There was a time, marked with screaming V10 engines, when Ferrari was invincible in Formula 1. The Prancing Horse a Grand Prix juggernaut, with the world’s finest racing driver at the wheel…
Germany’s Michael Schumacher, statistically the greatest of all time, who not only rewrote the history books but also the mental and physical benchmarks required to be the best.
… as his scarlet Ferrari set the road alight to the tune of 19,000 RPM.
He was also given total support, not just from the Scuderia’s star-studded management, technical team and suppliers. But, also then-teammates Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine who all played second fiddle at one time or another.
SOUNDBITE (English) EDDIE IRVINE,
“You know, Michael [Schumacher] is the best and for me it’s difficult to be seen as the number two. But at the end of the day, all these guys are number two in Formula 1 compared to Michael. [David] Coulthard, [Mika] Häkkinen, [Jacques] Villeneuve, they are all number twos because Michael is the number one driver in Formula 1.”
The result was six-straight constructors’ titles from 1999 to 2004 and five-straight drivers’ crowns for Schumacher. Between 1996 and 2006, it also netted 78 wins, 61 pole positions and 56 fastest laps.
In 2019, however, the Prancing Horse is an incredibly different beast with Mattia Binotto its team principal and technical director.
And relative equality between its two drivers, 4-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and young gun Charles Leclerc.
SOUNDBITE (English) NICO ROSBERG,
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“They haven't had that kind of situation in 11 years, when they last had Felipe [Massa] against Kimi [Räikkönen] and since then they have always had a number one and number two. Even before that, the last 10 years before that, so its just once in 20 years they have had this situation.”
Differences aside, Ferrari’s return to greatness has taken a big step back this year with it unable to consistently unlock its true potential and get the tyres into their narrow working range.
Bahrain the great exception, with Leclerc cruising to a maiden win until an engine cylinder gremlin struck.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHARLES LECLERC,
F1 DRIVER, FERRARI:
“Bahrain is the highlight of the year. For now, my pole position, then unfortunately in the race it didn't end like we wanted it to, but overall I think it was a great weekend.”
…while mistakes, from pushing too hard, have characterized its campaign, including at the last race in Monaco. Leclerc left in the garage at the end of Q1, and eliminated when he could have fought for pole.
Vettel crashing in final practice, and again hitting barriers in qualifying.
The washout is that Ferrari now lies 118 points behind leader Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. An almost impossible gap to close, with Red Bull on its tail. 29 points the difference.
… meaning it needs a solution to its technical issues and fast, not only to take the fight to Mercedes but to protect against being passed for second in the standings. 2016 the last time it finished third.
Bringing back former chief designer Simone Resta might be a good start, but it’s one step at a time as Ferrari looks to recover from its latest disaster.
… and again find a way back to the top.