Don’t Expect Ferrari to Win Formula 1 Races This Season

If you’re a Ferrari fan, you probably don’t need reminding that the 2020 season was a disaster for the celebrated Scuderia. It was the team’s worst Formula 1 World Championship performance for 40 years.

Ferrari finished sixth in the F1 Constructors’ Championship in 2020. The last time the team finished worse was 1980, when the team finished 10th.

The reason Ferrari dropped from second in 2019 to sixth last year is fairly clear. There was a secret deal with the FIA over what Ferrari was doing with its cars in 2019, when the team challenged for the World Championship. If there was no problem, as Ferrari suggests, then there was no reason for a secret deal.

And while the team made a big deal about having aerodynamic problems in 2020, it was clear that the primary cause of the lack of performance was the power unit. If one wants evidence of that one needs only to look at the performance of Ferrari’s two customer teams: Alfa Romeo Racing and Haas. They both finished behind Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, so obviously Ferrari’s aerodynamics were not THAT bad.

The 064 power unit in 2019 had prodigious speed, but after the FIA investigation and the use of a second fuel flow meter, the 065 version of the engine was considerably slower, despite being “a step forward in the combustion efficiency of its internal combustion engine,” a new turbocharger and Energy Recovery System.”

This engine been reworked for 2021 as the 065/6 power unit which seems to have made up some of the losses. Ferrari F1 engine chief Enrico Gualtieri has confirmed that there will be another new engine for 2022, as the freeze in engines at the start of next season will mean that the power units will have to be used for three seasons, until the new rules arrive in 2025.

Although there has been a lot of talk about the Ferrari engine being better this year, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has said that he does not think it is a big step forward.

“It is a medium step, I think,” he said. “The engine is better than it was last year, but we don’t know what the other engine manufacturers have done. I trust Ferrari when they tell me the engine has been improved.”

The preseason testing in Bahrain saw Ferrari newcomer Carlos Sainz Jr. set the third fastest time overall, with a lap that was 0.651 second slower than Max Verstappen’s best for Red Bull, using the same medium tires. In the final qualifying last season in Abu Dhabi, as a guide, Verstappen was on pole and Charles Leclerc was 0.819 second slower. So that suggests some improvement, but it does not suggest that we will see Ferraris on pole position or winning races.

“One of our priorities in Bahrain was to make the most of the short time available to gain an understanding of the behavior of the SF21 and we succeeded in doing that,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. “I feel we have improved in many areas compared to last season. It’s hard to say where we are compared to our opponents, because this test was even harder than usual to interpret.

“We have to carefully analyze all the data to be as well prepared as possible for the start of the championship. I have to say in terms of data measurements, all went very smooth and we made our mileage. Obviously we know how the engine is running on the dyno. When you fit it in the car what you may have a look at on track is the speed and eventually the relative speed to the others. Now if I look at the first days I think at least on the straights the speed is all right. It doesn’t seem to be such a disadvantage as it was last year.

“We tried to develop the back of the car as much as we could. I think what was more important for these days was to understand the correlation between the wind tunnel and the simulations, so gathering data and comparing. I think we are pretty happy with the correlation, which means we’ve got a good baseline at least for the next simulations and eventually developments.”

In terms of mileage, the team had a relatively trouble-free test and completed 404 laps, or 1,358 miles, which was more than everyone apart from AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo (which each did 422 laps). But there was a failure on the first day of testing which saw the engine misfiring before Leclerc parked the car. So it may still be a frustrating season for Ferrari fans and for the drivers. But, hopefully, the team won’t be sixth again.

It is worth noting perhaps that this is Ferrari’s youngest driver lineup in Formula 1 since 1968, when the team ran Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx. Both Leclerc and Sainz have long-term contracts with the team. Leclerc is 23 and Sainz 26 and both are intelligent as well as fast, so there is time for the team to fix the problems in the years ahead. This is the line that Binotto is pushing. He’s hoping that, like last year, there will be occasions when the drivers will be able to deliver some good results.

The team did score three podiums in 2020, despite the poor performance of the car, so there is always hope, but there is not much to suggest that we will see any wins.

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