Ferrari 2016 in review: “this sport is never a stroll in the park”

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The face tells a story: Sebastian Vettel caught in a less-than-impressed pose

Formula 1’s most historic and famous team, Scuderia Ferrari, have admitted their dismal 2016 campaign that produced no wins and a mere 11 podiums, failed to “reach our goals.” Although the on track performance has made this rather obvious, the team still feels the season was not quite as bad as it looked, adding they’ve also made “many steps forward.”

Ferrari announced this in their 2016 season review, which was posted on the official Scuderia Ferrari website in the evening of the 22nd of December. It also declared, “hen considering any progress one might make, one always has to consider it in terms of what others are doing.” This is a blindingly obvious reference to the meteoritic rise of Red Bull, who had a surprising season, amassing 2 wins and 16 podiums.

It is also no lie that the secret to Red Bull’s unexpected success was Max Verstappen, the 19 year old Dutchman known for his pure pace and aggressive tactics. After starting the season with the junior team Toro Rosso, Verstappen was pushed up to Red Bull ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, a race he would go onto win in astounding fashion. This win was indefinitely a turning point in the season for Ferrari, as Red Bull took the win that so easily slipped through the Scuderia’s fingers. From then on in, the Bulls started to fly as the horse stopped prancing.

By this point in the season, it was now becoming more evident that this season was not going to be about race winning, but about struggling through each race in an effort to stay competitive. Following Red Bull’s unbelievable win in Spain, Ferrari only graced the podium five more times.

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The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix (pictured) was the only time two Ferrari drivers stood on the podium

“It would be a huge mistake to compare 2016 with the worst years in Maranello’s history,” the review urged. This is clearly a reference to the campaign of 2014, which was the first time Ferrari went winless in a Formula 1 season since 1993. 2016 does share the same devastating statistic, but this season fails to compare with 2014. That particular season saw just two podiums, both from Fernando Alonso in China and Hungary. The season was heavily marred with a high level of internal conflict, something which led Alonso to depart the team without the 3rd World Championship he continues to search for. But 2016 is probably more painful than 2014 because Ferrari took a step backward. 2015 was a highly successful season with 3 wins and 16 podiums. 2016 was expected to be an evolution of this form, and maybe even a car that would dethrone the dominance of Mercedes. But, at the end of the season, it was quite clear this evolution was not successful.

However, despite all of this negativity surrounding the 2016 season, an unfair statement about 2016 for Ferrari would be that it was all bad. The team reflect on this, saying: “On more than one occasion, usually down to a scorching start, the Reds even managed to scare the team with its hands on the titles.” In Australia, a brilliant start saw Vettel lead Raikkonen into Turn 1, with the Mercedes drivers in tow behind. If not for an untimely red flag, the Scuderia may have actually grasped the race win. In the final race in Abu Dhabi, an aggressive strategy from Ferrari, and deliberately slow driving from Lewis Hamilton, saw Sebastian Vettel almost challenge for the race win. The Scuderia were worrying the Mercedes so much, Mercedes Executive Technical Director, Paddy Lowe, personally used the radio in an effort to convince Hamilton to increase his pace.

The team stated 2016 “should be looked at as a whole,” with reference to “various penalties,” which “robbed the team of a podium at the very least and possibly of something even better.” This is also a true statement which cannot be ignored when considering the success in 2016. Sebastian Vettel was robbed of a podium in Mexico when race control deemed he impeded Daniel Ricciardo. However, Vettel was only racing Ricciardo because Verstappen ahead had arrogantly failed to let Vettel through after leaving the track. This led to a messy situation in which Vettel even swore at the FIA’s Race Director, Charlie Whiting, saying: “here’s the message to Charlie, just f**k off, okay.” Russia, Australia, Bahrain and Brazil saw at least one Ferrari driver retire through no fault of their own, races which all promised valuable points.

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Experience is important. In darker times like these for Ferrari, having two drivers that share five World Championships between them is important for staying positive.

An unfortunate factor which greatly affected the Ferrari camp in 2016 was the sad, untimely and unexpected passing of Rebecca Allison, the wife of Ferrari’s Technical Director, James Allison, ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. “One of the hardest things to do in motor racing and in life in general, is to be able to put things into perspective,” Ferrari said, which certainly has reference to this issue. Allison left the team ahead of the German Grand Prix to focus on the wellbeing of his family, an action which certainly puts the importance of family in perspective. The blow to Ferrari was massive as Allison was the spearhead behind the SF16-H, the 2016 challenger with a “bold design.” However, without him there, the program certainly had to be thought over. But as aforementioned, the fact remains, family is important, and thoughts remain with James and his family’s wellbeing.

Overall, the only way to sum up Formula 1 and Ferrari is, “this sport is never a stroll in the park.” At the end of the day, all the demanding factors add up to create an environment in which it is difficult to find success. Ferrari have taken the positives from 2016, assured everyone who has doubted them in 2016, “the will to win never wavered.”

Ferrari will reveal their 2017 car on 24th of February 2017.

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Steven Walton is a 18 year old student currently attending St Andrews College in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was bought up with two older brothers and his big passions are sports (especially motorsport), people and writing.

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