Monday, 30 March 2015

Special feature - Incredible turnaround for Scuderia Ferrari

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

The last 12 months have been somewhat of a rollercoaster for the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One Team. In April 2014, team principal Stefano Domenicali resigned from the outfit just ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Italian was replaced by CEO of Ferrari North America, Marco Mattiacci who was installed as interim Team Principal. In his first race in charge Fernando Alonso secured a podium finish when the Spaniard finished the race in third place behind the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The 2014 season also saw the return of Kimi Raikkonen to the team who is their last world champion. The Finn took victory in the championship in his first season with the Maranello based outfit in 2007.

The Finn had an extremely difficult return to the team in 2014 failing to score a podium finish with his best result as fourth place at the Belgian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso on the other hand picked up two podium finishes. The Spaniard was on the podium once again at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Following his retirement from the Italian Grand Prix last September rumours began to circulate the Formula One paddock that Alonso was actively seeking to leave Ferrari with speculation growing that the double world champion did not see eye to eye with Mattiacci. 

Ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix it was confirmed that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing after winning four world champions with the Milton Keynes based outfit with Christian Horner confirming that the German would be joining Ferrari.

At the end of the season, Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemelo resigned from his position and was replaced by FIAT chairman Sergio Marchionne. One day following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (the final race of the season) Marco Mattiacci was replaced by former Philip Morris Vice President Maurizio Arrivabene.

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

Speaking at the launch of the new SF15-T, Kimi Raikkonen said that the car looked nice and that he would wait and see how the car performed on track before commenting on whether or not the new car was an improvement on last season’s chassis.

The SF15-T was the first chassis to be overseen by new technical director James Allison who replaced Pat Fry over the winter having re-joined the Italian team from Lotus at the end of the 2013 season. When the new car hit the track in Jerez for the first time it was extremely quick and over the course of winter testing both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel traded fastest lap times topping the time sheets at various stages over the three tests.

At the opening race of the 2015 season in Australia two weeks ago, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen qualified in fourth and fifth place respectively and while Raikkonen was forced to retire from the race, on his debut for the Maranello based outfit Sebastian Vettel finished the race on the podium in third place behind race winner Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

In the second race at the weekend in Malaysia, Kimi Raikkonen showed in Free Practice that the new SF15-T is an extremely quick car as he topped the time sheets. In qualifying for the event, Sebastian claimed a front row start alongside reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton while Kimi started the race from eleventh place following a mistake from the team in qualifying.

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

In the race, Vettel made a great start and was immediately challenging Hamilton for the race lead. The German would eventually take advantage of the incredible race pace of the SF1-T and overtake Hamilton on track and went on to win the race by over 8 seconds claiming the team’s first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. Many people believed that the win was a surprise however having seen their pace first hand during testing at the Barcelona Circuit de Catalunya last month I felt that the team would defiantly win a race this season and that it was a question of when and not if they would win a race in 2015.

I will admit however, I did not expect a Ferrari win so early in the season and neither it would appear did Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. Kimi Raikkonen described by his new boss as ‘a fabulous driver’ had a fantastic race for the Italian outfit as he recovered from a puncture on the second lap that dropped him to the back of the field to finish the race in fourth place collecting 12 points.

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

Scuderia Ferrari find themselves in second place in the Constructors champion on 52 points, just 24 behind current leaders, the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team who are on 76 points.

The team’s great start to the season can be put down to the new structure within the Maranello based outfit and Kimi Raikkonen has said that there is a much better atmosphere in the team and that everyone in the outfit are working together.

Maurizio has told his team to remain realistic about their season and to keep their feet firmly on the ground. ‘Sebastian was just unbelievable, and Kimi was able to put on a fantastic charge from the back’ he said.

The Italian went on to say that the team need to be wary of Mercedes as they are still a ‘formidable contender.’

Kimi Raikkonen was delighted that his team mate took the victory and that it was a great result for the entire team. However the Finn is unsure whether or not the SF15-T will be a race winner at other circuits this season. The Iceman knows that the team have a good package and that they are getting stronger.

The Italian team have made an absolutely incredible forward since this time last season and they are certainly one’s to watch over the course of the season.

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

© Ben Johnston 2015

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