Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2020

Ferrari knew its worst season in 40 years would be “extremely difficult” before it began

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies says the team expected an “extremely difficult” season in 2020 after pre-season testing.

Mekies, who took charge of the team in Abu Dhabi again as team principal Mattia Binotto was absent due to illness, was speaking after the team ended the season sixth in the championship, their worst performance for 40 years.

“In Barcelona, we quickly realised that we had serious concerns about some aspects of the performance of the car,” he said.

“We knew it was going to be very difficult. We didn’t know yet at that time how long it was going to be for us to understand that fully and even less to fix it.”

Matters were complicated when the beginning of the season was postponed due to the global pandemic.

“Then we went to that crazy situation where we all jumped into Covid at that stage and couldn’t touch or run the car for a few months,” Mekies explained. “So I guess there were indications there that the season would be extremely difficult, as it turned out to be.”

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Yas Marina, 2020
Ferrari scored one point from the final three races
Despite finishing in the bottom half of the points standings, Mekies believes the team can be pleased with its response to a challenging season and the progress they were able to make.

“It’s certainly a good example of what you learn in a time of crisis,” he said.

“It’s in this sort of situation that you learn the most. And I think what we take away is the way the team has been able to stay united during this time to still try to push as hard as we could despite the disappointing results.”

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He acknowledged the progress they had made may not be immediately apparent because they weren’t racing at the front.

“There was a lot of small but very significant achievements in the year that were unnoticed because we were at the back,” he explained.

“But, again, it’s something that hopefully will make us stronger and that we will carry on to next year.

“In a nutshell what we take from that is even in such a hard season, globally difficult conditions, the way we have fought and pushed our limits I think is what we will take [away].

“When you are back there, you are bound to take more risks. The drivers are taking more risks, the team takes more risks with the strategy, because that’s what you have to do to get a good result. So that sort of getting out of your comfort zone, if you can break out of your comfort zone, certainly will make us stronger.”

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2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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20 comments on “Ferrari knew its worst season in 40 years would be “extremely difficult” before it began”

  1. To me Ferrari gained huge in aero department this year. When you start the season with so much handicap in engine and you have so much gains in the end only from the aero, then its something positive. I hope the new engine will be closer to the others and they will be competitive again.

    1. @bluechris
      The problem with the PU being redesigned over the winter in a hurry to comply with the FIA TDs , which was part of the settlement, have actually cascaded into many other problems. However, Ferrari were not spot on chassis wise. They did have a problem with the torsional stiffness of its gearbox that lead them to alter the suspension configuration to deal with it which caused the car to understeer in a strange manner.

      Ferrari have demonstrated in the last years that they can give Mercedes a run for their money in the engine department. I don’t think that’s the issue. In fact, a completely redesigned PU for the 2021 season is already running in the dyno with promising figures. It’s the chassis department where Ferrari have been lagging compared to Mercedes and RBR the last years. 2017 & 2018 were the exception though.

    2. at best they have realised where they were lacking. Realised how to run a car on Pirellis, that is where they may have improved. The car was fundamentally as bad early on as at the end on the season just slow.

  2. Did they? They were much closer to their customers than they were last year. Even beaten by the Alfas at some tracks And they weren’t able to make up any ground during the season.
    I think the engine was bad but so was the chassis.
    It would be interesting to see how their 2019 car with this year’s engine would compare to the actual one. I’m not sure the actual one would even prevail.

  3. They haven’t led a single lap all season, a first since 1992, telling.
    I wonder if that’s what they were trying to do, lead a lap, by not pitting Charles during the Safety Car situation today.

  4. They cheated in 2019 and all parties in F1 were aware of it. This year they were punished for it .
    That’s why I love Formula One.
    So much happening behind the scenes and mired in politics .
    I can’t wait for the new season!

  5. Roberto Giacometti
    14th December 2020, 0:33

    500 plus million euros spent , and for what? Beaten by a soft drink manufacturer and a few other teams with half the staff and resources!!
    MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT!!!

    1. Spent in self indulgence, bonus, trips and high life.

    2. Check your sources, Red Bull is not a soft drink manufacturer. This speaks miles about your armchair expert analysis.

  6. Well, the closest Ferrari have come to winning a championship in the last decade came at with Fernando. Perhaps that would have been different had been driving for the in the last couple years, whatever the case, a very bad look.

    I guess this is rock bottom? Can’t get any worse? They need a shake up, it was been evident for a while now.

    If we are to believe that Toto and Ola Kallenius aren’t exactly the best of mates, I guess John Elkann would be rather foolish to not casually drop the former a text. I’m sure Toto would need to divest his stakes in Mercedes, Aston Martin and Williams (?), but at the same time, he’d be on some serious coin at Ferrari.

    At this point in time, I can’t think of anyone more better suited that Toto to turn Ferrari around. They’ve got pretty much everything except the right leadership to succeed again.

    1. @jaymenon10

      Honestly, I can understand why they fired Loius. The management of Ferrari has let their team down. Really poor decision making, organisational structure and work culture has been the only thing stopping them from winning championships.

      They removed, or been unable to retain some top talent in the team. James Allison, Aldo Costa and Fernando Alonso all would have been able to get them at least one title in the past 3 seasons. But they didn’t create an environment to hold on to this talent, or made absolutely brain fade decisions letting them go.

      They’ve focused on the wrong approach. They decided focus all their efforts on cheating in 2018 and 2019 instead of working hard down the honest route. After they’e been found out, they’re a year behind in development as compared to Mercedes and Red Bull.

      They also seem resistant to change of overall approach. Giant egos and bureaucracy is a thing of the past. They’re never going to win again unless there’s a massive change in approach at the top of the helm. That would probably involce getting rid of some Italians, and replacing them with able leaders irrespective of nationality.

      There’s little to no hope for this team.. I would only hope is that Leclerc can find a way out of there asap.

      1. @todfod
        Ferrari did everything they can to retain Fernando Alonso’s services. In fact, his contract was extended in 2011 by 5 years with the biggest salary in the paddock which he deserves BTW. However, and at the lights of the disastrous start to the hybrid era in 2014 and particular in September where Fernando lost two of his biggest supporters : Luca Di Montezemolo was fired and Emilio Botin (Santander CEO) died in the Italian GP week, he triggered a clause in his contract that allowed him to exit Ferrari if they were 4th or below in the standings of the WCC after the summer break.

        As for Allison, the sudden death of his wife before the begging of the 2016 season meant that he could no more work outside the UK and take care of his children. He was released when he refused to join the team in Silverstone nearly 4 months after his wife’s sudden passing.

        With the regard to Aldo Costa, he was a brilliant chassis engineer but was terrible as a technical director and that was his weakness. He wanted that job badly and failed. Even after joining Mercedes he was head of chassis development and was never promoted to the role of technical director till he left which was filled by Bob Bell, Pady Lowe and then James Allison.

        That would probably involce getting rid of some Italians, and replacing them with able leaders irrespective of nationality

        If you look at the top management in Ferrari – with the exception of the team principle role that is more political and doesn’t influence the performance of the car – now or in the last years, you will find out that most of them were not Italians : Tombazis, Pat Fry, James Allison, Jock Clear, Laurent Meckies… Another thing is it’s not easy to convince people most of them with families based in Britain to work in a small Italian village.

  7. As a fan and a geek, I would love to know what Ferrari was doing with their engine in 2019. There is much speculation but what exactly were they doing.

    1. We’ll never know thanks to that secret agreement. Must have been a great cheat though.. looking at the levels of performance they generated from it. Got to hand it to Ferrari .. when it comes to playing dirty.. they’re in a league of their own. Too bad it doesn’t translate in to more WCCs and WDCs for them.

    2. Jose Lopes da Silva
      14th December 2020, 11:12

      You’ll need to wait until 2039, likely. Just like it was only in this decade that we started to understand how did the legal traction control of the B194 work.

  8. “There was a lot of small but very significant achievements in the year that were unnoticed because we were at the back,”

    I guess Williams could say the same. A lot of their achievements went unnoticed. They even got one of their drivers to score points without even being in the car.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      14th December 2020, 11:13

      Indeed. And I think the same happened with Pietro Fittipaldi.

  9. Ferrari were real noobs this year compared to six years ago.
    But I hope they will be rebuilt soon.

  10. The worst season in 40 years… so far Ferrari. Next year you might still end up below Toro Rosso, who knows.

  11. 2021 Will be of course better year. For 2020 it doesn’t matter it happened. Sebastian V must leave from the begging of this year.
    Forza Ferrari.
    #ESSEREFERRARI❤️🔴⚫️🏎🇮🇹👍🇺🇸💯🔥

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