Few would have expected Ferrari to overturn their fortunes the way they did in 2015. Now the onus is on the Scuderia to take the fight to Mercedes in the coming year.
Ferrari endured a torrid 2014 season - it’s worst since 1993-, with its campaign blighted by what was arguably the worst power unit of the lott.
Naturally, multiple changes were made on the managerial and technical side, even before the curtain fell on the season.
Two team principals, including long standing chief Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo and engine boss Luca Marmorini, were all ousted as a new managerial structure took place.
Former Marlboro man Maurizio Arrivabene took the helm of the team, while Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne took over the presidency of Ferrari, as part of a wider plan to turn the Italian luxury car maker into a cash cow for its parent company. James Allison continued in his role on the chassis side, with the SF15-T becoming the first car he had his input from the very beginning.
While the outfit’s successful turnaround in 2015 was partly down to the previous management, the role of new faces was greater in the sense that they brought a breath of fresh air along with them.
Their appointment, along with that of Sebastian Vettel, who was poached from Red Bull as a replacement for McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso, reduced the politics within the team to a certain, but significant extent.
The German also gelled well with incumbent Kimi Raikkonen who unofficially took the number-two status within the team.
Major gains on the power unit front
Over the winter, Scuderia made major strides on the power unit side, with the new chassis also a level up on its predecessor. More importantly, the team found a major loophole in the regulations that allowed for in-season engine development, something that aided their turnaround over the course of the year.
The results of the changes made were immediately visible on track, with Vettel taking an opportunistic win in only the second race of the season in Malaysia. While the four-time world champions stayed out on track during the safety car period, Mercedes decided to take the gamble and relinquish track position. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, in the silver cars, couldn’t make up the places as they would have probably expected, handing Vettel his first victory since his 2013 heydays.
Two further wins came in Hungary and Singapore, with the latter purely down to sheer pace, rather than fortune or strategy. At that occasion, Mercedes simply struggled with tyres and set up of the car, with Vettel rising to the occasion to exceed Arrivabene target of two wins in 2015.
Quite impressively, the 28 year old regularly finished on the podium all season long, only missing out on a rostrum occasion at six occasions.
Raikkonen’s performances, in contrast, were below par. But the management is confident in his abilities and feels he can play a helping hand in Vettel’s potential title shot in 2016.
Looking ahead to the new season..
Ferrari has now put itself in a position to challenge Mercedes for championship in 2016, which also bodes well for the greater good of the sport. But with Mercedes not standing still, it won’t be a cakewalk for F1’s most successful team.
by Rachit Thukral
Latest Season Reviews