Ferrari Resurgence in F1
(Note this story is also posted at CafeSpa)
This past weekend was the second race of the 2015 Formula 1 season with the Malaysian Grand Prix. Ferrari has made progress from its dismal performance last year, though with a bar set so low any progress is significant.
In the race to produce road cars that leave nothing to the imagination, Ferrari has been at the top. Ferrari's road car models clearly demonstrate the passion of a company committed to producing top levels of performance while ensuring top level aesthetic. In spite of Ferrari's continued production of amazing cars, the drought of F1 world championships leaves the fans and owners feeling hollow. Ferrari as a brand is built upon its success in F1 and other forms of racing. Ferrari has dominated various levels of GT racing in the United States and Europe with variants of the 458. The 458 GT won the constructors title in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2014. When Ferrari goes racing they are favorites to win, and a threats to dominant. That unique exhaust note on a 458 or LaFerrari isn't just there to scare pedestrians and provide GoPro footage, it's a product of racing, desire and passion.
The Tifosi have been nervous as they have spent years bringing all of their passion to only be rewarded with watching other German makers take home the merchandise. Often the Ferrari fan is left just hoping for a top ten finish. Being the best of the rest is an unnatural place for a brand that has produced so much. Just think, as Ferrari produced some of the most amazing road cars ever built, Mercedes and Red Bull Renault have dominated F1. Neither company makes anything on par with Ferrari road cars, let alone the LaFerrari, yet Ferrari had nothing to match them on track. Some may argue that the rules of F1 created this crisis, but the reality is that every team struggles at some point. Ferrari's F1 problem was not just a struggle, but the normalization of mediocrity.
Ferrari instituted sweeping changes over the winter break in a Red Wedding style change-over that saw the ouster of several top personnel. Installed was new team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene. Since his ascendancy, rumors are that Ferrari has returned to the Cold War like attitude of the Todt/ Brawn/Schumacher era where separation between team and rivals both in the paddock and on track is key to winning.
Now that the results are in from Malaysia the changes appear to be taking effect. Ferrari qualified second, the first front row in two years. Then on Sunday something happened that hadn't occurred in 34 races. Ferrari came out on top. After a ballsy strategy call, where in spite of a safety car early in the race that pulled most teams in to the pits, Ferrari made the call with Vettel to stay with their two stop strategy. The Ferrari driven by Kimi Raikkonen also put on a performance but with a first lap tire puncture that put him in last place Kimi was stuck fighting up through the field for the entire race. He made his way back from last place to finish the race fourth.
It's only the second race of a long season, but not since Michael Schumacher won the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix have both the German and Italian national anthems been played on the podium. Over several mediocre seasons the Tifosi had to will on their beloved Scuderia every lap just to take a top ten finish. After yesterday, it's now a resurgent Ferrari that provides the driving spirit.