Can Fer­rari take on Mercedes?

What’s the deal with qual­i­fy­ing?

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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:


De­but: USA 2007 Races: 158 Wins: 42 Poles: 46 Fastest laps: 25 Points: 1896 Driv­ers’ ti­tles: 4


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


De­but: Aus­tralia 2014 Races: 35 Wins: 0 Poles: Fastest laps: 0 Points: 9 Best re­sult: 8th


De­but: Aus­tralia 2015 Races: 18 Wins: 0 Poles: 0 Fastest laps: 0 Points: 27 Best re­sult: 5th

New qually rules caused con­fu­sion

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