Photo: ANP / Zuma Press
The last world title dates back to 2007, but Ferrari as a Formula 1 team still appeals to the imagination. Red color, date and not to forget the iconic logo with a black dancing horse. In the lead up to next season’s opening, the Scuderia is seen by many as a dark horse. “It looks strong and solid on many levels. Just so solid,” admitted Max Verstappen, can Ferrari finally compete for the title again this season?
For decades it was often all or nenet In the racing stable of Maranello, the oldest team on the grid. After the turn of the century, things went well for a while and Michael Schumacher succeeded no less than five times in a row, managing to increase his total collection of world titles to seven in Italian service: a record. Even before the German’s farewell in 2006, things took a gradual order at Ferrari. Only Kimi Raikkonen managed to reach the top of the scaffold again in 2007 at the end of the season.
The number of Grand Prix victories illustrates the difficult time the team has been through since then. While in the five championship years with Schumacher (2000-2004) 56 races have been won, the Italians have been stuck with “only” 45 victories in the past 15 years. The 2020 season, the team’s historic 1000th race year, saw its biggest drop in forty years with just three (and no win) podiums. This resulted in a dramatic sixth place in the constructors’ championship.
Oddly enough, the average 2020 is currently working for the team. Because of a disappointing sixth place, the Scuderia was allowed to run wind tunnel tests more often than the top teams Mercedes and Red Bull in developing the 2022 car (thanks to settlement regulations). “I think that only gave us a tenth of a second on the lap,” team boss Mattia Binotto played down the advantage. But do the math: in about 72 laps you save more than seven seconds. Races won or lost by a smaller margin…
Fortunately, in 2021 there was more encouragement for Tifusi and Ferrari finished the year as the third team. So far Ferrari has made a good impression in Bahrain, just as it has in Barcelona, and expectations – in part due to texts from the competition – are high for the first time in ages.
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Like its leader Verstappen, Christian Horner sees Ferrari as “going well on asphalt”. “They look very competitive,” said the Red Bull boss, who appears to want to put his team in the role of the underdog anyway. “I have no doubt that Mercedes can play a big role this season, while I think McLaren and Alpine will also do well. We hope to be among them.”
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Mercedes newcomer George Russell has also positioned Ferrari as the likely “winner” on test days. Confronted with his words, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz shrugged his shoulders with a smile. “Oh yeah. This is the typical Mercedes: glorifying competitors through the winter and then outperforming them in the first race. I would have believed George if it was the first time, but they’ve been doing it this way for years.”
Sainz prefers to put the ball back in, as the Mercedes looks promising despite the not-so-exciting times in the data models. “We have a little bit of insight into how Mercedes will stand up and that looks like… well, let me not say too much about that.”
Although the signals appear green with the red banner, there is still one important problem that needs to be resolved: the so-called graduation† Like many other teams, Ferrari – especially on the straight – has a bouncing car, because the airflows under the car are not yet well controlled.
“It is very important that we solve that,” admitted Sainz, who knows that a bumpy car can cause dangerously a lot of inconvenience, especially when entering a corner. “If we succeed, the car will be much better to drive. We’ve already made some updates, although they were very minor changes and better called modifications. Most of them seem to work. It shows the team is doing well,” said Sainz, who was also the fastest man in the world. The track is on Friday, because it’s not easy to get things like that done in a few days. He hasn’t said anything yet, and even if it comes to a test day, they at Ferrari know better than anyone: it’s better to be the first than the last.