The Scuderia have endured many tough times in their history, and while they have rewritten many entries in the Formula One record books over the last ten years, things will be different in the post Michael Schumacher era. Since the German hung up his racing boots, Ferrari have made changes to the team’s structure and management, and while this will see benefits in the long term, the short term will almost certainly be a stressful experience for the Italian squad.
Much has been said about the re-organisation of the Ferrari team, and I won’t regurgitate it here again, but key personnel have moved around the Fiat and Ferrari group, and Technical Director Ross Brawn has taken a sabbatical for 2007. So where does that leave the red team for this upcoming season? Well, as said every year, you can never discount Ferrari, and while they appear to be struggling on paper with all these changes, the new F2007 has been dominating testing alongside the McLaren MP4-22.
Kimi Raikkonen joins the team from McLaren and partners Brazil’s Felipe Massa, who has been retained for another year. Many fans will instantly divide the two drivers, stating that Kimi is made from a faster ilk, but having looked at Massa’s performances in the latter half of 2006, I’m not so certain it is as easy as that.
Kimi is definitely a fast driver. His car control and determination are second to none, and this attribute is certainly one of many that drew the Ferrari management to him. Kimi put in some blistering drives in the McLaren, and even though he didn’t manage the crown (2003 being his closest attempt yet), you cannot always blame the driver as his Mercedes engine would often fail him at critical times. But with Ferrari’s famous reliability, Kimi should be able to become a serious and strong challenger for the 2007 title. In fact, in a poll of BlogF1 readers that started in late October and ended in late February, almost 50% of the 377 voters reckon Kimi is favourite to win the Australian Grand Prix next weekend.
While Raikkonen is undoubtedly fast, Felipe is also building his confidence with Ferrari and his win at home for the 2006 season finale was simply breath-taking. Massa has certainly upped his game recently, and I believe he will be strong competition for Kimi on the race track. Felipe is also adored by the tifosi, and their encouragement will go a long way into settling him into the new team and possibly unsettling his Finnish team mate.
Ferrari were also among the first set of team to unveil their new car. At a simple ceremony at the team’s factory, the new F2007 was presented to small gathering of journalists. The launch was very closely controlled, and the team did not permit any photographs, instead choosing to distribute their own. This set a lot of rumours off about the possibility of Ferrari trying to hide something, but it just appears that the car wasn’t entirely ready and parts needed re-working. The car has been going well in the test sessions, and Felipe Massa completely dominated the final three days in Bahrain, topping the timing sheets each time. Kimi Raikkonen wasn’t too far behind either, and the Scuderia look to be a definite force for 2007. The team have lost out on the Constructors Title for the past two years, Renault getting the better of them. But as the Anglo-French squad face difficulties, it could be the return of Ferrari this time around. However, the team will need to get on top of McLaren pretty sharpish if they are to gain momentum through the middle and end of the season. With an experienced lineup though, Ferrari should be relatively comfortable with the Constructors Championship, but with Fernando Alonso in the McLaren, the Drivers will another game altogether.
2007 Constructors Prediction: 1st