shows that there were some major issues with their power unit.

        Behind the scenes, there were also significant changes in Ferrari’s technical departments in 2014. There were the notable changes of Montezemolo and Domenicali, both of whom seem to have come into conflict with Marchionne, whilst Pat Fry was relieved of his role as engineering director and replaced with Allison. Tombazis, their chief designer, was replaced with Simone Resta, Marmorini, their head of engine development, was replaced with Binotto and their chief tyre engineer, Hamashima, was also dismissed.

        Further down, I believe Ferrari also changed their lead suspension designer and changed the head of their wind tunnel team – again, those are just the known changes. There was a pretty substantial restructuring going on at Ferrari over the course of the 2014 season, such that it probably isn’t surprising that their performance took a hit and their 2015 performance was much stronger by comparison.

        I see that some have brought up 2009, but again there were rather noticeable changes going on – let us not forget that the R29 was developed at a time when Renault were withdrawing their support for the team and in the process of selling it on to Genii Capital. It is also worth noting that all of the bigger teams saw a drastic fall in competitiveness in 2009 – BMW Sauber, having challenged for the WDC in 2008, also went backwards, whilst McLaren and Ferrari were also significantly worse in 2009 compared to 2008. Most of those teams had also gone for a similar philosophy to Renault, and saw their cars suffer similar issues.

        1. it could be that @mashiat is right and drivers don’t have much impact but we have a lot of think and thoughts from armchair experts. I would be interested into quantification from a design team member even if the response is “very little”.

          I believe that as you point out, the design process and development of new parts are more related to team structure and does not have much to do with the driver. But ultimately those parts will have to be tested onto the car and correlated with wind tunnel and/or simulations. If the upgrade is working straight away, drivers will give positive feedback and there is no added benefits from their input. If you have drivers providing contradictory feedbacks, do you keep or trash the upgrade? Or if the upgrade has potential but need some tweaks, you need your drivers to spot the potential and let the design team know or would the engineer notice it? An upgrade providing better ultimate lap time but trickier handling could be ditched because the drivers using it can’t do the trick while another set of drivers would be happy to master that trick and extract extra lap time, giving maybe some feedback about what is so tricky and finding a compromise for manageable handling and some gain in lap time.

          Looking at Haas last season, I have a hard time to admit drivers have zero impact. The team was completely lost and admitted Grosjean was the one to point the direction to go. Could be an extreme case though.

  6. Ferrari? Leap of belief & faith required.
    Could well be not so cheerful when this whole can of worms is eventually truly exposed.
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-8097409/FIA-boss-former-Ferrari-CEO-Jean-Todt-says-struck-secret-deal-old-team-engine.html

  7. It’s a shame his racecraft has taken a consistent step backwards each year since he joined.

    1. I’m afraid its only going to get worse, the younger drivers are very hungry

  8. we are the best, but we just need to make it better

    we have the best car and the quickest car but its just not fast enough to win

    makes total sense.

    1. No what he is saying is its not Ferraris fault, they build the best and fastest car but unfortunately they have me as a driver :P

  9. The car was only fast because they cheated… Now that they stopped Cheating they will be P3 or maybe even P4.

  10. Ok, I believe with VET Ferrari improved. But it kinda went downhill because of his meltdown as well. With that, the better he could do is shut up and drive properly.

  11. Ferrari did have enough to win 2018… but you didn’t

  12. My guess is that with Italy in lockdown Ferrari will feel a special desire to bring some cheer to the country, so I’m expecting a really good show from this season, especially for the next few races.

  13. The way I see it… A lot of things have changed at Ferrari since 2014. In the dominecali, fry and Alonso era they were lacking engineering innovation and were generally producing cars that were no match for the Red bulls, but, on the operational front Ferrari was really strong. Maybe Domenicali’s strengths were in execution of a weekend. Sure they made costly blunders (abu dhabi 2010),but overall they had a driver and race weekend team that could maximise opportunities. Mostly, you’d have to say Alonso was in beast mode nearly every weekend.. And that’s what had Ferrari in the title hunt in 2010 and 2012. The weakest link in this era of Ferrari was Pat Fry… In short.. Engineering.

    In the Binotto / Arrivebene, Vettel era.. Ferraris strengths have clearly been it’s engineering. They have produced a car that’s been nearly as good as Mercedes’ car for the last 3 seasons. Where they’ve failed is on operations and the driver front. Operationally.. Ferrari has had blunder after blunder.. Poor strategy after poor strategy in the majority of race weekends. To top it off they’ve had a disaster of a #1 driver in Vettel.. Who was incapable of sealing the drivers title despite having the quickest car in 2018. So, even though Ferrari have made progress in some areas since 2014, they still haven’t been closer to the title than they were in the Alonso era.

    1. Yes Fritangas Alonso don’t have any responsability with his “beast mode” LOL.
      And yes Fritangas Alonso leaved Vettel and the team like crap, all dismantled, all fired. No podiums, the fifht scuderia in the championship, etc etc. He took the best car in 2010 (hereditage from Raikkonen-Massa-Schumacher). And he leaved the team like crap without podiums the last year as Ferrari driver. So yes, the development progression with Fritangas Alonso was awful. But he has 0 responsability on that, because he is a beast LOL!
      Vettel who is just an awful driver but and excellent developer, took that crap car and transform it into a winning car 2018 (the best car in your opinion), but he was defeated by the weak Mercedes team (the team that beated all the records of domination). So yes, Fritangas Alonso beast mode is and will be the best forever!! Even he transformed that crap car in McLaren(several podiums the year before he arrived), into a winning car with multiples wins and podiums. Oh wait!! He didn’t even made a podium with McLaren even in his “beast” mode!! And wait… Norris and Sainz got that car and transformed into a better car already, and wait, Sainz even has touched the podium already!! Facepalm Beast Mode!

  14. Well he recieved a botched car. Fritangas Alonso couldn’t even make podiums the year before. So yes it was a huge step forward the next years fighting with Mercedes and winning races.

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