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Are Ferrari In Serious Trouble?

Are Ferrari In Serious Trouble?

The 2009 Formula One season is only two races old, but for a team that is so used to success, Ferrari must be feeling a little off-colour right now. The Scuderia are yet to score any points, instead the majority going to Brawn and Jenson Button. This isn’t the usual schedule of events, and while Brawn deserve all the success from winning both races in convincing style and strategy, one cannot help but wonder what is happening to Maranello’s beloved team.

In 2006, Ferrari’s long-serving and devoted driver, Michael Schumacher, hung up his boots and called it a day. The following year saw much change at the red team as personnel were shifted around, some even being transferred to the company’s road car division. Ross Brawn took a year out and Kimi Raikkonen was brought in as a replacement for the multiple world champion. It wasn’t as dominant of a season as the team had experienced in the past, but both titles still went their way.

In 2008, Brawn chose not to return and instead headed to Honda. Of course, the result of this has meant the Briton is now a constructor, fielding Button and former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello. And much success Brawn is enjoying at the moment. For Ferrari though last year saw a few more chinks in the Italian armour appear. Bungled pitstops, off-form races and disgruntled drivers all added to a difficult year. Ferrari still won though, the spirit and energy carrying through hard times as well as good. The constructirs title went to Ferrari, although the drivers title fell to Lewis Hamilton at the very last race.

It is often said that the winner of the first race of the season usually goes on to take the championship, and if that is going to be the case in 2009, then I’m sure Jenson Button and the Brawn team will have worked tremendously hard for it come November. But what of Ferrari? If the result from the first race of the year is anything to go by, it doesn’t look good for the squad that has won a record 16 constructors and 15 drivers titles over the years.

In 2008, the Australian Grand Prix was just as much of a disaster for Ferrari as it was this time around. Traction control had been banned and both drivers skated over the gravel during the race. Kimi Raikkonen scraped a point from Melbourne in ’08, but neither driver were able to leave Australia this year with any. Malaysia, which is traditionally Ferrari-territory, went well for the team in ’08. Felipe Massa took pole position while Kimi romped to victory the following day. For 2009 though, it was in essence, a retirement for Raikkonen, and another non-points finish for Massa.

From Malaysia the circus travels to China, which has also fared Ferrari well in the past. The Scuderia have won three of the five races held at Shanghai so far, secured second and third last year when Lewis Hamilton won and have only failed to score on one occasion, 2005. But the troubles with the car cannot be solved immediately, and the problems Kimi Raikkonen is facing with his KERS is worrying. During testing, the unit overheated, and in free practice for the Malaysian race another problem occurred which resulted in the Finn leaping from the car, smoke pouring out and the fire extinguisher having been automatically triggered. Once again, KERS-related.

Kimi Raikkonen - 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix

Strategy blunders in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix cost the team vital grid positions, and strategy errors during the race, which saw Raikkonen go onto wet weather tyres well before any rain actually fell, cost the team dearly. Another KERS issue brought the Finn’s race to an end, and although the team said they may have been able to resolve the issue, Kimi clearly didn’t want any further part of the race.

These issues of reliability and morale will be carried over to Shanghai, and one possible solution is for the Scuderia to simply dismount the KERS from the Ferrari. This may affect performance, but would also be a weight saving, allowing the drivers more ballast to play with. I think it is clear though that the F60 is not looking great right now, and with the close battle in the midfield, Felipe and Kimi are in for a very tough season.

What a difference five months make.

Oliver White

7 comments

  • I have started to think that it is no coincidence that the teams atop the leader board this year are the same ones the hung up any thoughts winning in 2008 and spent their time developing their 2009 cars. Ferrari and McLaren have catching up to do, but I am guessing that by mid-season at the latest these teams will be back up near the front of the grid. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ferrari was back up upon the podium in no time.

  • I wouldn’t be so sure; new regulations on testing could prevent both Ferrari and McLaren been able to catch up so quickly and could make it harder for other teams to introduce the double defuser. This all bodes well for Jenson Button having maximised his teams advantage whilst the rest of the pack try and catch up.

    The BBC team have said on a couple of occassions, Ferrari can’t buy their way out of this one, as they have in the past. This applies to all the big budget teams and is a great leveler, as I believe the FIA intended.

    But my, isn’t it fun to watch them struggle?

    Couldn’t agree more 🙂

  • Ferrari is not the type of team that will continue to stumble. In due time they will match the type of components that so far have shown to better than theirs, the management of their raceday and qualifying activities will also right itself. The season is still young and nothing yet is carved in stone. Are Brawn and Toyota really that good?? Could it be that both Ferrari and McLaren have been really unlucky??. The mid field teams are still where they were last year. It is just a strange situation that finds last seasons best and worst teams in opposite posistions. The standings are about to start changing.

  • Is is not possible for the teams to develop two sets of cars? One with KERS and one without? Use KERS where there are really long straights or where its actually good to do so, like Monza and not use it in places like China? Because it seems to me like the cars are actually doing better without KERS due to their weight distribution advantage.

  • I suppose we will get a true measure of form when Barcelona and Turkey roll around, as we will see what progress has been made with the cars by that time, and if Massa can make it four in a row at Istambul.

    Indeed, I do enjoy the fact that the new rules make it harder for Ferrari to just spend and succede- I am sure they they will win several races this year, but their chokehold on the championships may be at an end.

  • Well, if the diffuser gets…’clarified’…they could jump Williams and Toyota and be back in the top 3. The 14th will be a big day for this year.

    As for their functioning as a team, well, they’re just learning that they’re not top dog anymore the hard way. They can’t save a set of tyres in Q1 and make it through, they can’t go a bit wacky on the strategy safe in the knowledge that they’ll maybe drop back to 5th or 6th if it goes wrong. They’re still a champion team though, and if theres any chance to claw back they’ll take it.

    This season is set to be a cracker, hopefully the Brawns can be reeled in, with them out front and traditional fast developers Renault/Ferrari/McLaren are behind, things should tighten up as the year goes on and it will be good, Brawn haven’t been stretched yet, but hopefully it goes the way of 1998, and not 2004!

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