This is the second part of our mid-term analysis. This time we look at Ferrari and how they threw away their chance to be a championship contender in 2019.
There is no other way to say it, Ferrari’s performance record before the summer break was sobering and not at all what Ferrari had expected at the beginning of the season. Sebastian Vettel (32) and Charles Leclerc (21) are 94 (Vettel) and 118 points (Leclerc) behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
In the drivers ranking, they are only fourth and fifth respectively. In the constructors’ championship, Ferrari is behind Mercedes, but only because Pierre Gasly performed so much worse than his team-mate Max Verstappen.
Frankly, Red Bull has already overtaken Ferrari when it comes to car performance. Fact is, that the Austrians are with Max Verstappen (21) Mercedes-hunter number 1. This is shocking because the Scuderia started this season with completely different assertions.
In his fifth year at Ferrari, Vettel was supposed to win the next championship title after Kimi’s in 2007. This dream is all but outdreamed after only twelve races this year. And make no mistake, the German knows that himself, even though he still remains the team’s main motivator:
“We know our weaknesses,” commented the German.
“We’re losing too much time in corners, but the new parts that we brought to Hungary did make an impact, but not enough, and we have to keep working hard to be better prepared for the following season.”
At least there is some positive for Ferrari this year. After so many team-related struggles and restructurings, Ferrari finally has becomes a more balanced and coherent team.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the car the SF90H. Ferrari simply went the wrong way in developing this year’s car. The engineers in Maranello put the greatest emphasis on top speed. Hence, the aerodynamics was developed for maximum cw value on the straights for less air resistance.
On the other hand, when it comes to the engine department, experts agree that the Ferrari is on par with Mercedes engines. But there is fine difference.
According to information available to ABMS Ferrari’s engines accelerate extremely well in the last third of a straight in contrast to the Silver Arrows’ powertrain. While the Mercedes engines, according to Red Bull GPS data, display strong acceleration in the first and second gear.
That’s why Ferraris were so strong on tracks such as in Bahrain or Montreal. Only a technical problem with the engine in Bahrain (Leclerc / failure of the injection system) and Vettel’s controversial penalty in Montreal cost Ferrari two certain victories.
Unfortunately, Ferrari paid a very high price for having the best top-speed records this season. The lack of downforce caused a chain reaction. In slow and medium-fast corners (two-thirds of the tracks on the calendar), both Vettel and Leclerc lost too much time.
In addition to that, it was very difficult Ferrari to bring the tires into their optimal working window. This was a disaster for Vettel who couldn’t develop a feel for the rear of the car the way he usually likes it.
“A lack of confidence to drive the car at its limits,” Vettel commented on his own situation.
What was striking for all observers, the numerous updates that Ferrari developed throughout the season didn’t bring the hoped-for results. The gap to Mercedes couldn’t be bridged. On the contrary. Since the Austrian GP, the Scuderia fell behind Red Bull as well.
Ferrari has to realize that on tracks like Spa and Monza after the summer break, they might be fighting for victories, but after that, it looks bleak for the rest of the season.
What makes it worse is, that with this year’s car, Ferrari has very little room for further improvements; it’s all but exhausted according to experts. At least for 2020, Ferrari plans for a better balance between top speed and downforce.
Vettel, A Real Leader
Returning to Sebastian Vettel, he showed in the last two races before the summer break who should be the top dog at Ferrari. He made an impression especially on the overly critical Italian press that had put him under enormous pressure. He achieved two podium places, while his highly acclaimed team-mate Charles Leclerc disappointed.
Overall, Vettel drove much more consistently than the talented Monegasque. Leclerc made serious mistakes in Baku, Monaco, and Hockenheim, which cost the team three podium finishes and important points for the constructors’ championship fight.
The German, on the other hand, only risked too much in Silverstone when he misjudged his overtaking attempt against Max Verstappen.
“I’m not happy with my performance so far, being in the championship in front of Charles means nothing to me. We’re a team, and when we’re not at the top, we have not achieved what we envisioned.”
What speaks for Vettel, he never lost his fighting and team-spirit and that is exactly what Ferrari needs right now.
Comparison: Vettel vs. Leclerc
Average slower in qualifying: + 0.027s
Race comparison: 8-4
Average team points: Vettel 54%, Leclerc 46%
Grades: Vettel 7.2; Leclerc 7.0
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.