The 2020 season was supposed to be one of celebration for Scuderia Ferrari as during 2020 it would reach the milestone of entering and starting 1000 Grand Prix. Added to this was the hope that the team would recover from under performing in 2019.
Aside from occasional heroics from Charles Leclerc and commemorating its one thousandth race there is little else for the Italian team to actually celebrate this season. It currently finds itself fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, having finished inside the top three in the previous five seasons, and enters the Italian Grand Prix off the back of what is perceived to be one of its worst team performances of 2020.
The Belgian Grand Prix was certainly gruelling for the team where it ended the weekend with a 13-14 finish, which is where the two cars also qualified. As if to put further pressure and scrutiny on the team the Italian Grand Prix at Monza will be followed by another home race, at Mugello.Embed from Getty Images
Most have highlighted the FIA’s clampdown on the Ferrari power unit over the winter of 2019/20 as a big contributor to the Italian team’s current lows. Yet there is something to be said with the design of the car itself which some have stated compounded the issue by giving the 2020 car the characteristic of being high drag as well as low on power, all of which was exposed at Spa-Francorchamps.
It is important to note that this isn’t necessarily just a 2020 issue that the team can endure and then quickly turn its back on with its 2021 challenger. This is because the team’s slump can be traced back to the 2019 season, where it ultimately achieved only three race victories and wasn’t consistently challenging Mercedes enough to mount any sort of title challenge, like it had in the two seasons prior to 2019.
This can be highlighted by making a comparison of Ferrari’s 2018 season against that of 2019. In its 2018 campaign the Maranello based team won six races as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished 2-3 in the Drivers’ Championship. Last season however the team only managed three race victories as Charles Leclerc and Vettel finished 4-5 in the championship.Embed from Getty Images
This could be expanded further to include Ferrari’s performances in Formula 1 from 2009 to date where it has only seriously challenged for championships in 2010 and 2012. Even then it can be noted that there have either been design, operational and/or strategic issues which hindered the team even in those two championship challenging seasons. As mentioned earlier there are also the 2017 and 2018 seasons where although the team were Mercedes main title challengers, the Italian team ultimately weren’t consistent enough throughout either of those seasons, once again due to strategic and operational issues as well as due to driver performances in Grand Prix.
That last point can also be expanded to include on track incidents between the two Ferrari drivers, most notably and recently, at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix and the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix. Although Vettel is leaving the team at the end of the season Ferrari can ill afford repeats of incidents such as those in Brazil, the Red Bull Ring or at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix to occur between Leclerc and Vettel’s replacement, Carlos Sainz.
In the short term then Ferrari very much are pinning their hopes on the regulations that are now set to be introduced for 2022. They have a short amount of time to try and recover some of their lost engine performance too as various development freezes are due to come into force, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, as a way to keep costs down for engine manufacturers.Embed from Getty Images
But as highlighted earlier there are other areas besides the engine performance and car design that Ferrari need to address if they are to get back to challenging and claiming race victories and ultimately, championships. They seem to be avoiding the go to ‘fix’ of sacking certain team personnel with the chairman of Ferrari stating that there is a need for patience from the tifosi as the team can’t hope to challenge for victories until 2022.
Patience may feel like a luxury the Italian team can’t afford at the moment, coming off the back of a gruelling Grand Prix in Belgium that will be followed by two home races, adding extra pressure and scrutiny. But all those connected with Ferrari will have to show patience as the team’s issues run much deeper than the FIA’s clampdown on its power unit, all of which could take the 2021 and 2022 seasons to address and ultimately fix.