Ferrari. Arguably, the most prestigious and beloved team in Formula 1. The scarlet red has captured the hearts and minds of many a fan over the years, but right now, I feel like the waters are murky for Maranello’s finest as 2014 rolls on, a season which they already look out of contention, and out of touch.
Okay, that may be a bit harsh on them, I don’t think anybody expected Mercedes to be THIS dominant through eight races, but Ferrari currently lie 203 points behind them, with no sign of that gap coming down any time soon.
It’s disappointing enough that the team has failed to win a World Constructors Title since 2008, but what makes 2014 especially painful was the fact the team made an “all-in” play to try and win the Constructors title this year, by breaking their conventional style of management.
In the past, Ferrari had a clear 1-2 system. A top level driver, and then a supporting driver playing the #2 role –
Like Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, and Eddie Irvine. Instead in 2014, they took on Kimi Raikkonen, a guy that Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo had PAID TO LEAVE, just four years prior. Amazing how things turn out in F1 eh?
It made sense, Kimi knew the team from his previous stint there, and still looked in great form after two very successful years with Lotus. All of a sudden Ferrari go from a team that was built solely around Alonso, to a team that meant business, gunning for that Constructors again…
… But it hasn’t worked. Fernando Alonso could very well be the best pound-for-pound driver in the field today, but he’s been given worse and worse cars as years have gone on, and has fought tooth and nail to get the team even one podium so far this season, an incredibly disappointing haul for a team of their reputation. There’s only so much even Alonso can do when the team is so far behind the rest of the field, and doubly disappointing when you consider they looked very solid in testing.
What’s been even more disappointing has been Kimi Raikkonen’s fall from grace. An average finish of 9th place from eight races for a miserable total of 19 points, behind even rookie Kevin Magnussen. His struggles with the new brake-by-wire system has been well documented, but his sheer irrelevance this season has been alarming, a stark contrast from his Lotus form, where he was challenging for wins, finishing in second place an amazing SIX times.
Not to mention, the resignation mid-season of Team Principal; Stefano Domenicali, and his inexperienced replacement, Marco Mattiacci was bound to raise a few eyebrows and get more people talking… And not in a positive way either.
So what’s caused this? The car and the team’s development has to take a large portion of this. Rory Byrne’s car this year has been particularly mediocre, struggling at times to keep up with the more powerful cars, and the engine has been lacking too. Even the update due for Canada didn’t seem to change anything either. On almost any given weekend they’re fighting with Williams, Force India and McLaren when they should be trying to at least match the Red Bull team, who have even WORSE engine problems.
So where does the team go from here? This is interesting as the team is clearly in a bit of flux, the rumours circulating that Raikkonen may be cut a year early. Given his form and expensive salary, that’s no major blow, in my opinion anyway. Then there’s the talk of Ferrari making a return to Endurance prototype racing and Le Mans. As for Luca mentioning quitting… That’s just Luca being Luca. He loves the attention, and anything to keep the team in the headlines, even if they don’t deserve it.
I think the future of Ferrari rests on what Fernando Alonso decides to do. And he’s in a tough spot himself. If he does decide to leave Ferrari, where does he go? The two teams definitely better; Mercedes and Red Bull, have driver line-ups that look pretty set. Would he swallow a little bit of pride in heading back to McLaren and Ron Dennis, a team where he had a very public spat with, back in 2007? I don’t think a driver of his calibre would go to another midfield team like Force India or Williams either.
If he goes, I’m fairly certain Ferrari would go all-out to get Sebastian Vettel and/or Nico Hulkenberg, who was 99% signed for Ferrari in 2013, until Luca pulled out at the eleventh hour when
he found out Raikkonen was avaliable. Whether Seb would leave for a bigger paycheck and a slightly worse team with more priority is another matter entirely, but Alonso and Raikkonen, whatever happens, are in the twilights of their careers and Luca needs to think about what to do next, especially if Vettel stays on at Red Bull.
Ferrari like I said, seem almost in a transitional period, and their future looks a little murky, with a lot of questions and not very many answers. Whatever happens, the direction the teams takes in the short/medium term will be very interesting to see.
What do you make of Ferrari’s issues? Is there a way back for them from here? Does Alonso and Kimi stay on? Where do you see the team in the future? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!