Team: Ferrari (400 points, runner-up in 2012 constructor’s championship)
2012 Drivers: Fernando Alonso (278 points, runner-up in 2012 driver’s championship), Felipe Massa (122 points, 7th in championship)
2013 Drivers: Fernando Alonso (Car Number 3) and Felipe Massa (4)
New Car: Another new year, another new car, another new name to call it by. This year’s car isn’t the F2013, but the F138: that’s for ‘2013’ and ‘the last V8’ for a while. It’s a looker we reckon although that might just be down to the new red white and black ‘Man U’ paint job, or the fact this writer was one of a minority who didn’t consider last year’s car a munter.
There’s a modesty panel over last year’s stepped nose and something a little more sculptural about the vast fences that secure the front wing. More importantly, there’s a much narrower rear section, more like Red Bull and likely to provide the platform for a lot of development there — Coanda style — and otherwise. Don’t forget Ferrari adopted pull-rod, upside-down suspension last year. McLaren, with one of this year’s boldest new designs, has followed suit. Gotta be something in that.
What Ferrari says about its 2012 season: “Veni. Vidi. But second in Brazil wasn’t enough”
What we say about 2012: Did we witness the greatest-ever series of drives not to win a world championship. Three-points — three points — considerably fewer than Alonso lost through being taken out by Grojean’s Lotus at Spa and Kimi’s Lotus in Japan, was the losing margin to Vettel.
We’re sticking by what we said earlier in the week that the Ferrari was inferior not only to the McLaren and the Red Bull but the Lotus too. Crunch the numbers in qualifying and you see that taking a single car or taking each team’s combined efforts, Lotus were ahead of Ferrari in qualifying in 2012. That it managed to finish nearly 100 points clear speaks volumes of Alonso’s ability to drive out of his and the car’s skin last year. He deserved to win. Second will be no consolation to a man like Alonso. He’s looking for that team to deliver now.
You don’t have to be Stefano Domenicali to sense the pressure on all inside the Scuderia. 2007 and Kimi’s title is long time ago now. Michael Schumacher’s run of five ancient history. Ferrari exists to win and it has all the resource to do so, human and otherwise with the possible exception of Adrian Newey. And even there this year it’s moved to cover its 2013 position by hiring Rory Byrne out of retirement to lead a distinct and independent 2014 team. Newey doesn’t have that luxury and it will be hard for a mind like his not to drift.
It’s all there, they’ve even abandoned the wonky wind tunnel right by the front gate for Toyota’s reliably calibrated tunnel a flight away in Germany. No stone it seems has been left un-optimised.
What Ferrari has to do to impress us this year: ‘Nando is already telling the world he “doesn’t need the fastest car to win the championship”. So it’s implicit that if he was to have the fastest car, he would win. And we’re going to stick our necks out here and say we think he will. It won’t be easy, Red Bull don’t get it wrong and McLaren must be extremely motivated to get it right. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who might yet run interference, but we think this is Fernando Alonso’s year.
If you pay any attention to testing… The single most important fact to log from all Ferrari’s winter testing kilometres is that Felipe Massa has never been far behind Fernando Alonso and occasionally ahead. The Massa we saw at the end of 2012 will be the Massa who will start the 2013 season, which is good for Ferrari. It also suggests to us that the car is indeed so much better than last year’s; frankly speaking Massa can get more out of a good car than he can a bad. At the end of the last test Alonso was second only to Rosberg’s supersonic Silver Arrow, Massa just behind Hamilton’s similarly speedy Merc in fourth.
Who are Ferrari really racing this year? We think it will, by the time the season settles down, inevitably be Red Bull, but we reckon Lewis will be in there too to re-open the old rivalry. We all know Ferrari can be ruthlessly un-Italian when it needs to be so let’s not be melodramatic about this. Efficient too; there were very few mistakes in 2012. It will come down to how fast the F138 is come Sunday.