Thursday, February 11, 2021

1 Racing Mind’s Formula 1 Season Ending Team Report Card: Scuderia Ferrari

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office/ Ferrari S.p.A.

Team Grade: C-

Overall Season:

Entering 2020, Scuderia Ferrari and fans of the team had reason to look forward to what the upcoming Formula 1 tour had in store. In 2019, Charles Leclerc’s debut season with the squad started strong and eventually winning two grand prix events. Ferrari’s Formula 1 team heading into 2020 was also set to celebrate running their 1,000th grand prix event. Originally planned for the Monaco Grand Prix but complications caused by the coronavirus had it replaced with an event on the Italian sports car company’s Mugello track. Unfortunately, the 17-race schedule brought a great deal of disappointment and ridicule for the historic organization.

Complications with the SF1000 race car magnified by a power unit that appeared to be among the weakest on the grid have relegated Scuderia Ferrari to the position of a mid-marker team throughout 2020 scoring just three podium finishes during the entire season. In five races, the squad failed to score a single championship point. The Ferrari team also experienced sizable differentials in performance between their two drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. With the announcement of Vettel not returning to the team in 2021 coming before the first race of the 2020 season, it was unclear how this would affect driver/team chemistry. 

As the year progressed, communications between the Ferrari and their German driver appeared spotty at best. Charles Leclerc’s showing with Scuderia Ferrari was noticeably stronger than Sebastian Vettel benefiting from the Italian team’s increased attention and a contract with spanning to 2024. 

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

Though the Scuderia Ferrari team’s 2020 campaign is regarded largely as an embarrassment, the Italian organization’s season was not without some accolades.

The strongest finish in the 2020 Formula 1 season for the team as a whole came at the Turkish Grand Prix. An event plagued by a soaked race surface, the effects of the power deficit of the Ferrari SF1000 were nullified by the field’s universal struggle for traction. After 58 laps, the Ferrari drivers finished 3rd and 4th with Sebastian Vettel leading his teammate Charles Leclerc to the chequered flag.

Another worthwhile grand prix took place on the Ferrari-owned Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello. The event served as a party commemorating Ferrari’s 1,000th Formula 1 start and was accompanied with the pageantry permitted due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. Running a special dark burgundy paint scheme for the Tuscan Grand Prix, Leclerc managed to lock his #16 car into fifth place for the start of Sunday’s race. Both Ferrari SF1000 race cars survived the two multi-car wrecks at the beginning of the 59-lap event and finished in the points with Leclerc crossing the line in eighth and Vettel taking tenth place. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

What hasn’t been said about the disappointing performance of Scuderia Ferrari in 2020? Almost every aspect of the team was out of sync during this past season of racing resulting with no wins or just three podium finishes. Two races for the Ferrari team ended with neither vehicles finishing an event with one of the being the Italian Grand Prix. 

Their SF1000 race car appeared to have had handling issues that popped up even before the season started. In preseason testing at Barcelona, Ferrari team was struggling to outdo their 2019 lap times. Attributing it to a deliberate intention to give more downforce to the SF1000, the engineering approach apparently backfired for Ferrari and the team admitted there were flaws in the vehicle’s design heading into the season-opening race in Austria. However, the focus on downforce may be a contributing factor to why the Turkish Grand Prix, a race where grip was at a premium, was the team’s best overall event in the 2020 season.

The Ferrari power unit found in the factory cars as well as customer organizations Haas F1 Team and Alfa Romeo Racing was also cited throughout the season as inferior to the competition. (Possibly a result of having to re-engineer their gasoline engine after an alleged exploit was discovered). 

The sixth place result in the Formula 1 constructors’ standings is the worst year-old finish for Scuderia Ferrari since the 1980 season.

Team's Drivers 

#16 Charles Leclerc: B-

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office/ Ferrari S.p.A.

Overall Season: 

After making a big sensation with Scuderia Ferrari in 2019 by scoring 10 podium finishes and two wins, Charles Leclerc’s second season with the ‘Prancing Horse’ was somewhat underwhelming. Collecting just two podiums in the 2020 obtained within the first four events of the Formula 1 season, Leclerc experienced a fairly average season fighting with an SF1000 race car that is admittedly not up to par with the front-running teams this past year.

Charles Leclerc asserted himself as the dominant driver within Scuderia Ferrari. The native of Monaco steadily out-qualified Sebastian Vettel starting an average of four positions higher over the course of the 17-race tour. The season-end drivers’ standings also showed Leclerc was superior to his teammate on race day garnering an eighth-place finish the overall drivers standings. 

The 2019 season proved Leclerc has the ingredients to be a Formula 1 superstar and the current limitation of Scuderia Ferrari’s race car is not deterring optimism for the his future.

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

From seventh place on the grid for the 2020 Formula 1 season’s opening round on the Red Bull Ring, Charles Leclerc raced to his best result of the past year. Though he crossed the line in third, a 5-second time penalty issued to Lewis Hamilton promoted Leclerc to second place. Charles Leclerc second and final podium of the 2020 season came after the chaotic ending to the British Grand Prix claiming third after qualifying fourth at Silverstone.

Following the British Grand Prix, the driver of the #16 Ferrari SF1000 race car hovered near the podium spots on multiple occasions. Leclerc qualified and finished fourth on three occasions.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

The 2020 Formula 1 for Charles Leclerc’s best efforts was largely limited to the vehicle he drove. Finishing fourth at the end of the 2019 campaign, Leclerc had to settle for a World Drivers’ Championship finish of eighth in the season that recently concluded. 

Though Charles Leclerc did a fine job for most grand prix events salvaging a point finish, there were also four retirements with two caused following opening lap collisions where the Monaco native admitted fault. During a weekend described by Ferrari’s media relations with a release titled “Weekend to Forget”, the Styrian Grand Prix contained one of the lower moments for Leclerc. On turn 3 of the first lap, the #16 Ferrari embarrassing collided with teammate Sebastian Vettel knocking the rear wing off the #5 Ferrari race car. Vettel retired at the end of the opening lap while Leclerc placed his car in the garage on lap four. “What happened today is clearly my fault, there’s nothing else to say. I take full responsibility. I made a mistake and apologising is not enough. We need to take every opportunity and today we could have had one, because even though we might not have the performance to collect a lot of points at the moment, every single point is important and anything can happen in the race, as we saw last week.” Leclerc stated on the post-race press release from Ferrari.

The second lowlight in Charles Leclerc’s 2020 season was the opening lap DNF at the Sakhir Grand Prix. On the Bahrain International Circuit’s outer layout, Leclerc was duelling with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull race car and Sergio Perez’s Racing Point vehicle for third place from the start and attempted a late braking move heading into turn four. Barely edging Verstappen into the corner, Leclerc surprise Perez with his overly aggressive entrance colliding with the pink Racing Point car. Leclerc and Verstappen ended their race in the turn four retaining barrier.  

Charles Leclerc also missed an opportunity at a third podium finish in the Turkish Grand Prix held at the Intercity Istanbul Park track. Running third and attempting to pass Sergio Perez’s Racing Point RP20 race car for second place on the final lap, Leclerc locked up his brakes heading into the track’s turn 12 and fell to fourth. Following the race, teammate Sebastian Vettel who finished third complimented Leclerc in the team’s press release saying, “I can understand he is very angry about what happened, because in many ways, I see myself in him. But he is so strong that very soon, this day will be completely unimportant in his mind. He drove a great race.”

#5 Sebastian Vettel: C-

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office/ Ferrari S.p.A.

Overall Season: 

When four-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Sebastian Vettel joined Scuderia Ferrari in 2015, it was strongly implied that the pairing was expected to provide the strongest challenger against the aligned powerhouse of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG. Though Vettel and Ferrari were able to show signs that they could rival the Silver Arrows team in several seasons leading up to 2020, the group constantly came up short. By the end of the 2019 Formula 1 calendar, it became apparent the German’s time with the Italian team was going to be nearing an end as Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc was frequently outperforming him and won Ferrari’s favour. News in May of 2020 that Sebastian Vettel was not returning to Ferrari following the end of the yet-to-be run season came as little shock. 

When the 2020 Formula 1 season got started in Austria, observers wanted to see how the pending split of driver and constructor would impact the performance of the #5 Ferrari SF1000 race car. A case could definitely be made that Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari a difficult dynamic during their final season together. In addition to dealing with the troublesome 2020 race car, Vettel had one of his worst full-time campaigns in Formula 1. Scoring top-10 finishes in 7 of the 17 races, four of the final five races of 2020 ended with no points being gained. This drought period would include Vettel’s only podium finish of the past year in Turkey.

Sebastian Vettel has signed to be part of Aston Martin’s Formula 1 race program for the 2021 season. 

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

A driver considered to be a podium contender, Sebastian Vettel’s 2020 Formula 1 season was light on successes. An incompatibility with a slow SF1000 race car gave Vettel a difficult time throughout much of the past year. 

One major shining moment for Sebastian Vettel was a podium finish scored in a tricky race at the Intercity Istanbul Park track. Positioned in eleventh place on the grid at the start of the Turkish Grand Prix, the 33-year-old German had a breathtaking launch on the wet circuit and masterfully weaving his way up to fourth place on the first lap. Running in fourth spot in the final lap, Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc was ahead challenging the #11 Racing Point race car of Sergio Perez for second place. Heading into turn 12, Leclerc made a mistake allowing Vettel to take third place. 

Although the season did not go well for the German driver, Sebastian Vettel left Scuderia Ferrari with kind words. “This race is not one I will remember. But what I will remember are the gestures of all the team members, the mechanics, the engineers, the catering guys and so on. I think the energy has been different today and I felt that, and will carry it with me forever. I will miss Charles. Obviously he gave me a headache here and there, and we are at very different stages of our lives and careers. But he’s certainly a good kid and I think he will go a long way, he will be the man of the future. I hope he gets the car he deserves.” Vettel said in a post-race Ferrari press release following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

The 2020 season is a stretch of racing in Formula 1 that depicted Sebastian Vettel well off his form as a multiple time world drivers’ champion. Finishing the season 13th in the 2020 drivers’ standings, the campaign is seen as one of the worst in the German’s entire full-time career in the series. 

Throughout most of 2020, Vettel was bettered on pace by teammate Charles Leclerc on a race weekend. Starting with qualifying, the average result for Vettel’s #5 Ferrari was 13th among full-time entrant. Sebastian Vettel only broke into the Q3 session of qualifying three times during the season with his best grid position being 5th for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Racing with the SF1000 race car proved challenging as 10 grand prix events saw Vettel leaving without scoring a single point. In the final eight Formula 1 races of 2020, Vettel classified in the top 10 at the end just twice.

Entering the Austrian Grand Prix with confirmation that Sebastian Vettel was leaving Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the year, there was some belief the German wasn’t receiving the same level of support from the team as Leclerc. The on-track results seem to add some credence to this allegation but it’s unlikely the team would want one of their vehicles to underperform. 

Sebastian Vettel leaves Scuderia Ferrari in a similar position as Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso as championship drivers who fell short of winning a championship driving for the Prancing Horse. However, it’s worth noting that the parting during this difficult season appeared to be done on friendly terms by the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with “Grazie Seb” being found throughout the team’s garage.

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