Insight: Popular response to Ferrari F1 renaissance – but can they keep it going?
Sebastian Vettel
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Mar 2017   |  6:02 pm GMT  |  204 comments

Ferrari’s winning start in Melbourne puts them at the top of the F1 world championship table, the first time since the opening race of the hybrid era in 2014 that a team other than Mercedes has done so.

The result has been warmly received across the board and has given the sport a shot in the arm, even if the race was not one for the souvenir book.

But while there is no doubt that the Scuderia has the pace at this stage of the season, the question is: can they keep it going across the next 19 Grands Prix and develop at the same rate as Mercedes and Red Bull?

The reason for posing this question is that in recent years, development at Maranello has not matched the pace set by rivals. It was a source of frustration for Fernando Alonso on occasions during his time with the team, while last year seemed to be going the same way.

With a major rule change for 2017, many teams stopped development early last year. Ferrari had to play a delicate game because they can never be seen to “give up” and they clearly kept going to some extent because they were competitive in the final race in Abu Dhabi. But there was upheaval internally with the changes of technical management and – as we now know, there was a massive piece of work going on in parallel, to develop the sophisticated 2017 car.

Red Bull got ahead after the summer break when the races came thick and fast and outpointed Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel

So what do we know of the competitive picture today and the way things are likely to play out between now and November?

As with the overtaking debate, it is hard to draw concrete conclusions from Melbourne on the relative pace of the silver and red cars. There looked to be little between them on pace.

Because the tow is very big at this track, it is one of the hardest races to build a gap, as we saw with Hamilton. This is partly due to the double DRS zones and Hamilton struggled to get free from Vettel in the opening stint.

In Qualifying it is clear that the Mercedes still has an advantage on the extreme engine modes over Ferrari. Although Ferrari has done a great job on its engine, this is going to be difficult to overturn, which is likely to give Mercedes the advantage on track position at the start of races.

There are a certain number of laps that the driver is allowed to do in that mode, such as Q2 and Q3 laps, the start and after a Safety Car. It damages the engine and that is why they are restricted.

So that leaves Ferrari probably having to make the difference in races, unless Vettel or Raikkonen has a particularly strong day in qualifying, on a day when Hamilton and Bottas struggle.

Sebastian Vettel

What are the strengths of the Ferrari package?

Vettel and Ferrari looked more comfortable on the tyres in Melbourne.

Commentators in Italy have suggested that the relative amount of 2016 tyre development testing Vettel and Hamilton did may have played a part. Hamilton did less mileage than Vettel, who made a real point of racking up the miles in the Ferrari mule car and also visiting Pirelli’s base.

It looked rather like the early part of 2013, when Mercedes still hadn’t fully mastered the way to use the tyres in races. We will find out more in the next two races. Shanghai is a front limited circuit, meaning that the front tyres get a beating due to the long constant radius corners and that is the limiting factor. Bahrain is more about looking after the rears and at the moment Ferrari appears to have the edge on Mercedes and Red Bull in that department.

One promising sign was that the Ferrari was very quick on the soft tyre, which is set to be the most commonly used compound this season.

As for development on the chassis, Ferrari has gone for a different concept aerodynamically from the others, the area around the sidepods, bargeboards and the leading edge of the floor in that area are a clear signal of that. They have low wishbones, high sidepods and a low undercut on the bodywork, which helps to deal with and channel the dirty air off the front wheels. It is pretty complex and quite highly developed already.

Mercedes also has some highly developed areas on the car, while the front wing is not that different from last year’s which suggests that there is plenty to come from there, for example.

So it will be a case of making developments in areas that make a difference and doing so consistently.

Daniel Ricciardo

What about Red Bull Racing?
Red Bull didn’t look on it in winter testing and their form in Melbourne was the same. The balance was an issue and although tyre temperatures this year are not as peaky and critical as last year, they still had a problem. The car looked nervous and the aerodynamic stability was questioned. Daniel Ricciardo crashed at the crucial moment in qualifying.

There was some discussion about whether they had suffered from the FIA clarification on the trick suspension systems which adapt ride height for corners and straights. To avoid a protest at the first round, they were told not to bring the advanced system, but it wasn’t the negative silver bullet that many made it out to be. It was about the same as others, just not a step ahead.

As well as needing more work on the aero set up, the team was also having to run the Renault engine in a sub-optimal mode pending a fix which is due on the phase two engine in May. The word is that Renault found 35kW of additional power from 2016 to 2017, which is worth half a second of lap time, but they aren’t able to run the engine at the limit due to an issue on the hybrid system.

So the view on Red Bull is that there were clear explanations as to why they were not on the pace in Melbourne and there is every reason to expect that they will develop strongly once these details are attended to.

They will be hoping that it doesn’t come too late to catch the other two teams, but if they are lucky Mercedes and Ferrari will take points off each other during these early fly away races and not get too far ahead.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below

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Curious about the extreme engine mode. Seems to me ferrari had the better package all weekend. IF anything, I think hamilton stole pole. The 3 tenths was the difference between him and vettel/bottas.


Well, since Ferrari broke their trend of starting a season on the back foot, it means they won’t waste the season playing catch-up. Hopefully this means they can now break their trend of under-development.

Also, hopefully there is a parallel team with someone already brewing ideas for 2018.


one swallow makes a summer here…


James, we all have seen this “renaissance script” before – 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix. We also saw what happened next. As a Ferrari fan, I just cannot come to face it that we bet Merc competing with full strength. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but let us see how Merc responds this weekend.
But now that the token system is wrong, I also would like to think Ferrari can develop the car in-season, but really we need to see the Gap at China and Bahrain before getting the hopes up.


Was Malaysia the first round of the 2015 calendar?


And that’s the scorecard for JAonF1 league on GPpredictor… well done, GT Marley, you seem to have got most things accurate!


Ohhhh, that’s me in 7th. Who’s GT Marley??
Come forward GT Marley, show yourself!


I see I’m coming a fine last. Onwards and upwards from here!


Yeps, it can’t get worst😄 you’ll have to get your act together my friend, even me, as a “ham fan” 😉 knew that this was Vettels for the taking🏎🏁. Just kidding. One can only but guess. But good luck for the next one🍻


Dittos to first comment here. Team Haas was very pleased with the Ferrari power unit.


So Max, you want to be a member of our little club just like Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton? OK Max, you can have a membership card, but remeber, it expires I’d you don’t state this view in the press regularly.


@ Sebee….The ‘Jean Todt says NO’.


I wonder if Redbull will also have an extreme engine mode once thier PU is sorted in the second phase of engines you talk off.


Intersting times ahead but I would like to see the MERCS retain that extreme engine mode during the race (the FIA should mandate the use of engine mode being the same from qualifying to race) and see how long they last in the race. I wonder if this extreme engine mode is why HAM had the mechanical failures last year, drives the car too hard.


It is not a given Red Bull and Merc will out develop Ferrari, I mean everyone expected Red Bull to be strong in 2017 and currently they are not. I bet my last dollar no oneexpected Ferrari to be this competitive so maybe they will suprise in the development race as well. Let’s be clear they have a new technical team so so far know what are doing.


This year Ferrari is a very different beast. With Binotto at the helm and loads of internal talent at Maranello promoted, the young encouraged to push the boundaries…… I can see Ferrari developing well this season. Arrivabene with Marchionne’s backing has built an excellent team with a daring mentality.
Also, lets not forget that Aldo Costa fell out with Montezemolo and left for Mercedes because LDM was too tight to spend money on the wind tunnel. I can’t see Marchionne not funding the team for the tools they need.

Tornillo Amarillo

Excellent article. And what about the midfield, it looks like Force India has lost its edge, Renault is improving, like Haas, and Williams is King!

With Paddy Lowe in Williams, in the development career could Williams threat Red Bull? I think that being Stroll a rookie he cannot score like Red Bull’s drivers this season…

Tornillo Amarillo

Does somebody know if F1 could regulate the “dirty air”, the turbulence for the car behind?

I mean drivers say in 2016 the car behind had turbulence making overtaking very difficult if they were in the 1 plus second behind. Now in 2017 they say they get that turbulence impeding overtakes with a gap of 2 seconds!! So the problem is bigger and racing could be extremely boring.

Maybe it could mean that change in rules and design in front and rear wings, body, floor, sidpots or I don’t know what BECAUSE OF THE NEW RULES are creating MORE turbulence.

The simple question for anybody who knows something about it is if is technically possible or not to rule some mandatory designs or limits to design in order to create minimum dirty air for overtaking. Opinions?


interesting comment… I was thinking from the other point of view, does anyone design their aerodynamics so that it generates untidy air to hinder following cars? Or is that just my devious mind?
I think it’s all an excuse anyway … when a diver jumps from the high tower, there’s a spray of water on the landing zone so that the diver hits ‘broken’ water and not a solid floor of water. Wouldn’t the same go for racing cars, the broken air in front should make it easier for the following car to close up on them … it used to be called slip-streaming.


@ Tornillo A….I would suggest you look at Indy cars and see how they tackle this problem.

Tornillo Amarillo

I thought Indy cars all the cars have the same chasis, and that does not apply to F1, doesn’t it?

Tornillo Amarillo

James, I have a question:

Suspension from Race 2 and later: Merc and RB will use the advance one and get a protest from Ferrari? Or the old one with the same excuse made in Melbourne of being heavier?



It’s not over is what I hear


“Its not over” – Really?

That is worrying for Ferrari but encouraging for Redbull. While the former may become suddenly less competitive in relation to the latter due the suspension, they may end up equal.

But the problem is Mercedes will end up dominantly ahead of the both again if the disputed suspension system is approved. So there still remains for Mercedes to completely endanger 2017 with sheer dominance.


@ james what chance an update article surrounding this ongoing ‘suspension’ debacle?


I’ve just discovered this site and I am impressed by the thoughtful, mature comments as well as the insightful articles. Thank you.


Dan, just don’t mention Lewis….


Best to avoid every second monday…


😂😂😂😂 what do you mean??



Tell your friends


I think that ferrari were playing with mercedes in Melbourne. Vettel was in control when he trialed Lewis and he maintained the gap when he was ahead. I believe that ferrari have not shown their car’s full potential. They may not have the pace over 1 lap for qualifying but i think they have the best package over race distance. Wait and see!


Track Position


Wish we knew the bhp output of all the engines. I wonder if merc and ferrari have broken the 1000bhp barrier.?


I read it somewhere – the BBC I think, that they have, certainly in quali mode.


I really can’t see any reason why ferrari can’t continue to be competitive. It is rather silly to assume, at this point in time, anything else. What happened in the past is simply that, the past. New era, new cars, new personnel. With just one race completed what we do know is that ferrari performed better that many expected and that has to be good. There appeared to be, to me, very little in between ferrari and mercedes and that strategic variables further helped to confuse the competitive issues. I expect that it will take at least three if not more races to establish some sort of pecking order. IMO it would also be foolish to write off RB as they do have great resources, the point is however , when and how far down the road will ferrari and mercedes be, when they do get it right!


Well said👍 But I don’t think anybody is writing of the “bulls”. We all know they’re gonna get there. I think a lot of people were just surprised at how much of the pace they were with respect to Merc and Ferrari. After all, Redbull, with Newey, was getting all the hype over the winter with these new regs coming in. I think everyone was just expecting that Redbull would be there straight away. That was a little disappointing to me. But yes, we know they will get there🍻


@ james K…. thanks for the response. The hype over the winter wasn’t all coming from the team although they weren’t playing it all down. The hype was, in the main, coming from the media who needed stories to keep the wheels turning. That alone caused the ‘expectancy’ to rise so high. Like you i too was rather disappointed in the early testing but i always knew that it would take some time to get it all together. China should be better….i hope.



Agree with all of that. The media developed a bIt of false optimism but it’s early days and China may provide a better guide. Actually I was encouraged by Verstappen’s pace in Melbourne something which he commented on post race but then he also made negative comments regarding a lack of balance and downforce. It might be that RB will be in ‘damage limitation’ mode until the first engine upgrade in Spain and later in Canada. Just hope that Ferrari and Merc have mostly played their hand. Hey mate remember the posts we exchanged on “free speech” well I’ve come some way towards your position. Perhaps not quite there but I do understand your position.


@ Adrian….. Just as well this site doesn’t fall within the ambit of 18C hahaha. Yes, i’m hoping that the RB boys can sort the balance problems as the ‘window’ seems to be rather elusive and narrow banded. Once the engine upgrades arrive and are reliable then we may see some better racing. ATM i am of the impression that both Ferrari and Mercedes are out of reach but then again you never know. Both ricciardo and verstappen will be out to get into the mix and perhaps China will be better than expected.


And hopefully the Renault motor too!. DR and MV deserve better!


@ James K…yes, i fully agree with you there.



Absolutely they deserve better.


the loss of paddy lowe is a major loss for benz. i don’t see allison as an equal replacement – not by a long stretch.


Would be interesting to see in Red Bull’s case how often a team has started the year as the 3rd to 4th quickest car and still manged to win the Constructor’s Title.


So strange to not see Mclaren featured, even mentioned in passing, with the top teams *sighs*


I think you are going to have to get used to it. Sadly.


There’s unfortunately a good reason for that I believe😳🍻


I am somehow confident that Ferrari will be able to develop their cars at a similar pace than the other big two team. I am no expert and it might be more of a wish than anything else, but as they have started the season with what appear a good base, it should be easier to work on improvememt as against having to work a faulty design over.
Pole is as it has been for a while all important and there the Mercedes seemed to have kept their advantage, but maybe 17 is going to have the flavor of 13, when Mercedes could get on pole but then fall behind because of their usuage of tires. It appears so in the first race but will it stay true in the races to come, that we don’t know.
At the end, l hope that it stays close between these two teams and that the Red Bulls manage to catch up with them. Looking very much forward to the Chinese GP. Marc


Yes they can!


This should clear up any questions regarding Ferrari’s commitment to inseason development.

“We still have 19 challenges ahead of us and today’s race shows how the slightest thing can make the difference between being in front or being behind. Therefore, we must continue to push as hard as possible on development.” ~ Mattia Binotto


OK, so the commitment is there. It is the capability that is being questioned now.


Seeing as how they had the capability to build the car, why would they not be capable of developing it during the season? This is not last year with all the turmoil and distraction of Allison leaving and a reorganization of the entire program.


About RedBull…
I know I’m an arrogant archair expert that can’t really teach nothing to Newey.
But… xP
I believe the problem is in the body. That bulk of the sidepod Jet Fighter shape is sending the air to the rear wing on a diagonal flow – rather that the horizontal air stream of Ferrari.
The the behaviour of the back gets twitchy, on and off, depending of the angle and on direction changes.
Of course, just because the top of Ferrari’s sidepod is horizontal, it doesn’t really mean that the air flow reaches the botton of the wing horizontally too.
It’s much more complicated than that… for sure, for sure.
RedBulll never had a car with that shape, so maybe it’s better to retreat to amore familiar conventional one.


Look at this nice pic of Ferrari in motion.
The sidepod channels the airstream to the botton of ther rear wing.
The front left tire has 2/3 of it’s contact patch on the ground – steering in a mild right turn.
The front right doesn’t have much load and shows it’s small camber setting.

The RedBull is hard to see due to the blue mate paint, but it seems that Newey went back to his Leyton House days when his cars looked like wrapped in a vacum plastic bag.
After the hunchback in the sidepod there is a long depression – because there was a long empty space in the back of the sidepod, with no mechanical components there.
So why not compact it, reducing the volume of the sidepod there with a depression instead of leaving it boring, straight, long and hollow ?
The problem is it kind of creates waves/ondulations, and at certain {shifting} steering angles a low pressure zone in the depression space.
Even worse that it is diagonal, creating a oversteering effect by lifting the rear of the car in turns.
Since the aero generated upforce driver is diagonal, its horizontal vector component is felt by the suspension motion, but the vertical vector is felt by the – erratic – G-Force on curves.
So the low pressure zone pushes the back of the car upwards and also left/right, creating a very unpredictable / twitchy rear end of the car.
The air arrives at the rear wing very scrambled and varies according to the steering angle, speed and curve radius.
I can’t really teach anything to Newey, but I can brainstorm. xP

The Williams has the same sidepod shape {problems} of RedBull.


@ De Weberis…. ‘I can’t really teach nothing to Newey’! Conversely, does that mean the ‘you can teach something to Newey’ ?


New with Newy! @DeWeberis – who knew! 🙂

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