FERRARI’S SEASON OF RECKONING
If any statistic can
illustrate just how much
Ferrari’s fortunes have
changed in recent
years, it’s this: a full
decade has passed
since Kimi Raikkonen
secured the Scuderia’s
most recent world
championship in 2007
(ABOVE). That’s an
eternity to a team for
which success had
evolved into a habit in
the years immediately
preceding it, never
mind one that also
expectations of the
tifosi. Ferrari has
several times in the
years since, in the
hope of recapturing
the magic of the early
2000s – now it needs
to build a car worthy
of its ambitions.
Maurizio Arrivabene steers the
team into 2017, but the fates
of other recent Ferrari F1 team
bosses suggests that he’ll need
to find success very soon...
Nico Rosberg has already named Vettel
as a driver Mercedes should consider for
2018 – with Valtteri Bottas’s one-year deal
making that an easy switch – and if last
year’s slide continues, the romantic notion
of success in red would surely pale into
insignificance compared with a Merc seat.
Vettel’s contract runs out at the same
time as Raikkonen’s, and at 37 the Finn
is hardly Maranello’s future. Given his
experience, the new regulations are likely
to suit Raikkonen, and despite his relative
lack of success since returning to Ferrari in
2014, he appears content with his lot. But
he is of the character to walk away as soon
as he stops enjoying himself.
With Bottas taking his chance at
Mercedes, the driver deemed most likely
to replace Raikkonen over the past two
years is either going to be retained by a
main rival, or be deemed less attractive
if he struggles alongside Hamilton.
Therefore, it’s conceivable there will be two
seats available at Ferrari at the end of the
season if it produces a poor car.
Recent history points to a year of
struggle for a team not known for adapting
quickly to change. When there was a radical
shift in aerodynamic regulations in 2009,
Ferrari went from constructors’ champions
to fourth overall, with just one victory.
Having failed to score in the opening three
races, it was a save of sorts, but the
dominant team at the start of the year was
Brawn GP. Five years later, when the V6s
were introduced, Ferrari slipped from third
in the standings, with two races wins, to
fourth place and only a pair of podiums.
With chassis and power unit
departments under the same roof at
Maranello, Ferrari should be able to take
the fight to Mercedes. The Scuderia
doesn’t lack for budget or facilities, but
rarely seems to create a stable enough
environment to induce success.
Ferrari needs to get it right in 2017. But,
on balance, perhaps it would be a bigger
surprise to see it winning races again than
it would be to see it dropping out of the top
three in the constructors’ table?