F1: 2014 Preview – Scuderia Ferrari

Joel Sebastianelli Featured, Formula One, International, Sprints & Midgets 0 Comments

Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s preview of the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship! We have reached the penultimate team in our 11-day journey through the field today with a look at Scuderia Ferrari just days before this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix! Make sure to check Race Chaser Online all season long for all of your stateside-based news from the Formula One world!

March 13, 2014 — Story by RaceChaser open wheel correspondent Joel Sebastianelli — Photo courtesy Ferrari/ Ercole Colombo — Since winning back to back Constructors’ Championships in 2007 and 2008, Scuderia Ferrari’s performance has slipped to second-best, finishing close to the top but failing to capture another elusive title. As Sebastian Vettel pulled away from the field on the track and in the standings en route to four consecutive crowns, the focus of the Formula One world gradually shifted to Red Bull.

Finishing on the podium isn’t enough for the former undisputed king of F1 teams—they want to win, and 2014 gives them the strongest chance to reassert their clout with a winning formula.

The string of success tied together by Vettel and Red Bull is reminiscent of Ferrari’s reign at the top with fellow German Michael Schumacher in his prime in the early 2000s. However, the last man to win the title for Ferrari was Kimi Raikkonen, who returns after a stint in rally racing and with Lotus F1. Raikkonen teams up with double world champion Fernando Alonso to assemble a roster that resembles a racing dream team.

On the technical side, James Allison is back at Ferrari as technical director nearly a decade after his first stretch with the team, bouncing from Lotus to the “prancing horse” like Raikkonen.

Car reliability is in the spotlight this season, but after testing in Bahrain, Allison is confident with the team’s progress.

“We came to Sakhir aiming to work steadily through the huge list of actions that we must complete,” said Allison. “We wanted to maximize track time, working methodically in order to be ready for Melbourne. I have to say that, with the exception of the morning of the third day, we did just that. I think we cannot be too pessimistic or too optimistic, because it is probably a blind race for everybody in terms of performance.”

The season opener in Australia arrives amid many uncertainties, but this much is for sure: the driver lineup is among the best in F1, the car is dependable, and Ferrari is fast and primed to challenge for a championship again.

The Drivers: No driver tandem is as fascinating as Ferrari’s. With three championships, 52 victories, 38 pole positions, 2575 points, and 411 Grand Prix races between them, the lineup has the potential for greatness, and anything less will be considered a failure.

Alonso has driven for Ferrari since 2010 and still seeks his first title away from Renault. The Spaniard won two races last year, including his home Grand Prix in Catalunya. However, Sebastian Vettel’s stranglehold on the series limited Alonso to a second place finish in the standings that fell far short of the German’s title clinching drive.

2013 marked the third time in four years Alonso has finished as the F1 runner-up, a streak he wants to desperately shake by adding a title eight years after his back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006.

Alongside Alonso is Raikkonen, another fan favorite and world-class competitor. Affectionately known as “The Iceman” for his steely composure and frank personality, the Finn assisted Lotus in their task of doing more with less than any other team in the paddock, emerging victorious in Australia last season and Abu Dhabi in 2012.

Even as the grid switches to V6 turbocharged engines and adapts to a host of other new regulations mandated by the FIA, Raikkonen insists he knows what he’s doing and feels the differences between this year and last year are overblown.

“My feeling is that it’s not going to be as different as people think, but I might be wrong. Hopefully, we’ll find out that it’s pretty simple. For sure it is difficult for all the technical people to make a new engine, new gearbox, all this stuff, but as a driver it’s not affecting the driving so much I don’t think,” he told Ferrari’s website.

“It’s hard to say who is where and how it’s going to be, but there are a lot of good people in the team, a lot of knowledge. We have to do the best (we can) and see where we end up. But there’s every chance that we can do very well.”

While a dynamite duo looks good on paper, high-profile driver pairings often attract strife and power struggles behind closed doors within the team. Despite the sunshine and roses presented to the media by most members of team when asked about the tandem during interviews, Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo admits that despite the excitement surrounding the former world champions, the partnership has potential to become toxic if not monitored properly by the team.

“Putting together Alonso and Raikkonen could be dangerous. But in Formula One, everything is potential danger,” di Montezemolo said to ESPN F1. “I think that Fernando knows that he drives not for himself but for Ferrari. And Raikkonen knows that he is in the second half of his career, two very important years for him, with experience and responsibilities.”

It remains to be seen how their personalities will mesh off the track, but their respective pedigrees would indicate that the church bells will be joyously ringing in Maranello after a Ferrari victory more than once following the checkered flag this season.

The Car: The Ferrari F14 T was unveiled prior to preseason testing, and even before its on-track performance was revealed, the car ignited a firestorm of criticism for its anteater shaped nose and all-around ugly look. Aside from sporting a lower front end and a miniscule alteration in rear wing height, the new car is still similar to the F138 fielded in 2013.

Ferrari was not without its struggles in preseason testing, but it racked up plenty of track time and can consider the tests in Jerez and Bahrain successful despite a few hiccups along the way. Kimi Raikkonen crashed in Bahrain and track time was limited on the final day of the first Bahrain test, but Alonso topped the timesheets in Spain and consistent speeds from Raikkonen would lead observers to speculate Ferrari is in the best shape of any team not powered by Mercedes.

By the numbers, Alonso was second only to Nico Rosberg in distance covered, staying in the seat of the F14 T for 2698km. As a team, the Scuderia racked up 4489km in testing, good enough to slot third among F1 constructors.

The Challenges: Ferrari isn’t Mercedes, and while it’s better than being abysmal Renault, this manufacturer alignment could cost them valuable points in the chase early on. Red Bull’s Christian Horner is among many notable figures in F1 that speculate Mercedes AMG Petronas could lap the field in Australia. Driver talent can only get you so far, and although Ferrari touts a supremely talented roster, Mercedes is so far ahead that placing both drivers on the podium might require help from machinery malfunctions in the first few races.

The Strengths: Everything will depend on how the power unit performs this season, but Ferrari has the benefit of being a works team for Ferrari. The engine battle is tough on all manufacturers, but this relationship will pay dividends in development and keep their cars slightly ahead in performance.

Even if the relationship between Alonso and Raikkonen goes up in flames, their cars aren’t likely to (which is more than can be said for Renault backed outlets), and that stress will be much more of a factor inside the paddock than on the track. Team orders might affect the demeanor of the drivers, but it shouldn’t hamper their results at all.

Projected Result: It has been said that all F1 teams are fighting an uphill battle to catch Mercedes. The strength of the team and manufacturer is unlikely to have been overestimated, but many have low-balled the potential of Ferrari. If anyone has the power to knock the silver arrows and Sebastian Vettel off their respective pedestals, it’s Ferrari. Final Position: 2nd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.