Scuderia Ferrari is F1’s most successful and famous race team who has won more races and championships than any other team since the start of F1 racing. It is clear Ferrari is in a dry spell, and now everyone is asking what happened to Ferrari F1?
Technical issues, leadership problems, CEO Louis Camilleri’s surprise resignation, regulation restrictions, engine rule changes, slower cars, and inconsistent performances from drivers led Ferrari to have some tough seasons that caused team Ferrari to have the worst season and finish in forty years.
2021 marked Ferrari’s second season consecutively without a victory, and Ferrari did not experience this since 1992. Red Bull and Mercedes became F1’s dominant racing teams, and Ferrari has been trying to catch them ever since. Let’s find out what happened and is still happening at Ferrari F1.
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Ferrari finished second in the F1 constructors’ championship for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019. In 2021 Ferrari dropped to sixth place.
In 2019 team Ferrari earned 19 podiums finishes, three wins, between two drivers. In 2021 they only managed to achieve a total of three podiums.
F1 racing expects yearly progress. Team Ferrari’s lack of performance has been disappointing in the year they celebrated its 1000th Grand Prix.
If Ferrari stays in the same position next year as they have been this year, it will be disastrous for Ferrari. Scuderia Ferrari has a reputation as the most successful F1 team but hasn’t won a world championship since 2007. There are no excuses for these terrible results.
It’s been 14 years since a Ferrari driver clinched the title, Kimi Raikkonen raced to victory in the 2007 championship.
It is unimaginable to consider that these great F1 drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Kimmi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and Felipe Massa, who was the top driver before his 2009 accident, all could not perform enough to clinch a title seems unbelievable.
Stability and Leadership
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto would have been fired for such a low-performing season in any other racing team. He would have gone sooner than later if he were a football coach.
Mattia Binotto has been team principal of Scuderia Ferrari since 2018. Binotto managed to keep the team’s confidence. Ferrari has had three team principals since 2014, which is a high turnover for a team that only had two team principles during 21 years.
Sergio Marchionne, former Ferrari chairman and chief executive, took over in 2014. He was known to apply pressure to his principals constantly. He used such force that people always had to have their mobile phones, night and day. There would be trouble if he sent a message or text and did not get a reply within 30 seconds.
Marchionne died an untimely death in 2018 and was succeeded by Louis Camilleri. Camilleri understood the importance of investing and stability.
However, the future is uncertain after CEO Louis Camilleri’s resigned from Ferrari and has cast doubt over Mattia Binotto’s position as team principal.
Louis Camilleri resigned on 10 December 2020 as CEO of Ferrari and chairman of Philip Morris International. He cited personal reasons for leaving both positions with immediate effect ahead of the final Grand Prix weekend of the season. Chairman John Elkann replaces him for the time being.
When Ferrari was asked if there would be a restructuring of management due to the slow performances, Ferrari stated that through the 2020 season, team Ferrari has gone through a reorganization of its technical department to ensure more improved and effective implementation.
They further stated that the structure of Ferrari is an ongoing and continuous development to also deal with the introduction of new regulations in 2021.
As for Team Principal Mattia Binotto, they stated that he always had and still has the full support of the top management at Scuderia Ferrari.
Inconsistent Driver Performances
Team Ferrari earned 16 constructors’ titles, with no other F1 team coming close to their success. Williams is at second with nine titles.
Ferrari started the 2000’s well with five constructors’ titles and drivers’ titles for Michael Schumacher between 2000 to 2004. And another two victories in 2007 for Kimi Raikkonen. But then the winning streak stopped for Scuderia Ferrari.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 and earned three wins with Ferrari in his first season and was believed to win more titles. Vettel managed to finish second in the 2017 and 2018 drivers’ title championships, but that was it. Leclerc had surpassed Sebastian Vettel by far in performance and consistency over the past two years.
When Leclerc joined and secured seven poles, won races, it became clear that Vettel wasn’t as far ahead as Ferrari assumed Vettel would be at the end of the season. That added extra pressure onto Vettel to perform.
Ferrari confirmed Carlos Sainz Jr would replace Sebastian Vettel at the F1 team for the 2021 season, making it clear that rising young stars Leclerc and Sainz were the team’s future.
Some believe Vettel’s loss of confidence does not stem from Leclerc’s rise, but when Vettel challenged Lewis Hamilton, he just wiped the floor with Vettel. He came up short again and again with Lewis Hamilton.
Since then, Vettel has been on a downward spiral since the middle of 2018 when he crashed while leading the German Grand Prix. It wasn’t the only incident indicating Sebastian Vettel was cracking under pressure.
In 2017 in Azerbaijan, Vettel purposefully drove into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s car after he suspected Hamilton braked purposefully in front of him to force him to do the same or swerve to avoid crashing.
Vettel could have won the 2017 championship in Singapore with a pole position start but got into a collision with Max Verstappen and Kimmi Raikkonen at turn one, where the race ended for all of them. Hamilton took the victory and earned a lead in the standings, which he never relinquished for the rest of the season.
Everything got worse in 2018 with unnecessary collisions and several grid penalties, which resulted in lost points. Those errors were felt the whole season with the average starting positions on grid with Leclerc 8.3 and Vettel 12.2 and both with average finishes. That excluded retirements of 5.4 and 9.2 individually.
It was only at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix that Vettel showed his best again with his only podium of the year during difficult racing conditions. The track’s wet conditions and recent resurfacing meant drivers struggled to power down. Ferrari’s drivers managed to make it, with Vettel finishing third and Leclerc fourth.
Ferrari’s dry spell is due to the driver’s performance, and the car has been having issues and wasn’t fast enough even when driving in perfect conditions.
Regulation Nightmares and Slow Cars
Near the end of 2019, Ferrari started six races where only one of its cars earned a pole position. It ended with a rules clarification at the US Grand Prix, where the engine had to be modified to abide by the rules.
FIA checks did not find anything illegal with the Ferrari. Still, the rule changes reduced the Ferrari’s capability to race at the same level for the next two races, largely because of an underperforming engine.
Even though Ferrari claimed its innocence, Ferrari reached a private settlement with the FIA over the car’s engine during that year. No details were ever made public.
After thorough technical investigations, the FIA announced that they concluded their analysis of the operation of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 power unit and reached a settlement with Ferrari. The details of the agreement remained private and between the parties.
Additional engine rule changes before the start of the 2020 season affected the team more than any other team. It came as a surprise when Ferrari’s team principal admitted that Ferrari got the concept of the car wrong when they decided to go with a different wing design compared to all the other teams. It explains why the car lost a lot of time on the corners.
At the Belgian Grand Prix in August 2020, it was recorded that the Ferrari’s were, on average, 10 km/h slower than during the 2019 season.
During the 2019 season, the Ferrari’s were much faster, clinching multiple victories, including at Singapore, where they recorded a 1-2 finish. The win was the last for Vettel’s driving for Ferrari and the team’s most recent F1 win.
The race finishes and average starting positions in 2020 were far worse than the previous year. We expect Ferrari’s standards to be higher than that.
Even with low performance and without securing a win, it has been a positive year for Ferrari. Luckily for Ferrari, they invested in the 2021 car and engine before the new budget cap was introduced. The new budget cap was introduced to create a level playing field and end the dominance of one team.
The new budget cap begins at $145 million in 2021 and $140 million in 2022. It will stay at $135 million from 2023 to 2025. It is estimated that Ferrari reportedly spends $400 million per year. Racing teams were limited on the improvements they could make to their cars in 2021.
Ferrari will face some issues on the aerodynamics side because it will be more challenging to make gains because of the relative stability and regulations going into next year.
Ferrari managed to introduce a few upgrades in the second part of the season; even though the results did not entirely show it, they improved the car’s performance, which confirmed the car’s development was going in the correct direction.
In 2021 the basic development of the car was stopped. There were possibilities to improve the Ferrari in certain areas using the tokens allowed by the regulations, which were spent in the car’s rear.
There is a completely new power unit with the recent improvements in the area where development is free. The feedback on performance is encouraging for team Ferrari.
Hoping For a New Start
Scuderia Ferrari hopes new driver Sainz will help them recover back to the podium. Carlos Sainz is said to be moving to Italy to spend as much time as possible at the factory to motivate and lead.
Carlos Sainz joined Ferrari from McLaren in 2021 and said Ferrari needs to take a very big leap to get to the front of the grid again.
He said he would be the first one at the factory pushing to find more power for the cars and try and motivate everyone as soon as he arrived. Team Ferrari is not used to being in the midfield of the grid; it is a depressing sight.
Ferrari is a team that should be focused on competing and winning, not be reduced to an uncertain future. Regulation overhauls in 2022 could be the key to Ferrari’s return to the top spot.
The 2021 regulations didn’t allow Ferrari to go crazy on developments. With all that said, it will be difficult for Ferrari to leap up to the front again. Realistic gains can only be made in 2022.
Did Ferrari Redeem Themselves at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
Ferrari wanted to finish the season with a smile, and they achieved it when Scuderia Ferrari’s Mission Winnow’s 2021 season ended with Carlos Sainz’s on the podium in third place at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The team earned another third place for Constructors’ Championship standing. Leclerc finished in tenth place on points. Team Ferrari got both their drivers in the top ten the most frequently during 17 of the 22 races in the season.
The season-ending with Sainz on the podium was the best way to end a championship where Ferrari made significant progress compared to the previous seasons.
The gap to the titles is still very big, but it cannot be denied that Ferrari improved considerably and took a giant leap forward through the season.
The third place in the Constructors’ Championship is due to the efforts of everyone in the team. Everyone at team Ferrari worked hard to make this happen.
Determination, humility, unity, team spirit, and the will to improve together also extend to the drivers. Who showed excellent performance and are up to the task they have been given as Scuderia Ferrari drivers.
The two are the best pair on the grid. Ferrari can now concentrate on the development of next season’s car. Hopefully, Ferrari can give fans globally something to cheer about.
Even though Ferrari struggled through the seasons with a slow car, inconsistent driver performances, technical issues, and management problems, we can truly say that team Ferrari made fans stand up and cheer again at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with their excellent performances.
The Ferraris’ performed better than previous years, and it showed. The investment and developments made by team Ferrari to the cars and drivers paid off. Let’s hope this will continue into a winning streak and that the past struggles are left behind.