Ferrari just can’t close the gap to Mercedes
A lack of downforce means that despite performance gains in other areas, the Scuderia can’t make the progress they’d intended
Pressure is mounting at Ferrari as it becomes increasingly clear that they have made no progress towards their goal of catching Mercedes this season.
They started the year hoping to close the gap to the point where they could compete with Mercedes for wins. But a pattern has emerged that proves the car has the same problem that it has had since 2008 – it is lacking downforce. This explains why the Ferrari can be relatively close to Mercedes on tracks such as Bahrain and Montréal, where the predominantly short, slow corners do not expose its major weakness, but uncompetitive at more demanding tracks, such as Silverstone.
Ferrari were further behind Mercedes at the British Grand Prix this year than they were at the same race in 2015: Kimi Räikkönen was the fastest Ferrari driver both years, and qualified 1.6 seconds slower than polesitter Lewis Hamilton, whereas he was only 1.1s off in 2015. The same trend was evident at Barcelona, the other track considered as the best all-round test of an F1 car. At this year’s Spanish GP, Ferrari were 1.1s off the pace; last year that figure was 0.8s. And all this comes despite Ferrari’s engine being only about 8bhp down on Mercedes in terms of absolute power.
Sebastian Vettel has been supportive of Ferrari so far, but even he admitted to being concerned about both reliability and performance after the British Grand Prix. “It has been a weak race for us,” he said, “but we don’t need to turn the world upside down. It is not the most competitive weekend for us. There are a lot of things we need to learn this weekend. We failed two gearboxes, one on Friday one on Saturday – both on my car. We recovered in qualifying, but lost a lot of performance in the race in these conditions so there is a lot to understand.
“We want to win. I am very confident things will look different again in two weeks, but that is not an excuse. We had a bad weekend and we need to make sure we address this and take actions and move forward and understand why we struggled more than other people.”
Sources close to the team claim that a lack of engineering creativity is their fundamental problem. Former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said in an interview before the British Grand Prix that Ferrari needed “a quiet approach” and backed their technical director, James Allison, as the man who could turn things around for the team.
In the interview, Brawn remarked: “It’s important that Ferrari still respect what they have to do, but that they do it progressively and quietly because I think that was a great success in our period, that Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo kept a lid over everything and enabled us to work on the engineering side and the racing side.
“So I think it’s a quiet approach with the necessary planning and resource.
“They’ve got some very good people there – James Allison is excellent.
“If they give him the resources and give him the time and put the infrastructure around him, with great drivers they’ll get results.”