Could Ferrari pull off a face-saving shock in the final three races?

2020 F1 season

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A surprise result for Ferrari in Turkey, against the run of play, has handed the beleaguered team the chance to salvage some pride from their dire 2020 campaign.

Heading into the previous round at Istanbul Park it seemed they were doomed to finish in the bottom half of the championship table. That would be a humiliating result for a team of Ferrari’s unique heritage.

Not to mention a team which, for the final time this season, receives a disproportionately large percentage of F1’s incomes. Although the prize pot is notionally shared in line with championship finishing positions, Ferrari have taken the lion’s share year after year despite being without a title since 2008.

Finishing sixth out of 10 – the position they’ve held since the beginning of September – would be bad enough. But AlphaTauri were edging close to them until the Turkish Grand Prix. Ferrari were in serious danger of falling to seventh – second among F1’s two Italian teams, with just their two customers and Williams behind.

Fortunately for the Scuderia, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc bagged their best points haul of the year in Turkey, while AlphaTauri went home point-less for the first time in 10 races. The gap between the two teams is now 41 points.

Ferrari last finished lower than fifth in 1980
Instead of looking over their shoulders, Ferrari can now fix their gaze ahead. A place in the top half of the standings is just six points away. McLaren are 19 ahead and Racing Point 24 up the road.

Now there is a chance for Ferrari to save face. Moving up just one place from their current sixth position will spare Ferrari their worst championship performance for 40 years. On that occasion, Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve took the lamentable 312T5 to 10th in the standings, the former even failing to qualify on one occasion.

Fifth place would put Ferrari in the top half of the points table – clearly the right side of the divide. Fourth place would draw the sting further – they last finished that low just six years ago. Third place would be the dream result – an unlikely salvaging of the minimum position a team with Ferrari’s resources should ever finish in today’s Formula 1.

But whether any of this is possible also depends on how well Ferrari’s midfield rivals perform.

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Racing Point

3rd: 154 points

Racing Point claimed the second row of the grid in Hungary
Racing Point’s Mercedes-aping approach to car design rubbed their rivals up the wrong way earlier this year. Renault protested the car and successfully had 15 points knocked of the pink team’s total, without which they’d be in a much more comfortable position.

Turkey was a bit of a freak result for Racing Point, too. Although their car has often been intimidatingly quick for their rivals, they’ve failed to get the best from it at times, which hasn’t been helped by both drivers missing races. They’ve slipped back over the course of the year and posted their worst qualifying result of the season at Imola.

The remaining tracks will be more power-sensitive than some recent venues, particularly the new Bahrain Outer layout, and as the only team in this fight with Mercedes motors that should play into Racing Point’s hands.


4th, 149 points

Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2019
McLaren began 2020 strongly in Austria
After a strong start to the season McLaren have faded somewhat. They’ve been throwing upgrades at the MCL35 as fast as they can – partly due to the off-season upgrade limitations they will face due to changing engine supplier – and not all have worked as intended right away. Renault reliability has let them down at times too.

Each of these four teams will change one of their drivers at the end of the year but, unlike Ferrari and Racing Point, McLaren is in the happier position of not showing either of their current racers the door. Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz Jnr and the steadily-improving Lando Norris have performed consistently well and kept the team in the thick of the fight for third.

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5th, 136 points

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Nurburgring, 2020
Ricciardo ended Renault’s podium wait in Germany
All was going to plan as Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon headed to turn one in Turkey. The team led the fight for third – admittedly by a single point – and both drivers got off the line well. Then they tripped over each other. Nor was the car particularly quick around the bizarrely slippery Istanbul. Result: one point, and a slip to fifth in the standings.

The team has good reason to expect they can reverse that over the coming races. The RS20 likes warmer temperatures and prefers lower-downforce tracks – consider those boxes ticked. They’ve run their 2018 machine at both circuits. Ricciardo has been back to his best this year, seemingly unaffected by ay nagging doubts that he may have chosen exactly the wrong time to leave this team. He’s thorough shaded Ocon though, to be fair, his team mate has had the majority of the misfortune and his qualifying performances are trending in the right direction.


6th, 130 points

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monza, 2020
Ferrari endured a tough race at home in Monza
Ferrari have made gains with their SF1000 in recent races, but they were surely flattered by unusual circumstances at Istanbul. The car’s straight-line performance has been one of its biggest weaknesses and there’s an abundance of long acceleration zones at the coming tracks.

Despite his excellent third place in Turkey, a major question remark remains over Vettel’s form, as he’s lagged well behind Leclerc all year.

On paper, Ferrari appear to have a tough run-in to the end of the season on their hands. If they can compete in regular conditions against any of these three teams they have trailed more or less all year, it will be a clear sign of the progress they have made in an otherwise forgettable season.

Over to you

Which team is best-placed to take third in the championship? What can Ferrari achieve in the remaining races – and what is the minimum they must do to save face? Have your say in the comments.

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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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40 comments on “Could Ferrari pull off a face-saving shock in the final three races?”

  1. Renault has had good form at low downforce tracks and performed well at Bahrain last year. If Ocon can deliver (and he’s been threatening to) then they could yet grab third.

    Racing Point have the strongest package in race trim and ‘should’ be third if pace alone was the deciding factor.

    I’m not expecting Ferrari to shine at Bahrain and McLaren are hit and miss lately.

    Now how exciting would it be if this was the battle for the actual championships. F1.5 has always been where the real fun is.

  2. The only way they save face is by finishing all three races 1-2.
    And even than it was a disaster of year for Ferrari.
    And if they haven’t solved their engine problems, it’s an even bigger disaster than it already seems.

  3. I personally think the order won’t change much with Racing Point in third from McLaren, Renault and Ferrari.

    So to answer quickly: « Could Ferrari pull off a face-saving shock in the final three races? »
    No, they can’t pull off a face-saving shock. Bahrain’s a power track, so there is Abu Dhabi left, a circuit where they haven’t been stellar, historically.

  4. Marinated Monolith (@)
    24th November 2020, 10:09

    Vettel was massively flattered by his mega start in Istanbul. Like Perez, he showed some class by not making any mistake but his pace was still lacking.
    At one point, Charles was 30 seconds behind him and yet, by the end of the race, he would’ve finished ahead had he not made that mistake in the final lap.

    I bleed red but McLaren, RP, and Renault deserve that 3rd place much more than Ferrari with Vettel’s lack of pace and litany of strategic mishaps.

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  6. I predict the order to remain as it is unless something a bit more extraordinary would happen.

  7. Ferrari could announce that Lewis has signed for them. But no, he won’t leave the Merc rocket ship and take on a real manly challenge. After all, it’s easy as pie to drum up another few titles in that car.

    1. Well done for shoehorning a piece on the who will finish 3rd to having a go at Lewis. You’re a real hero.

      I really shouldn’t bite at such a dismal comment but statistically you’d assume the titles would be more evenly spread in the best car than 6-1

    2. It’s like saying John Coltrane should have gone back to using a plastic recorder to ‘prove’ he could really play, rather than just using the best saxophone available. Sure, there’d be no Love Supreme, but somebody anonymous on the internet would be ‘proven right’ for five seconds. Well worth it.

      1. Surely you can do better than that @DavidBR
        your analogy is a real nonstarter

        1. Rodber, why do you feel it is so necessary to awkwardly crowbar your completely irrelevant cry that “Hamilton must drive for Ferrari” and to try to steer the conversation onto your favourite rant with all the subtlety of somebody walking round with a 50 foot neon sign saying “please look at me”?

          When most people here are more interested in the four way fight between Ferrari, Racing Point, Renault and McLaren, frankly most couldn’t care less about your irritating and tiresome ranting. We get it that you have this weird fetish that Hamilton must drive for Ferrari (and only him, curiously) – and it’s getting really irritating to have somebody continuously posting the same thing in a way that feels like pointless trolling.

        2. Much like your premise Rodber!

        3. Well maybe Ferrari aren’t quite plastic school recorder level yet. You can’t say they aren’t trying though.

          My real point would be: it’s possible to like the idea of Hamilton going to Ferrari or any other team without having to think or argue that he has something left to prove. As for ‘manly’, I guess you mean ‘brave enough’. I seriously find it bizarre that you’d think any driver in Formula 1 or motorsports in general, male or female, had to prove their bravery. Off the track, Hamilton has constantly proven brave in his decisions too. But he’s not going to Ferrari just to add their name to his CV.

  8. Bahrain has always been a high power track, the outer ring variation will make raw bhp even more important. We know the Renault, McLaren and Racing Point are good at these venues, and Ferrari terrible. See Monza and Spa.

    1. Drag is more important than bhp

      1. That might shift the balance between the current 3rd-5th @megatron, but it seems unlikely to lift up Ferrari over them as drag has one of the main issues with their chassis which made the effects of a weakened PU worse.

  9. First Binotto will stay at home, next Ferrari will bag podium after podium, Red Bull should be worried with the amount of face saving that will happen.

  10. Things have settled in Maranello. Few months ago Binotto was a dead man and other heads were expected to roll. But none of it happened and it went away really quiet…so much so that I almost did not notice. Now they seem to be making positive steps, except I really believe that Vettel had been basically cut off the inner workings of the team months ago, and only receives bare minimum of attentions. Which is unfortunate, I really hope he will be a race winner again at Aston Martin

  11. for the final time this season, receives a disproportionately large percentage of F1’s incomes.

    As correct a statement as that Trump won the 2020 election.
    Sure some will claim this, but that doesn’t make it a fact.

    1. So what are the facts? Ferrari get a bonus called the Long Standing Team payment.

      1. The name could be slightly different do let’s just refer to it as a ‘ disproportionately large percentage of F1’s incomes’.

        1. #ashtag, in Dieter’s article on prize payments in 2019, he estimated that Ferrari were paid $205 million that year. That payment would make Ferrari the best paid team on the grid by a substantial margin, having earned $28 million more for finishing 2nd in the WCC than Mercedes did for winning it.

          Furthermore, because Ferrari’s Long Standing Team payment is linked to the gross revenues of the sport, their payments have been rising faster than those of the other teams, increasing that disparity over time.

          In 2018, whilst 7 of the 10 teams saw their income being cut, Ferrari had the second largest boost in payments because of that clause. In 2019, even though Ferrari came 2nd, that clause linking the LST to overall revenues meant that the gap between Ferrari and Mercedes in terms of payments actually grew by a further $1.6 million, further increasing the advantage that Ferrari has.

          As a result, the prize fund payments made to Ferrari come to just over 20% of the entire payments to the teams, and the payment gap has actually increased slightly over the past few years – as a result, they are getting a disproportionately high percentage of the prize fund for the relative success they have had.

          1. @anon thank you for posting the relevant facts on this point, even though the op refused to do the same.

  12. Nah – not a hope in hell, in fact they’ll lose ground to those in front.

  13. they will end up 4th or 5th if it goes wrong somewhere, my prediction

  14. If I was to bet on any change of the current championship order by the end of the season then I’d say Renault might have a shot to overhaul McLaren for 4th. Their weakness is generally the high speed corners that need max downforce, but they are strong in both straight line speed and low speed corners. I think their car characteristics suits the final three tracks quite well so I expect solid results from them.

    1. @keithedin Yes Renault should do good there with Ocon also finally getting up to speed, but let’s see if they can overcome the the points deficit. I’m not too sure.

      But a properly exciting fight between those teams and also the one between Leclerc, Ricciardo and Perez. Will show their mettle somewhat this.

  15. Just leave Binotto in Italy and everything will go well :)

  16. I think they are all overestimating Turkey. That race was as far from typical as it could. We need to see this weekend if Ferrari really made a step forward. Both Sakhir and the Yas Marina are power sensitive tracks, and that Fezza engine isn’t that fast…

    1. @fer-no65 The Yas Marina Circuit less so than both Bahrain’s standard and outer configurations, though, as sector 2 is the one with the track’s only proper length straights. Nevertheless, Ferrari isn’t going to reach 3rd under normal circumstances on pure pace.

  17. I’m not too familiar with the development token system and championship order implications, but as someone who is generally a fan of Ferrari; I’d rather see them stay 6th or 7th in this dire year if it ensures more future concessions. Imagine lucking into 3rd and getting some useless cash, but missing out on the development…

    1. @theessence I’m not sure that it is really going to help Ferrari all that much in the medium term.

      For the first six months of 2021, the amount of development time that Ferrari will be allocated will be set by their finishing position at the end of the 2020 season; from the 1st July onwards, it will then be set by their position at that point in time in the 2021 championship.

      You also have to bear in mind that, for 2021, the difference in development time is smaller and the teams start from a higher base position. If Ferrari were to be in 6th place in the WCC at the end of 2020, it would give them 102.5% of the normal time allowance, whereas 3rd would give them 95% – there is some difference, but not a particularly drastic one. It is from 2022 onwards that the differences start getting bigger, but they’d only be getting that additional development time if something is going badly wrong for them in 2021 and 2022 as well.

      It is unlikely to have much of an effect on the development of their 2021 car, as that will have been under development for much of this year. As for their 2022 car, that is also already under development – we’ve had confirmation that they passed the tests for the front crash structures in October, so development must already be fairly advanced for them to be building a full scale survival cell and front crash structures for testing.

      In that situation, whilst having a bit more time might help with development of their 2022 car, the amount extra might not be a huge help if they have already defined what the development direction of that car is going to be right now. If they are down in 6th place in the WCC in 2022 in order to get that additional development time, then something would have to have gone badly wrong for two years – in which case, an additional few percent of development time probably wouldn’t make much of a difference either way.

  18. Renault an Pink mercedes, on normal circumstances

  19. It’s going to be a great finish with things so close between those teams.

    What actually might decide who gets third could well be dependent on how hard one of the drivers from RBR & Mercedes attack/defend a podium position from one of the drivers from the midfield. If one driver lucks into running (say) second or third at some point, that could make a huge difference to the overall standings, but if they get taken out by a charging Albon, Bottas or Verstappen and end up with a DNF of drop to the back of the field, again, there’s an impact on standings.

    Renault have probably the most to gain so I expect Dan Ric and Ocon to be pushing hard so expect a few “lick the stamps” in the next few races.

  20. I’d like to see either Renault or Mclaren take that 3rd spot. I’m not a fan of Tracing point’s approach this season, as effectively, it’s just a representation of where the 2019 Mercedes finishes in the pecking order.

    Realistically, Mclaren isn’t going to have an upswing in performance over the last part of the season, primarily because their preparations for the 2021 season with a new engine supplier will curb their development for this season. For them, it’s a play it safe till the end of the season approach. Their drivers are really consistent, so if opportunities do arise, I expect them to capitalise on them.

    Renault might be competitive over the last part of the season, especially with Ricciardo in top form, but Ocon seems to be a poorly performing element, and will still keep the Racing points and Mclarens in the hunt for 3rd.

    Although I’m not a fan of it.. Racing point still looks like the best bet to keep 3rd in the WCC.

    What’s more interesting than 3rd in the WCC is the best of the rest driver. Perez, Ricciardo and Leclerc are separated by 4 points, with an outside shot for the Mclaren drivers as well.

  21. Ferrari might close in unless Binotto isn’t present in the next three races.

    1. Guess you mean unless he IS present, his absence seems to have helped as he stated.

  22. I think outside of crazy races such as this last one, there’s too much difference between these teams’ points except for a battle between force india and mclaren for 3rd and then for 5th between renault and ferrari.

    Looking at monza, mclaren seemed to perform in high speed tracks, but the other 2 teams are supposed to have a good engine as well, I remember good performance for renault at spa and obviously force india have the best engine, while ferrari have the worst.

    Let’s not forget though that if we go back just a year, ferrari was the clear 3rd best car, there wasn’t the slightest amount of competition between ferrari and the rest, even in a bad year for them, so they at least have the potential to overhaul the others, however they need to have made strides also in regular conditions and with the engine for it to happen, and also they need a constantly performing vettel.

    1. Obviously, ferrari got 2nd last season in the constructors’, but verstappen got like 2\3 of red bull’s points, so I’d say they had at least a car as good as red bull on average, ferrari’s drivers performed much better than gasly and I’d say even albon.

      1. As good as ferrari*

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