By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Simply put, Scuderia Ferrari did not meet the expectations of 2016. The Italian squad enjoyed three wins in their first campaign with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in 2015, which brought title aspirations into last season. However, a surprisingly uncompetitive season by Ferrari standards left them with a rare season of zero victories. Solid chances for wins were squandered at Australia and Canada last season, and worse, Red Bull Racing overthrew them as main challengers to rival Mercedes.
The new technical regulations are a welcomed site as Ferrari as they could never quite get the right combination under the old ones, and preseason testing showcased some strength. But can it hold for a full season?
|No. 5||Sebastian Vettel||(Germany)|
|No. 7||Kimi Raikkonen||(Finland)|
|Team Principal||Maurizio Arrivabene|
|Chief Technical Officer||Mattia Binotto|
|Chief Designer||Simone Resta|
Rebounding to Win a Must in 2017
Despite the loss of James Allison as the team’s technical director, Ferrari seem to have managed to play damage control. Any negative impact, to this point, appears to have been left in last year. However, the SF70H was a car that Allison had a great deal of input in and as such, we won’t truly know the depth of his loss until we get further into this season as developments and upgrades come into the fold.
Kimi Raikkonen lit up preseason testing with the fastest overall time, beating teammate Vettel by nearly four-tenths of a second as Ferrari led four of the eight test days. All things considered, the new Ferrari 062 engine also seems fit with reliability as well, logging 956 total laps, second only to Mercedes.
Both drivers are facing a critical year with this being the last year of their current contracts. For Raikkonen, this could be last act in Formula 1, so the chance to go out with wins and possibly even a championship would certainly be a fine way for the Finn to end his legacy. Having not won at Ferrari since his first stint in 2009, the former F1 champion could very well break that drought if preseason pace is any indication of what is to come this season.
Better known for his complaining and antics last season (some justifiably so), Vettel must come into this season refreshed, refocused and ready to attack. Winning was the norm for the German at Red Bull Racing, and he comes to Ferrari to help bring a championship culture back to a team that hasn’t experienced it since 2007. Entering his third year with the team, it will be crucial for him and Ferrari that he takes that next step as a leader.
An enigma to be sure, Ferrari showcased a strong preseason last year only to disappoint at lights out in several races last season. There is an expectation that Mercedes has been holding back some during testing, and perhaps Ferrari wasn’t. However, there is a feel of absolute willpower exuding from F1’s most iconic team. Another winless season would leave many distraught, but that seems unrealistic and Ferrari look poised to make podiums a regular visit and reunions to the top step something that isn’t just a dream.
At worse, they get beat by Red Bull once more and settle for third in the constructor’s battle, at best, they dethrone Mercedes.
This could very well be the year we see a matched Ferrari and Mercedes battle. If so, it could provide the answer as to who the best driver is of the last decade: Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel?