Can Ferrari take on Mercedes?
What’s the deal with qualifying?
The most relevant elements of pre-season testing data suggest Ferrari is in better shape than ever under the present V6 hybrid turbo regulations.
Kimi Raikkonen matched Nico Rosberg to the tenth during qualifying simulations on the soft tyre, and there was very little to choose between the SF16-H and the W07 for large portions of their respective race simulations on medium tyres.
Whether that translates to a grand prix, we will not know until Sunday in Australia, but the early signs are encouraging. No one got near Rosberg on the soft tyre during 2015 pre-season, so Ferrari will feel it has a real chance of putting Mercedes under pressure. The fact Pirelli has re-engineered the tyres to increase the rate of degradation should also favour Ferrari, which tended to look after its rubber better than Mercedes last year.
The big question marks concern how much Mercedes still has left in the tank, and the extent of the strain Ferrari’s radical redesign of its car over the winter will place on its reliability record.
Rosberg admitted his soft tyre run was genuine qualifying practice, but later said Mercedes went out of its way to hide its pace. Ferrari had to take grid penalties late last year, and suffered more problems in pre-season than its main rival.
So the jury is still out.
Formula 1 is terrified that Mercedes will dominate again and even more people will stop watching. But this is not really the best way to try to stop Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg sweeping to pole position after pole position in a superior car.
In theory, knocking out cars individually at 90-second intervals, rather than collectively at the end of each segment, should make things more complicated and unpredictable for the teams. But without corresponding alterations to rules concerning refuelling and tyre allocations it’s not likely to change the world.
Previously, drivers tried to get through Q1 on a harder tyre, to save an extra set of softer rubber for Q3. Those who couldn’t simply did fewer new-tyre runs later on. Without being given extra sets, or told to remain on one for the duration, drivers will still do the same number of runs in each segment, but perhaps vary the timing of their second runs depending on where they stand in the pecking order.
In isolation the move won’t change much at all, except make it more difficult for slower cars to react when they are in trouble. Really this is a pointless exercise – an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken, rather than repair what really is. It’s not like there aren’t some other issues that need addressing.... No wonder some drivers met with the FIA to complain.
Car: SF16-H Engine: Ferrari 059/5 First GP: Monaco 1950 Races: 908 Wins: Poles: 208 Fastest laps: 233 Points: Drivers’ titles: 15 Constructors’ titles:
NUMBER 5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL (GER)
Debut: USA 2007 Races: 158 Wins: 42 Poles: 46 Fastest laps: 25 Points: 1896 Drivers’ titles: 4
NUMBER 7 KIMI RAIKKONEN (FIN)
Debut: Australia 2001 Races: 230 Wins: 20 Poles: 16 Fastest laps: 42 Points: 1174 Drivers’ titles: 1
Car: C35 Engine: Ferrari 059/5 First GP: South Africa 1993 Races: 400 Wins: 1 Poles: 1 Fastest laps: 5 Points: 810 Drivers’ titles: 0 Constructors’ titles: 0
NUMBER 9 MARCUS ERICSSON (SWE)
Debut: Australia 2014 Races: 35 Wins: 0 Poles: Fastest laps: 0 Points: 9 Best result: 8th
NUMBER 12 FELIPE NASR (BRA)
Debut: Australia 2015 Races: 18 Wins: 0 Poles: 0 Fastest laps: 0 Points: 27 Best result: 5th