A competitor since 1950, Italian-based team Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow have won 16 constructor world championships, and as F1’s oldest team, Ferrari hold more records than any other in the competition. One of the biggest names in Motorsport, the team have recently contended with battles around its future in the competition, surprising new challengers and arguably the most significant effects of Covid-19.
Sebastian Vettel, a consecutive four-time Formula One World Champion with Red Bull Racing, and 2019 Belgian Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc have been selected to compete in the 2020 edition of Formula 1, and are determined to drive to victory, despite all the odds.
Could Ferrari win the next championship?
The negative impact of the coronavirus has been felt across sectors, particularly in Automotive and Motorsport: two industries that rely on manufacturing and production, as well as large customer and fan-based events. Following the cancellation of the Chinese, Australian and Monaco Grand Prix, and the postponement of racing events in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Canada, all F1 races have been delayed until June at the earliest.
Lockdown in Ferrari’s home country set them apart from the other nine F1 competitors, with fears that the team would not be able to meet deadlines to prepare for the season ahead. With the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, Italy was identified as a major hub of the coronavirus illness, and imposed strict restrictions preventing any social gatherings and all but ‘essential’ work for all citizens at the beginning of 2020.
However, after seeing a total of 200,000 people infected with Covid-19, the country is now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Following reports of its lowest number of new confirmed cases since the outbreak began, measures will be relaxed on 4th May, meaning that with adapted social distancing measures, Ferrari’s Italian team can get back to work building, creating and planning collaboratively.
Due to social distancing measures, which are expected to be necessary for the next few months, all races will take place behind closed doors. Without the draw of the usual loud, busy and exciting in-person event, leaders were initially concerned about viewing figures, and the absence of fans is no doubt a disappointment to drivers and pit crew, which will change the racing experience and may require adaptations for performance. However, with F1 recently receiving over £1billion in loans from the government to sustain the sport and a variety of countries announcing the relaxation of lockdown measures around Europe and the world, organisers and competitors are poised to bounce back.
Historically a phenomenal force to be reckoned with, the multiple winners have placed second a total of 19 times – including the last three years.
Last year’s championship was not one of Ferrari’s most successful. Management were criticised over choices around cooling and power management, as well as the late identification of weaknesses and consistency in performance assessment. Pit stops were slower than other teams, and overall strategy was questioned. In the first half of the season, Mercedes won all but two races before the summer break, with Red Bull taking second place. Rounding off a difficult full season, drivers publicly denied accusations about the legality of the car’s engine.
CEO Louis Camilleri has reported that the global Automotive brand will be stepping up its financial investment in a bid for success, and Chief Mattia Binotto has revealed that the Automotive brand are transforming the engine and aerodynamics.
Ferrari mostly ran their engine at lower levels, and differences in recording processes mean testing times have been inconclusive for this season so far. Whilst straight-line speed seemed to have reduced dramatically – as much as half a second compared to Mercedes – but appear to be far stronger when taking on corners.
Charles Leclerc comments of expected performance, “I still believe we have been struggling a bit during testing, so we need to catch up. Whether we will be able to or not I don’t know, but last year we had a good progression throughout the year. I think we need to keep working as we did last year and I’m pretty sure the results will come.”
After Ferrari vetoed proposals to place a cost-cap on customer engines, its leaders threatened to leave the sport in protest against the new engine rules. As the famous ‘Prancing Horse’ has historically been the only team to take part every year since the inception of Formula One, this announcement came as a shock to fans. However, the multi-champions are confirmed for the 2020 season.
The team was up against McLaren in recent weeks, when the latter’s CEO Zak Brown challenged Ferrari to reveal details of its arrangement with the FIA over an engine legality settlement. Ferrari was at the centre of controversy earlier this year when it reached a private agreement with the FIA. As the FIA was unable to prove that any rules were broken, Ferrari and its vehicles are firmly in place for the upcoming season.
In February Ferrari released its hotly anticipated latest model to compete in the team’s 1,000th Grand Prix later on in 2020. The aptly named SF1000 boasts a new engine design that improves combustion efficiency, with a Turbocharger and Engine Recovery System to maximise power. The overall compact design of the vehicle and its enhanced performance signal the start of a new beginning.
2020 will open a new era for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc: this year will mark the first time in his career that the driver has remained at one squad for two consecutive seasons.
Since 2014 Leclerc’s career has included excellent performances in the European F3, GP3, Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 2 and Formula 1. Leclerc’s most recent move saw him leave Sauber after his first F1 season in 2018, before becoming the Prancing Horse’s youngest winner to date and securing 10 podiums last year.
Finishing the 2019 season in fourth place, Leclerc is poised to join legendary champion Sebastian Vettel for this year’s competition.
The 2020 Concorde Agreement has further complicated the current situation. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) have announced a $175million budget cap from 2021, which will mean significant changes for many teams: current Formula 1 team budgets range from $120million up to $500million. Multiple championship winner and current F1 technical lead Pat Symonds explains the opportunities behind the restrictions: ‘While we have a sport where marginal gains exist, prolific spend will bring performance to the big teams that is not available to the teams on the lower budget.’
Without the ability to spend £billions on innovation, technology and advertising, the sport will be a much more level playing field – which could mean surprise performances and unexpected wins. The new rules could help encourage competition from new sources, with smaller teams able to bring a fresh challenge and a new level of excitement to the race. With a focus on talent rather than brand names, backers and budgets, Ferrari will have unprecedented competition in this year’s race.
Formula 1 Journalists predict ‘A three-way fight between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari’:
Predicted by many experts to culminate in a three-horse race finishing on a title decider, the 2020 competition is sure to deliver fierce competition.
Find out How the Coronavirus Will Impact the Automotive Industry or read more about 5 Ways Motorsport Teams are Innovating for 2020.
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