F1 2013 Mid-Season Review Ferrari
The Scuderia have certainly improved their car from their atrocious effort in 2012, but ironically have fallen back.
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‘Relative’ is an incredibly important term in sport, especially one such as Formula 1 where performance is so self-determined.
A driver has only himself and his car to look to when asking questions of how he’s tracking along.
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When Fernando Alonso reflects on the first half of 2013, he need only look back to last year to find his answers.
By general consensus, this year’s Ferrari is a hell of a lot better than last year’s. At least that’s what an observation by the naked eye would say.
Yet somehow Alonso now lies 39 points behind Vettel, rather than the 42 point lead he held almost exactly one year ago.
Does this mean that Alonso has been the disappointment? Is it that a fall in his performance level has led to such a turnaround despite the improved nature of the car?
The answer’s obviously yes, but not quite to the extent most would think. Put into context of the car available, Alonso’s 2012 was one of the greatest individual seasons of all time. He deserved the championship, as did Vettel, but ultimately fell a heartbreaking three points short.
It’s only human and expected that Alonso couldn’t possibly maintain the ferocious, never-say-die racing style that encapsulated his 2012.
Another important observation is the relative trend of the car. Last year’s Ferrari started horrible, but gradually got better even winning in Germany. This year’s Ferrari started well, but has fallen away.
It’s the same phenomenon that’s been evident with Ferrari’s development since last year’s summer break. For whatever reason, the updates are simply not doing their job.
Ferrari recognised this problem late last year and commissioned a complete renovation of their wind tunnel, the area they identified as the source of their developmental problems.
This year, however, exactly the same thing is happening again. The parts being brought to the track are not doing what was expected of them in the wind tunnel and the simulator.
Alonso revealed at Hungary that things had gotten so bad that the team was forced to remove the new upgrades, replacing them with the old parts which is what led to the dire performance at the Nurburgring.
It’s left Ferrari well behind the pace of their immediate rivals, with the F 138 now a whole two months behind in developments compared to the RB9, E21 and W04.
Considering that the 2013 season’s top four cars have been split into two groups, the qualifying cars and race cars, the F 138’s best measuring stick is the Lotus E21.
Like the Lotus, the F 138 is heavily leaned towards the race, especially in recent weekends, with a distinct advantage when it comes to tyre management.
The problem had always been to get the car far enough up the grid to minimise the amount of work that had to be done on the Sunday.
Lotus rectified this problem at Germany, with a good qualifying that was replicated in Hungary.
Ferrari, however, have just stalled. Their qualifying has gone nowhere and the amount of work Alonso has had to do during the race is simply too much to expect consistently good results.
Being the main weakness of the car, it should be the number one priority in terms of things to fix. Yet this problem has been existent since the fourth race of the season, and has gone on to cost Ferrari massively.
It’s now led to the team’s first public internal ructions since Alonso joined in 2010. For just over three and half years he’s been their golden boy, but all of sudden internal criticism has come his way over his qualifying performances.
It’s not a baseless accusation that Alonso hasn’t got the most out of the car on a Saturday, because he has been outdone by Felipe Massa on a few occasions. It is evidence of a disharmony within Ferrari that arises through constant failure to meet targets.
Sure this is a massive improvement from last year, but last year Ferrari where competing for both championships. This year, with arguably now the fourth fastest car, Alonso’s challenge for that elusive third title could be all but over in two races time.
39 points appears a gap too far to bridge, given the uninspiring nature of Ferrari’s upgrades thus far. It will take something truly remarkable to get the F 138 back in a position where it’s challenging for race wins let alone the championship.
The Constructors’ title is an even more desperate cause. Despite a strong start to the season with good points in four of the first five races, Massa’s year has been disastrous.
The Brazilian has been so inconsistent, it’s perhaps more frustrating for Ferrari then his first half of 2012 when he was just consistently bad.
At times Massa has been able to well and truly take the fight to Alonso, at least in qualifying. At other times he’s been involved in some mind boggling incidents and crashes.
His weekend at Monaco stands out as incredibly bizarre. Having crashed by sliding into the barrier at the first corner during practise, Massa should have known that the Ferrari was edgy when it came to rear lateral grip. Yet during the race he fell victim to an almost identical slide and almost identical crash that fortunately only left him with an injured pride rather than any injured bones.
Ferrari cannot seriously contend for the Constructors’ Championship with such an inept number two.
It seems that its nearly déjà vu for Massa with the Brazilian admittedly putting in some great performances at the same time last year to save his seat Ferrari. A couple of podiums at the end of 2012, made Ferrari go down the conservative route and resign their driver of seven years for one more.
But now surely Ferrari can’t do the same thing. With 2014 bringing a new age of F1, surely the Scuderia have to cut their losses and let go of a driver who’s simply lost his pace.
There aren’t a hell of a lot of options available as a replacement, but one would think the young German Nico Hulkenberg heads that list.
In the meanwhile, Ferrari have an almost impossible task of not only getting their car up to speed with the Mercedes, Lotus and Red Bull, but faster than them if they are to win races and fight for the championship.
Alonso’s future has been the subject of many rumours recently, and I suspect it’s foolish of Ferrari to try and intimidate Alonso into staying with them.
He’s their best friend at the moment as he’s their only driver with any realistic chances of winning a race.
Alonso is now in his fourth season with Ferrari, and they’re yet to provide him with a car that is genuinely championship worthy.
If nothing is made of the second half of 2013, don’t be surprised to suddenly see these rumours warp into serious discussions.
That vacant Red Bull seat, albeit beside Sebastian Vettel, must be seriously tempting for Alonso.
The onus is now on Ferrari to deliver, because Alonso has already done so on his half of the bargain.