Without a win since the Singapore GP last year and without a championship since they took the Constructors crown in 2008, Ferrari seem to be in a bit of a rut, my simple questions are…where do they go from here and how do they return to the top?
The Tifosi combined with the powerful Italian press provide relentless pressure on the Scuderia to up their form and return to the top of the sport they once dominated with ease, but it isn’t easy to suddenly turn it on, as has been proved by their struggles this year.
Maurizio Arrivabene has only been team principal for a year and a half but already there is intense speculation that he is about to be replaced, quite unfortunate considering he appears to have developed a strong command of the team in particular strong bonds with the two drivers, it would show another gamble by Ferrari who went through 3 team principals in a turbulent 2014 campaign (Domenicali, Mattiacci and Arrivabene)
One of the bright sparks of the Ferrari team last year was technical director James Allison, arguably a key man in developing the SF15-T which was guided to three wins by Sebastian Vettel, however personal tragedy has struck James in recent months with the sad news of the sudden death of his wife Rebbeca, this casts a fresh doubt over his future at Maranello as it may well be preferable for him and his family to stay at home in England rather than move back and forth, Ferrari would miss Allison dearly but they have plenty of technical experts who could fill in the gap such as Jock Clear.
As for the drivers, both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are secure for next year but from then on it could be all change, Raikkonen may well find his career coming to an end in the next few years and the team have been linked with a whole host of names to replace the Finn, such as Ricciardo, Bottas, Grosjean, Perez and Sainz.
As for Sebastian, it would certainly look as though slowly but surely the slump in form is beginning to affect him, with frequent radio rants being a fixture in a race weekend much like it was in 2014 when he was clearly unhappy at Red Bull, although I imagine Sebastian will be ambitous enough to remain at Ferrari in order to emulate his hero Michael Schumacher and win a title in red, the lure of Mercedes could tempt him away in the future.
They have young talent coming through as well, namely Academy protege Charles Leclerc, the teenager tested and practiced for Haas at Silverstone earlier this month and looks set to have a bright future in the sport, then again Sergio Perez was once a Ferrari young driver but was released, Charles may end up following a similar path.
So, how do Ferrari return to the top?
New driver, not now but soon, they need a change of dynamic, as much as Kimi has done a great job and deserves his extension, they need an injection of enthusiasm and excitement similar to the impact Max Verstappen had when he turned up at Red Bull earlier this year, by dropping Kimi for someone younger and hungry for success, a Ricciardo or a Perez, someone with something to prove and a driver who will have felt that their talents have been masked by uncompetitive cars not capable of consistently challenging for wins, someone to get the best out of the whole team, whether that alienates Vettel is irrelevant, if anything they need someone to push Sebastian to the absolute limit, no doubt in my mind Kimi was the safe option and right now that isn’t what Ferrari need.
Keep faith in Arrivabene and build around him, whilst it is perhaps likely that Ferrari chairman Marchionne will give Arrivabene his marching orders, it would damage the team further, he has built a clearly strong rapport with the team and mechanics, his passion as shown with various passionate pitwall gesticulations is unchallenged, speaking of the pitwall, new strategists are needed I do fear, I don’t know how many times I’ve been calling out for a strategy call and they end up doing it 5 laps later than they should have, they should be on the ball, anyway back to Maurizio, he can guide the prancing horse back to the top if he remains, albeit he may need to bring in more technical brains, especially if Allison does leave the team… who’s got Ross Brawn on the phone, anybody?
Stop developing for this year, if they haven’t already done this I would be surprised but as Mercedes proved in 2013 for 2014, it is very beneficial especially when there is a new set of rules coming to put all the eggs in one basket, to focus all the energy on next year, facing the facts it is likely Red Bull will overtake Ferrari before the season is out but is that really a problem if it gives Maranello an advantage going into a clean slate of regulations, they can’t drop lower than third realistically so they won’t lose much if they cut off 2016 development fully and focus on 2017.
Don’t go too radical, McLaren finished 2012 with the fastest car but instead of consolidating on this, they went for a radical approach and it backfired massively, Ferrari don’t need to be overly aggressive in the manner McLaren were that time, with a new set of rules coming in for how the cars are to be designed and with Mercedes entering 2017 after 3 years of development, it is likely that the Silver Arrows will lose the huge advantage they gained at the beginning of the V6 era, as long as Ferrari build a good car with a good engine, they have a chance, take unneccesary risks and they could be languishing in the midfield, at that points heads would certainly roll.
It may sound simple when it is written on a page like this but I absolutely appreciate that it takes incredible skill and talent to create a team capable of leading the F1 world, this is just my ideas for how they can go about regaining their top spot.