Whilst Red Bull and McLaren have been the stars of this year’s world championship Ferrari- by their high standards- have struggled. Their only win, delivered to them on a silver platter by Sebastian Vettel’s dodgy sparkplug, came at the season opener in Bahrain. Since then Fernando Alonso has been on the podium just twice, Felipe Massa only once. The team is adrift in third in the constructors’ championship, and, worse still, no one is tipping them for success in Badger’s Fantasy Grand Prix. Ouch.
Thus far 2010 has seen the momentum swing between the Red Bull and McLaren drivers: Vettel was brilliant in the first few races, though technical woes prevented him from capitalizing; then Button stole a march with superb wins in Australia and China; Webber picked up the baton and dominated Spain and Monaco; now Hamilton is the man to beat, claiming back-to-back wins in Turkey and Canada.
Neither Alonso nor Massa has had any such momentum. Both started well, Massa following his teammate home in Bahrain, but since then it’s been stop start: Massa on the podium in Australia, Alonso runner-up in Spain, Felipe strong in Monaco. Both then had a nightmare in Turkey, where it appeared Ferrari had slipped in to a three-way battle with Mercedes and Renault.
But Canada was much brighter. Alonso qualified and finished third, and was left feeling he could have won had lapped cars been a bit more accommodating. Felipe’s day went wrong at the start where he collided with Liuzzi, and got worse when Schumacher ran him off the road late on. But he did set some impressive lap times and provided us with some entertaining overtakes. The Prancing Horse looked to be finding its feet again.
All this leaves the team in a position far better than their pace would suggest. Alonso sits fourth in the title battle, just 15 points shy of leader Hamilton, and ahead of Vettel’s mega-but-fragile Red Bull. Massa is further adrift, down in 8th in the standings, but the new points system means he’s not impossibly far off the summit.
Ferrari undoubtedly made strides in Canada, finding themselves far closer to the pace of the McLarens and Red Bulls than they have been since the beginning of the year.
But having started the campaign well they shouldn’t really be in this position- they shouldn’t be playing catch-up. The car was clearly quicker than the McLaren at the season opener, but whilst the Woking-based team have got the most out of their F-Duct and closed right up on the aerodynamically sublime Red Bull Ferrari have dropped back- and they’re blaming the aforementioned duct.
“We concentrated too much effort on the blown rear wing,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali post-Canada. “We spent a lot of effort there, not focusing on the other areas of the car. From Valencia onwards the focus will be to develop other areas of the car apart from the blown rear wing, because it is a complicated system that took a lot of resources out of our team.”
Is it really that simple? Has the team’s drop-off in pace been down to their chasing performance from the F-Duct whilst ignoring other areas of the F10? If so it’s a shocking piece of shadow chasing for a team of this size and reputation. You get the feeling this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened in the days when Jean Todt and Ross Brawn had offices in Maranello.
So, having made changes for Canada, the team has another upgrade package coming for Valencia, including a new exhaust similar to that which has aided Red Bull so much of late. Their chances of winning the title will depend heavily on this- and their two drivers. If the car does deliver the pace can these two steer a Ferrari to the title?
That’s a silly question really, isn’t it? In Alonso and Massa Ferrari have a mighty impressive line-up, and one that could, with the right car, certainly deliver them the championship.
At this stage, you get the feeling it’s Alonso, with two titles under his belt and a points advantage over Felipe, who’s best placed to succeed. He’s the one who’s delivered the stronger results this year, and if history tells us anything it’s that Fernando can drag extra speed from a less than stellar car. That’s not to rule Felipe out- when the car is on song he’s capable of truly imperious driving- but unless Ferrari draw level with the top two on pace Fernando is the man in red most likely to succeed.
So with the season nearly at half distance Ferrari are still in the mix. All the talk may be of McLaren and Red Bull, but so long as Ferrari are picking up points and keeping up with the leaders they’ll be satisfied. If they can keep pace with development you just can’t rule them out, and we could be set for a six-way struggle for this year’s world title- and that would make for fantastic viewing.
Here at Badger we love to get your thoughts- so, can Ferrari haul themselves in to the title battle, or is it already too late for the Scuderia to challenge the McLarens and Red Bulls for glory in 2010?