2013 F1 season preview
The top technical staff have not been held up as scapegoats and dismissed, and the F138 is not a red RB8.
A lack of reliable wind tunnel data caused and later exacerbated Ferrari’s 2012 troubles. The team produced a car which was well off the pace in the opening races.
A series of upgrades introduced after the flyaway races brought them into contention for victories, but the same core problem undermined further development efforts.
Chief deisgner Nikolas Tombazis explained: “For various reasons, our development over the latter part of last season stalled and because our rivals continued their development to a certain extent, the gap between us grew, especially after the summer break. A gap which we had closed down to three tenths, thus became around eight in Brazil.”
The 2013 Ferrari has been developed at the Toyota Motorsport wind tunnel in Cologne while their own facility is brought up to scratch. Operating at multiple bases is obviously not desirable but it’s a compromise which the team expects to reap benefits from in the long-term.
Another key area for development is the simulator, where Red Bull and McLaren have stolen a march on their Italian rivals in recent years. The hiring of Pedro de la Rosa, with his extensive experience of McLaren’s state-of-the-art technoogy, is a coup, though one which will also take time to pay off.
“The new business structure, the working methods, the modifications to the equipment that we have used to work on this car, the consistency of the results compared with our targets and what we saw in the recent tests – these all seem to tell us that we are on the right path at last compared to the past.
“So, to make an analysis that is purely centred on ourselves, unless someone else has done an exceptional job I’m convinced that Ferrari will be in the battle to the end.”
Throughout the winter Alonso’s mantra has been that if the team can come as close to success with a car as inadequate as the F2012, a championship victory is a possible with a machine that’s only slightly sub-par.
That may exaggerate how poor the F2012 was for much of last season, but Ferrari’s core game is very strong.
Alonso left few points on the table last year and the team’s sharpness operationally and tactically meant they usually extracted the maximum from each race weekend. Their pit crew was seldom the quickest in the pit lane, but they were rarely far off and made few mistakes.
Four victories in two seasons is not the sort of win rate F1′s most successful team demands. And with arguably the best driver in F1 today in their line-up they will surely be in championship contention again this year. But they are taking care not to raise expectations:
“We have a well defined development plan and we are reasonably sure that the new components tested on track have produced positive results,” said Tombazis. “The Melbourne package worked as we had hoped, with no particular unexpected problems, but it’s still difficult to say where we are compared to our competitors, so it’s better not to speculate.”
Car 3: Fernando Alonso
For a large part of last year it looked as though Alonso was going to pull off the remarkable feat of securing his third drivers’ championship title despite having started the season with a significant handicap.
But he was undone by the sheer effectiveness of the Red Bull-Newey-Vettel machine and left wondering how different things might have been had his F2012 just been a few tenths faster at crucial points in the season.
Vettel knows Alonso’s consistency in a race and his cool-headed tendency to avoid mistakes make him one of his most formidable competitors. And Alonso knows if he is to keep Vettel from a fourth world championship he is going to have to start more races from the front of the grid.
Alonso is overdue a third title, having missed out by one, four and three points in 2007, 2010 and 2012 respectively. But there’s no sense of entitlement as he embarks on his fourth season of Ferrari – just an acknowledgement that they can and must do better.
Car 4: Felipe Massa
After his dreadful start to last year – a continuation of his indifferent 2010 and 2011 performances – there can be little doubt that Massa’s continued presence at Ferrari owes a lot to him not being quick enough to ruffle Alonso’s feathers.
Massa raised his game when he needed to last year. He out-qualified Alonso in the final two races and was quicker than him in the races too, having to make way for his team mate in Brazil.
Can he carry that form into the new season? He shares Alonso’s optimism about the F138, but was unsatisfied at spending half of his pre-season testing allocation doing donkey work at a track the teams don’t even race at.
Massa will have to sustain his improved form to stand a chance of retaining his place at Ferrari. One threat to his seat may have vanished in the form of Sergio Perez but the appearance of Nico Hulkenberg in Perez’s place at Ferrari-engined Sauber shows Massa can’t afford to be complacent.
Ferrari championship form
Ferrari is the only team to have competed in every season since the world championship was inaugurated in 1950.
Ferrari in 2013: Your view
Will this finally be the year that Fernando Alonso claims his third drivers’ championship? And will Felipe Massa carry his late-2012 form into the new year?
Have your say in the comments.
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Images © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo