Fer­rari flop: F1’s fa­mous red cars ex­pected bet­ter in 2016

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Fer­rari ex­pected much bet­ter than this in 2016.

After end­ing last sea­son with three wins and prom­ises of pulling closer to Mercedes, Fer­rari in­stead slid back­ward.

There have been no vic­to­ries, just one podium fin­ish in the last nine races and Fer­rari is once again fend­ing off ques­tions about dis­cord within For­mula One’s most pop­u­lar team.

Just look at last week­end’s race at the U.S. Grand Prix : After a dis­ap­point­ing qual­i­fy­ing in which both driv­ers started on the third row, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel fin­ished fourth and Kimi Raikko­nen didn’t fin­ish at all when he was forced to re­turn to the garage after leav­ing a pit stop with an im­prop­erly at­tached wheel.

Judged by race of­fi­cials as an un­safe re­lease, Fer­rari was hit with a fine. See­ing sparks fly as he pulled away, Raikko­nen put the car in re­verse for a hu­mil­i­at­ing re­turn drive back down­hill as Fer­rari slipped fur­ther be­hind Red Bull for se­cond place in the team cham­pi­onship, which it hasn’t won since 2008.

“Far from ideal” is how the dead­pan Raikko­nen summed it up.

The same could be said about Fer­rari’s en­tire sea­son as For­mula One heads to the Mex­i­can Grand Prix this week­end.

Fer­rari landed in Mex­ico last sea­son full of op­ti­mism. Vet­tel’s had scored the non-Mercedes wins all year. He was a reg­u­lar on the podium and Fer­rari was cruis­ing to­ward a se­cond-place fin­ish in the con­struc­tor’s cham­pi­onship.

There’s been none of the same con­fi­dence this year. The Fer­rari driv­ers — both for­mer world cham­pi­ons — have made more noise with their mouths than their cars, with Vet­tel com­plain­ing about slow driv­ers and he and Raikko­nen both crit­i­ciz­ing the de­fen­sive tac­tics of Red Bull’s brash Dutch teenager Max Ver­stap­pen as dan­ger­ous.

Luca Bald­is­seri, Fer­rari’s for­mer chief en­gi­neer who left the team after last sea­son, caused a stir around For­mula One be­fore the U.S. Grand Prix when he told Ital­ian me­dia that Fer­rari lead­er­ship had cre­ated a “cli­mate of fear.”

“They are no longer a team, but a group of frightened peo­ple,” Bald­is­erri said.

Fer­rari team prin­ci­pal Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene crit­i­cism.

“It’s an old story. Fer­rari in Italy is like the Ital­ian foot­ball na­tional team. I think pres­sure is nor­mal, hav­ing ten­sion is nor­mal, hav­ing crit­i­cism is nor­mal, so you have to live with that. Then, some­times it’s go­ing too far,” Ar­riv­abene said. “This is part of the job ... if you work for a brand like Fer­rari, you have to ac­cept all of this, like it or not. The at­mos­phere inside the house is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to what peo­ple thought about, or what you are read­ing some­times in the news­pa­per.”

To be fair, Fer­rari is far from the panic that had set in in 2014 when Mercedes blew ev­ery­one away with their new V6 turbo hy­brid en­gines. Fer­rari had scrapped its way back to best-of-the-rest in 2015, mak­ing this sea­son’s re­sults so frus­trat­ing.

And Red Bull’s resur­gence has some think­ing that’s the team to knock off Mercedes in 2017. Red Bull team­mates Ver­stap­pen and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo have the only non-Mercedes win this year and those two are con­sid­ered likely con­tenders for fu­ture world ti­tles.

Fer­rari hasn’t won a driver’s cham­pi­onship since Raikko­nen in 2007 and the last time it was se­ri­ously in the hunt was 2012 with Fer­nando Alonso. The pair­ing of Raikko­nen with Vet­tel, who won four ti­tles with Red Bull, gives Fer­rari a pow­er­ful 1-2 punch be­hind the wheel if they can get com­pet­i­tive cars.

Vet­tel is un­der con­tract with Fer­rari through next sea­son and said he won’t think about start­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions un­til after this sea­son is fin­ished.

“I don’t think it’s im­por­tant to look into de­tails as such,” Vet­tel said. “My con­tract is all fine for next year.”

The Mex­i­can Grand Prix at the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez was not a good ex­pe­ri­ence for Fer­rari in 2015.

Brim­ming with con­fi­dence from a good drive in Texas his team’s sea­son-long surge, Vet­tel qual­i­fied third but was knocked back by a tire punc­ture on the first lap, then knocked out when ag­gres­sive driv­ing led to a late crash. Raikko­nen also didn’t fin­ish after break­ing a real axle in a bump with Wil­liams driver Val­terri Bot­tas.

It was the first time since 2006 that both Fer­rari cars failed to fin­ish a race. dis­misses ex­ter­nal

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