Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc, Hungaroring, 2020

Ferrari target third place but are wary of rivals’ tokens advantage

2021 F1 season

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says third place in the constructors championship is the minimum the team should aim for in the 2021 F1 season.

Formula 1’s most successful team struggled to sixth place last season, its worst finishing position for 40 years. Binotto expects them to rebound immediately.

“This team has been capable of finishing second in the past five years except once third,” he said. “So I think third is not fully impossible. And I think that should be at least our minimum objective for next season.”

However Binotto pointed out that development restrictions on cars for the new season could hand their rivals an advantage.

As a cost-saving measure, teams have been given a limited number of ‘tokens’ they can use to bring upgrades to their chassis for 2021. However teams which source parts from rivals, such as Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) from Mercedes and AlphaTauri from Red Bull, can upgrade to 2020 specification parts without expending these tokens.

Binotto described the token system as a “limitation in our development” for the 2021 season.

“We’ve got only two tokens to play, trying to address and modify the weaknesses of this year. There are teams which at the moment are not limited by tokens, they’ve got free tokens – Racing Point or AlphaTauri. So those teams will have a competitive advantage to us and other teams, in terms of development, that we need to be fully aware of.”

McLaren, who finished third last season, do not have the same advantage, but will switch from Renault power units to Mercedes’ standard-setting V6 hyrbid turbos.

“Other teams will change engine manufacturers and may have an upgrade in terms of engine power which, again, we need to be aware of,” Binotto acknowledged.

“So the competitors will be, again, very strong next year. But as I said, I believe that we’ve got here in Maranello a strong team and I fully trust them that we can do a better job compared to what we did today.”

Finishing third will be a “difficult objective” for Ferrari, said Binotto. “But still, I believe that as a team at least, as a minimum objective, we should try to achieve it.”

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30 comments on “Ferrari target third place but are wary of rivals’ tokens advantage”

  1. The thing Ferrari needs the most is to solve their engine power. And yeah, adapt the aerodynamics to be modelled on a car that does not have the outright strongest engine to overcome the drag penalty.

    Sure, AM has the advantage of tokens. But they will be struggling to actually LEARN to upgrade their Mercedes copied car themselves this year, since they cannot take Mercedes uprights etc. anymore. And they lose their most experienced driver.

    Alpha Tauri might be a factor if Ferrari expects to fight for 6th in the constructors championship. And they might be fighting for podiums on good weekends. But they should not be a real competitor for a top 3 spot, no matter how much they gain from the tokens, Red Bull is not going to invest that much more money into AT.

    Renault might be the one who can profit from the tokens, but again they lose their strongest drivers and it remains to be seen what they can do.

    As for McLaren, yeah, they will have to spend those tokens to hammer the Mercedes into a chassis designed for a Renault engine. I will be surprised if the engine provides much of an upgrade to the total package that way. But then, they knew that and started bringing 2021 development parts forward during the 2020 season, which clearly hurt their competativeness at times.

    So that really shows what Ferrari should have been doing too. And maybe they were? Overall they are in pretty much the same situation as Renault with regards to spending their tokens. Apart from the engine. But that doesn’t have much to do with the tokens anyway.

    1. Well @bascb, seems you, @jeff1s, and I are much of the same thought there with regards Binotto’s remarks, which are odd by what they are saying as well as for what they do not mention at all.

    2. Panagiotis the Greek
      8th January 2021, 10:53

      Another thing Ferrari should do, is to pay the same attention to both drivers. Ferrari the last decade had a bit forsaken the number 2 driver, Massa 2010-2013, Raikkonen 2014-2018, Leclerc till the middle of 2019 and Vettel from the 2nd half of 2019 till 2020.

    3. And they lose their most experienced driver.

      The loss of Sergio (191 race starts) is important because he was their top point scorer last year (125 points), not because he was Racing Point’s (as it was then) most experienced driver. He also visited the Podium twice (1 Win, 1 2nd Place). Sebastian has 257 race starts, so Aston Martin have employed a more experienced driver. Hopefully he will regain some of his World Drivers’ Championship ability.

      1. @drycrust right, but, Vettel has run 0 of those 257 races with a Mercedes engine behind his back.

        1. @faulty I doubt Sebastian would be hindered by using a Mercedes engine, rather I’m expecting it to help him. I’m expecting him to score more points this year than he did last year. The only question in my mind is can he visit the podium regularly (e.g. 5+ times) this year.

      2. That would only be a moot point, if it was not Perez years of experience that a. helped setup the cars/develop the cars and b. make him the incredibly effieciently performing driver he currently is. Remember, Perez was not always such an efficient scorer @drycrust.

        Vettel will bring experience to be abe to do part of that. But he does not have experience to do so with the FI team. I would hope that he will get into a groove after some time learning to work best with the team. I certainly expect him to do at least as good a job as Stroll, and would expect him to be able to get some defining drives out of the very well handling and stable car that the RP this year was.

        1. That’s sort of what I meant. I rate SV high, but it will take time for him to be sure of how his new car should work and how applicable the wealth of knowledge he brings to the team is, in terms of the technical paths already in place at Pointy Force.

  2. Is Binotto saying they’ll be beaten in 2021 by Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin «because they have tokens» and McLaren «because they have Mercedes power», so there is just Renault Alpine left to fight for 5th place.
    Third place looks far, even for him.

    1. Maybe Binotto is suggesting customer teams should be allowed to transfer some tokens to the team selling technology besides just money. I don’t see anything wrong with that (although I can see there being arguments about how many tokens a job warrants), but if you aren’t allowed to do that then maybe one way around not being able to transfer tokens is for the seller to expect some sort of quip pro quo arrangement, e.g. the team buying does some development work for the seller. I don’t know how much faith a seller can put in some customer teams, but it would mean you effectively increase your headcount since the people working on your project are your customers employees, and of course the development work uses their tokens, not your own. As I think about that concept, if I was a team principal that was selling technology then if I couldn’t receive tokens as part of the payment for technology then I’d probably just not ask them to do development work for me as part compensation for my team’s work. On the other hand, if I saw some technology I liked on a customer team’s car, then I would expect to be able to buy it at a favourable price.

  3. Of course, RP/Aston Martin only finished 5th, one place before Ferrari, while AT finished behind clearly them – McLaren are mentioned, but what of Renault then? Well, fair enough Ferrari should probably be aiming for third place at minimum, just like the rest of the top of the midfield.

    1. Well, fair enough Ferrari should probably be aiming for third place at minimum, just like the rest of the top of the midfield.

      Indeed @bosyber, it would be a surprise if either Aston Martin, Alpine, or McLaren would not aim for 3rd.
      And if that fake energy drink were still sponsoring Haas they would be included here as well ;)

  4. I need another explanation of what the 2021 token system allows and not allows.

    1. Here

      Page 98-102. Takes a few times to read to get your head around but quite self-explanatory once you do

      1. Thanks, @the-edge.
        Also appreciated that you included the page references.

        1. It seems that AM nor AT will have free token changes. If they choose to change the item in line with the supplying team it will cost them a token as well.

          22.1.5 In the event a Customer Competitor buys a non-Listed Component (as defined by Appendix 6 of the 2020 Sporting Regulations) from a Supplying Competitor, any tokens used by the Supplying Competitor for modifications to that Component will also apply to the Customer Competitor, should the Customer Competitor decide to use the updated component. In any case, the Supplying Competitor should use their best endeavours to ensure that such an update (and use of tokens) is not mandatory for the Customer Competitor.

          Not sure how that works for a team who changes supplier. I guess that Williams can change to the homologated 2020 Mercedes gearbox without using any tokens.

      2. Yes, thanks indeed.

  5. I remember reading something regarding AT not taking RBR’s 2020 rear suspension in 2021. Sticking to what they know and adapting to the new floor and diffuser rules. So, their real only advantage may be Honda’s powerful farewell gift.
    AM is the real threat to that 3rd place, but only if Vettel can mentor himself AND Stroll to the point they score in every race.
    Alonso should be reason of concern, but Renault’s chassis preference for speed circuits made it hard for Riccardo to bag enough podiums. A stronger engine promised by Abiteboul does not fix that.

    Leclerc Will see a lot more red in his rear view mirror this year. If Binotto can coordinate the boys and give them back some power, that 3rd place is on the way.

    But wait… there’s Mclaren…Those guys…RIC and NOR… Mercedes PU…Seidl…
    Buy some extra popcorn for this season.

    1. @Only Facts! Mclaren is my initial bet for 3rd place. I reckon they’ve got an advantage in the driver pairing over their most direct rivals Aston Martin and Alpine. This might be enough to finish ahead, even if they don’t have the outright third-fastest package. Ferrari, both driver pairing and package-wise are a bit more of a question mark.

    2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      8th January 2021, 15:25

      I think McLaren is a tough team to gauge in this coming year. Their package last season was pretty strong and that team really is starting to come into their own. However, sure… they are taking on the Merc engine and will provide a boost in that department. Though, this change could negatively impact other various strong performing areas regarding handling and even aero packages. This could take the team time to sort it out. So I expect a little bit of a slow start from them. You can’t just swap out a PU in these cars without impacting other performance areas. This car was designed with the Renault PU package in mind (different CG, mounting points, cooling requirements, etc.), so I expect a some sort of learning curve/adapting here.

      1. I believe the engine mounting points are the same regardless of which engine is used in a car. I suspect that doesn’t mean every engine is the same shape and uses the exact same points for input and output, so yes, I agree with the rest of your comment about how there could be problems integrating the Mercedes engine into the MCL37 (is that right? What happened to MCL36?).

        1. @drycrust MCL35 with an altered floor area, Mercedes PU, and more developed.

          1. @jerejj My apologies. I knew the McLaren car used in the 2020 season was the MCL35, so I was surprised to learn the car used for the 2021 season will be the MCL37, not the MCL36. My guess as to why this is so is because the MCL36 incorporated design rules that were initially allowed for 2021, but were later carried over to 2022. So McLaren started again and designed the MCL37 which was the MCL35 with updates (e.g. the altered floor area). Since I couldn’t be certain as to what happened to the MCL36 I was hoping someone would be able to provide an update.

  6. I mocked Ferrari for having a terrible 2020 but I want them to rebuild themselves. Just look at McLaren.

  7. There will certainly be a lot of teams fighting for 3rd again this year & with the rule changes to the floor & diffuser any one of 5 teams could find themselves in 3rd to 7th. The only thing certain is 4 of them will be disappointed

    That is by far the greatest challenge of 2021 and will require modifications to every aero surface of the cars

    The next biggest performance gains/losses of 2021 will come from the drivers

    If Seb would have delivered what Leclerc did last year they may well have delivered 3rd anyway. If Carlos can match him that is already a big boost. If Seb can’t deliver what Perez did the AM will tumble

    McLaren are certainly not disadvantaged by the token system, quite the opposite. They have a new engine, gearbox, cooling setup and possible change to the rear suspension layout as well as a aero philosophy change that they started development on back in September. Whether or not they manage to get this right or not is another matter

    RP & AT do get to swop any 2019 supplier parts to the 2020 versions but as stated above, AT will not be doing this & RP have already taken the 2020 rear suspension so I really do t think this will be beneficial

    As for PUs all teams have been working on 2021 specs for sometime, we will just have to wait to see how much relative progress any have made against one another. Perhaps they will all find the same gains here and the order won’t change at all

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      8th January 2021, 15:28

      All very good points and share the same opinion in regards to McLaren’s situation.

  8. Here we go again… It’s totally Ferrari’s fault if they locked themselves into this position by accepting the token rules. One can argue that maybe they didn’t have much more room to operate given the FIA being granted exceptional power to do what is necessary for the championship amid the pandemic crisis.

    I don’t know what tactics they can use to block unfavourable regulations because the veto can only be used at certain conditions. However the man running the team should not in any way come up with these kind of silly excuses after having signed the rules. I mean he could not publicly approved the rules and let the FIA force it anyway, at least that way he could have saved the team’s face.

    On the other hand, the Mercedes cartel (Mercedes, RP, McLaren, Williams) led by Toto Wolff who was running for the top F1 job will block , when possible, every future regulations change will put them in a disadvantage. In my opinion, the only way Ferrari will have a chance to compete against Mercedes is to ally with RBR and supply them with the PU – given that they will manage to improve it – and RBR in return will let some of their top chassis guys join Ferrari not only to design chassis but to improve the whole process of designing an F1 car (simulation, aero, chassis…).

    The risk of such partnership is that Ferrari may be beaten by a team running their own PU. However that’s better than sitting and doing nothing and eventually listening forever to that boring message after the end of every race :
    “Get in there [FirstName] “.

  9. It doesn’t allow for more explanations.

  10. Little things such as driver consistency, pit stop consistency, clever strategies and lack of mechanical failure would be crucial in 2021.

  11. Excellent – so we have the season’s excuses up front – good to know.

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