Even before the five lights go green at the much-awaited start at Austria, Ferrari have thrown in a headliner that’s got everyone talking.
So what’s cooking at Maranello and does it concern the SF1000 in what lies ahead?
As important as the track and conditions, car upgrades are an aspect of the sport that can make or break destinies and shuffle up the pecking order. In that aspect, it helps to know the Scuderia cars shall be working toward ‘significant changes’ in the 2020 direction of the car.
So what can one expect from Ferrari in the days and weeks to come?
The famous racing marquee confirmed that it shall not be improving the SF1000 for the forthcoming Austrian doubleheader. Not only that, but Ferrari also confirmed they’ll run the same spec car as the one used during the end of the winter-testing.
Whether the announcement serves up some underwhelming response for Ferrari enthusiasts is open for discussion.
However, the lack of development prompts a question.
Just how fast were the scarlet red machines during a period of testing where the Red Bulls were found to be quicker and closer to the heels of the table-topping Silver Arrows?
Not too hard to guess, one reckons.
That said, what’s the direction change in the forthcoming months about?
In lines with bringing new car updates, Ferrari, offering a clear and straightforward response, have added that none can be expected until the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sources closer to Maranello suggest that the poor performance at the winter testing , held earlier at Spain, seemed to have propelled the decision with Mattia Binotto confessing a disappointing run earlier made the outfit ‘rethink’ the entire strategy.
Does this, however, mean we won’t see the red cars notch up blazing speeds at a track where their recent form has been anything but disappointing?
Lest is it is forgotten that previously in 2018, Kimi Raikkonen, currently with Alfa Romeo, starred in a Ferrari 2-3, with Vettel completing the third step on the podium, and Charles Leclerc truly put on a show at 2019 pushing eventual race-winner Max Verstappen to the edge during the closing stages.
When asked about what lies ahead, here’s what the current team principal had to offer, “This weekend the car will run in the same configuration used towards the end of the Barcelona tests.”
That’s not all. The bespectacled thinker also added some bits about the direction change for Mercedes’ closest rivals adding, “This doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs in the very limited time of just five and a half weeks in which we were able to work on the cars, because of the stringent procedures involved in working around the pandemic as well as the total shutdown of activities required by the FIA in agreement with the teams.”
“The truth is that the outcome of the tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front.
“First, we had to understand why we did not see the results we had expected on track and how much to recalibrate the whole programme as a result. It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned, knowing that we would not have reached our goals.
“Therefore we decided to come up with a new programme that looked at the whole car, knowing that not all of it would be ready for the first race.
“Our aim is to introduce the updates at the third race on 19 July at the Hungaroring. Apart from that, over and above the actual development of the car itself, these past few weeks we have worked a lot on analysing its behaviour, with simulation work and with the help of our drivers and I think that will prove its worth in Austria.
“We know that, at the moment, we don’t have the fastest package. We knew it before heading for Melbourne and that hasn’t changed. Having said that, the Spielberg circuit has different characteristics to Montmelo and the temperatures will be well above those of February.
“In Austria, we must try and make the most of every opportunity and then in Hungary, with the new development step we are working on, we will be able to see where we are really compared to the others, while having to take into account the developments our competitors themselves will have brought along.
“The truth is that trying to make predictions at the start of such an unusual season is even more pointless than usual. There will be a few pointers come the end of the three hours of Friday practice, but a more accurate idea will be available after Saturday’s qualifying. Only then will we start to have a clearer picture of the hierarchy among the teams, but then there is always the uncertainty that comes with the opening round, in terms of reliability and tyre performance over a race distance.
“We must try and be perfect in everything we do, in preparing for every session and in how we carry out our tasks. The aim? To bring home as many points as possible, as is always the case in fact,” concluded Binotto.
All of that told, there’s little surprise in noting that few questions had been raised in the front of the aerodynamic functioning of the car that marks 70 years of Formula 1.
Though he understands the need to be realistic in their expectations, Sebastian Vettel is excited to get racing in his final season in the famous red overalls.
“It’s no secret that we’re all really keen to get back on track, as it’s been such a long time now. At the start, the break was enjoyable, as usually we are always travelling around the world and we have little time to spend with family and friends, but the time has come to get back on track. I’m ready to give it my all, even if it won’t be the same without the fans there supporting us. The Austrian track is like a carousel that goes round really quickly but I like it a lot, especially as it is high in the mountains which I love. We have to be realistic when it comes to the pecking order seen at the tests, but we are not downhearted. It will also be unusual doing two races in a row here as for the second one we will have a lot of data to work with. What we do in the first weekend will have an important effect on the second,” said Vettel.
There’s little surprise in noting that on the very aspect where Ferrari have, thus far, been found wanting is where Mercedes have aced in their 2020 car, the machine that many regard will help Lewis Hamilton claim a seventh driver’s title.
So can a new programme put the legendary outfit back on track to halt Mercedes marauding charge, the dominant theme for the sport in the past half a decade. Well, a lot will become clear when we see how the car handles and reacts in the hands of Leclerc and Vettel.
For now, all eyes on Spielberg.