Ferrari have refused to succumb and it surely is not over just yet, but the 2017 Formula One season looks to be a forlorn conclusion already after an incredible slump in results for the Scuderia since returning from the summer break.
Lewis Hamilton will have his first shot at clinching his fourth driver’s championship when the Formula One goes to Texas this weekend, six weeks after Sebastian Vettel flew into Monza on top of the standings!
A series of factors have culminated in the position Ferrari find themselves and I will be analysing the major topics
Untimely and Self-inflicted Unreliability
Ferrari’s procedures and inept attention to details helped them set a standard in the F1 in terms of reliability as they won 8 constructor’s championships and 6 driver championship at the turn of the century but recent hiccups with the SF70-H has put all that into question in a season they dominated from the start.
Vettel and Raikkonnen have had just two mechanical-related retirements this season, but the timing of the failures in practice and qualifying have proven to be damaging, with Mercedes being so strong.
Turbo problems left Vettel starting at the back in Malaysia while Raikkonnen didn’t even start and that was followed the next week by a €59 faulty spark plug which ensured Vettel’s race ended in Japan before it had even begun. Sergio Marchionne has admitted the team needs to rump up its quality control procedures.
“It’s a problem we’ve probably ignored over time because it was never of much importance,” the Ferrari president said. “But now we’ve had at least three occasions where we’ve really seen the devastating impact on performance. We’ll fix it.”
Not Taking Chances
“We got a lot further than people thought.”
Vettel said after the race in Japan. Rightly so, as Ferrari have won’t more races In 2017 than they did in the last three season combined. But for the SF70-H that has shown so much pace, 4 wins out of 16 is surely a miserly return. The less adaptable W08 from Mercedes has won 10 races while Red Bull who started the season over a second slower than the Ferrari are two race wins behind the Scuderia.
Ferrari had the pace to win in Austria and Belgium but failed to do so and lost to Valterie Bottas in Russia despite having their two drivers on the first row from the start. 1 win in 10 races since they dominated Monaco says alot.
Costly Driver mistakes
Driver mistakes are inevitable over the course of a season as seen with Lewis Hamilton in the first half of the season when Bottas clearly outperformed him. By contrast, there hasn’t been any race where Kimi Raikkonnen outperformed Sébastien Vettel this season. But Vettel has also been as faulty as his car.
Singapore readily comes to mind where he started on pole but crashed into Max Verstappen and team-mate Kimi Raikkonnen to effectively ensure that Ferrari left the Marina Bay with no points. If Vettel had kept his cool and finished on the podium ahead of Hamilton, he would have had an extra 38 points going into USA.
In Baku he bumped into Hamilton’s leading Mercedes and with Hamilton subsequently having issues with his headrest, Vettel’s 10 seconds stop-and-go penalty for the unnecessary collision cost him the win in Azerbaijan.
This errors have surely proven costly.
Coming short in the ‘number twos’ battle
The Vettel-Hamilton battle for the title has relegated the contribution of the ‘second drivers’ for both of their teams. A little wrongly so, as their performances have been an understated yet important factor in the respective positions of the championship leaders.
Ferrari’s last World champion has played a compliant role in the team’s desire to make their next champion. This was obvious in the tactics deployed in Monaco as Ferrari romped to victory. Raikkonnen was also immense in Hungary, playing the supporting cast role to perfection when Vettel lost his steering.
Bottas’ results over the course of the season has proven crucial to the Silver Arrows dominance, by extension Lewis Hamilton. The Finn was just 19 points behind Hamilton when they went in for the summer break although his struggle for pace since Spa means his title challenge right now is purely academic.
He has finished in front of Vettel (5) more times than Raikkonnen has Hamilton (3) and leads his countryman 10-4 on podium finishes. Even more crucially, Bottas’ two race wins in Austria and Russia were in front of Sébastien Vettel, costing the Australian an extra 14 points.
Mercedes have a 145-point lead on Ferrari in the constructor’s championship and should wrap that up in the US this weekend, Bottas being very key to that haul as well. A fourth consecutive constructor’s championship for Mercedes and a largely expected title win for Lewis Hamilton will condemn Ferrari to a ninth consecutive season without a Formula One championship victory.
As is aforementioned, Ferrari have made giant strides in 2017 but they need their car on the road more for next season and they need both drivers clicking on top gear.
The home-stretch of the Formula One starts in Texas for the US GP from October 20 to October 22.