By Steve Aibel, Senior F1 Writer
The onset of the 2016 season was filled with expectations from the most successful team in Formula 1. Ferrari has started more Grand Prix races than any other manufacturer, they have been in Formula 1 since the first season in 1950. Its drivers have more wins than any other constructor and it has more Constructor’s titles than any other member of the series.
Ferrari is a worldwide sensation when it comes to the automobile industry but in the last few seasons, they have been chasing another…
The dominance of the Mercedes team since 2014 has been impressive, most impressive.
It has the Scuderia on its heels as they try to catch up. The lack of success of Ferrari in the latest turbo era has seen the end of the reign of former Team Principal and Enzo’s successor Luca di Montezemolo. It also set the stage for the departure of Fernando Alonso to rival McLaren. Surely this has placed pressure on the team to up their game and deliver victories as all of the world expects.
In typical Ferrari fashion, efforts to turn the fortunes of the F1 team were increased and the news out of Maranello was encouraging. The team was revived with the arrival of Sebastian Vettel and the flavorful leadership style of Maurizio Arrivabene. Ferrari seemed to regain some edge and confidence and more importantly, the power levels of the engine looked to be enough to challenge the dominant Mercedes team.
Finally, we would have racing at the sharp end of the Formula 1 spear.
But alas, with all power comes a great price.
The price for Ferrari might be reliability.
In the first two Grand Prix races of the 2016 season, Ferrari has had the absolute pace to challenge the Silver Arrows of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. In Australia, the Ferrari pair were leading the race before a turbo failure caused the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen and a strategy decision relegated Vettel to his familiar third spot on the podium.
Surely this was a one off and Ferrari would deliver in the second round in Bahrain?!
Bahrain again showed the absolute pace of the Ferrari but in this round, Sebastian Vettel did not even make the race start, suffering an engine failure on the formation lap. Raikkonen salvaged the day by taking P2, but still the team fell further behind the Mercedes squad.
If we look back to 2014, the Mercedes package was dominant out the gate, but if there was a slight ding in the Mercedes armor, it was in their reliability. Since the other constructors were so far behind, this reliability niggle did not effect their dominance.
In 2015, Mercedes took to testing with the goal of improving their reliability which they duly accomplished. The 2016 testing checklist took the same format as Mercedes further bullet proofed the F1 W07 Hybrid. The team was so reliable in testing, and so comfortable with the speed of the car, that they ran the equivalent of practically a full season of Grand Prix laps in the two weeks of testing.
And this may be what deflates Ferrari’s improvement.
While Ferrari has obviously caught Mercedes in terms of pure performance and speed, they have not been able to pair that with the reliability of the championship Mercedes group. In a sense, they are still two years behind, perhaps having caught the leaders in terms of power, but certainly not in reliability.
With Mercedes still setting a high bar and finishing both of their cars 1-2, Ferrari will not have a chance to challenge for the World Championship if they are unable to bring their cars home to the finish.
To finish first, you need to first finish!
So far this is the downfall of Ferrari, but with the season so young, they certainly have a chance to improve their reliability. The issue will be that Mercedes does not look like a team that will suffer many failures. Even with less than perfect race starts, the Brackley squad have brought home double podium finishes in each race.
Similar to last year, Mercedes have gotten off to a remarkable start and already have a 50 point lead in the Constructors Championship.
In truth, every other team is closer to catching Ferrari, than Ferrari is to catching Mercedes!
Even Manor, Sauber and Renault, who have yet to score a point, are closer in the standings to Ferrari than Ferrari is to Mercedes.
Ferrari should be applauded loudly for putting together a package that is capable of racing with the impressive Mercedes juggernaut. They will certainly win their share of races this season, but there is work to be done in Maranello if they are to compete for a title in 2016.