It will take time to turn around Ferrari
Bouncebackability – a word created by former Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie in the mid-2000s – has become such a popular a term in sporting coverage to describe an individual or team’s ability to recover from adverse circumstances, that it has been included in dictionaries.
If ever an organisation would hope to be able to demonstrate bouncebackability it is Ferrari, whose winless season in 2014 was their worst in Formula One in 21 years.
The nearest they came to a victory was Fernando Alonso’s second place in Hungary in July, which had needed good luck with the timing of a safety car period, the weather and bad luck for their rivals to give the Spaniard a chance to be in contention at the Hungaroring.
Ten years ago Ferrari dominated F1.
Michael Schumacher had won 13 races and the team 15 in total as they crushed their rivals.
This season they finished a distant fourth in the constructors’ standings and were powerless to stop Mercedes-GP enjoying their own period of dominance, which saw the German marque win 16 times.
The F14 T chassis used by Ferrari this year was not a good car.
It lacked the grip of the Mercedes or Red Bull Racing cars in the corners, and the Ferrari engine was no match for Mercedes on power, which left them struggling on the straights.
It added up to a miserable past 12 months, so it is unsurprising that the most successful team in F1 history do not intend to take things lying down.
Already, they have implemented a raft of changes in personnel.
Since last month’s Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the 2014 season, Maurizio Arrivabene has been appointed as new team principal, with engineering director Pat Fry and chief designer Nikolas Tombazis among those to depart as Ferrari look to start afresh.
The latest acquisition came from Mercedes this week as performance engineer Jock Clear, who, before this year’s triumph, had also experienced championship success with Williams and Brawn-GP, agreed to join the team.
The changes have come following Luca di Montezemolo’s resignation as Ferrari president in September after 23 years in the position. He was replaced by Sergio Marchionne.
Such a tumultuous time for the team means a quick fix is unlikely in 2015, despite the best efforts of technical director James Allison.
The point is, Ferrari have not become bad overnight. Their performance has been falling for some time.
Since winning their most recent title, the 2008 constructors’ crown, they have won 12 of 115 races over six seasons. Five of those came in 2010.
An indication of how far off the pace they were in 2014 was their result in the season-ending Abu Dhabi race. Alonso was the best of Ferrari’s drivers in eighth place, 85 seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton, and his quickest lap was almost three seconds off the fastest one that was set by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It is an indictment on Ferrari’s performance that Alonso has taken the risk of joining McLaren, whose winless run of 38 races is longer than Ferrari’s and who are to use unproven Honda engines next year, rather than stay at Maranello.
Alonso made the best of a bad job this year and, while his sixth place in the drivers’ standings on 161 points was his worst finish since 2009, the double world champion outscored his teammate Kimi Raikkonen by 111 points.
If Ferrari need to show signs of recovery in 2015 then Raikkonen most certainly has to after arguably his worst season in the series.
He did have a poor car and the lack of front end grip hindered the 2007 world champion, but he only finished in the top six twice all season and was comprehensively outperformed by Alonso.
The previous occasions when Raikkonen was beaten by a teammate – by Nick Heidfeld in 2001, David Coulthard in 2002 and Felipe Massa in 2008 – the performance differences were minimal, unlike this year.
If Raikkonen has a lot to prove, so does his new teammate Sebastian Vettel, who last season became the first reigning world champion since 1998 to fail to win a race in a title defence.
After four dominant years at Red Bull, Vettel found the new make of cars not to his liking.
What was worse was that he was beaten by a teammate for the first time as Ricciardo won three races and outscored him by 71 points.
The German’s move to Ferrari is viewed as a new challenge after four drivers’ titles at Red Bull, but his reputation has been slighted by struggling against Ricciardo.
He, like Raikkonen, and his new employers, has something to prove in 2015.
The bad news for them is that improvement is unlikely to be in the shape of championships or race wins as Mercedes are favourites to continue their domination.
Consistent podium finishes and top six results, though, would indicate that bouncebackability is alive and kicking in Italy.
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Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM