Ferrari’s Australian Grand Prix Review: Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Melbourne is a start, now they must maintain it

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Sunday 26 March 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _W6I4899  via PirelliThey say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

But in the Australian sunshine, there is no question that Ferrari will certainly be feeling a warm glow after they became the first team other than Mercedes to lead the World Championship with Sebastian Vettel’s victory.

The win was Vettel’s 43rd, but from the way the four-time World Champion celebrated his fourth Ferrari success you’d think it was his very first.

It was a disappointing 2016 for both Vettel and Ferrari, in which much was promised but little delivered and it appears lessons have been learnt.

After all the flattering to deceive in 2016, in which they never could get over the line when in a race-winning position, Ferrari have given nothing away unlike the public confidence exuded 12 months ago.

After multiple strategy mistakes like in and Canada Melbourne last year, in which the Prancing Horse managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on both occasions, their strategy became a laughing stock.

Internally they will know that after all the tricks and flicks in testing that season cannot play out in a similar fashion

So it took a lot of bottle not to just simply follow Hamilton into the pits on lap 17 and instead push it to lap 23.

By that point Hamilton had spent six laps staring at the back of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, and with Vettel having more clean laps than not, he was able to squeeze ahead of the Mercedes – and crucially the Red Bull.

It appears Vettel has his mojo back too.

His angst with everything and everyone last season a lot of critics questioned his motivation.

When Ferrari were a second or more off the pace on Friday, Vettel, who had spent the winter telling anyone who’d listen that Mercedes were the quickest, was unruffled in a way that he perhaps wasn’t towards the end of last year.

His drive to victory was calmness personified and has raised hopes that we might finally see a battle between Hamilton and Vettel for the title in a fight not too dissimilar to the days of Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher.

Kimi Raikkonen had a less illustrious drive to fourth, with his only half-battle coming in the shape of Max Verstappen chasing him from time to time.

The 2007 champion admitted the team found setup issues after qualifying – too late to make changes to the car.

Victory for Ferrari isn’t a huge shock, despite the upgrades brought in by Mercedes. The Scuderia were quick in testing and less than 0.3 slower in qualifying despite a so-so sector one for Vettel on his flier.

This result by no means guarantees that Ferrari will be at the top of the tree, or fighting with Mercedes through the season.

It doesn’t guarantee either that Red Bull, despite being slower than expected, are completely out of the running already.

The litmus test for Ferrari is whether they can maintain the pace for the rest of the season.

Indeed, one swallow does not make a summer.

But if Ferrari sustain this battle with Mercedes, they’ll have plenty more birds singing.

Jack Prentice

The BMW-Williams Era

 

A six-season partnership that for four years were the upstarts in the face of the all-conquering combination of Michael Schumacher.

Williams lost their factory Renault engines at the end of 1997 and it took until 2000 for them to find another factory engine with BMW. The first line-up of that era featured the experienced Ralf Schumacher in his second year with the team and 20-year-old rookie Jenson Button – at the time the youngest ever Formula One driver.

While expectations for their season back in Formula One were low, 2000 proved to be a solid start to the season for BMW Williams. Ralf Schumacher’s consistent driving took him to fifth place with 24 points (Only the top 6 scored in those days) behind the dominant Ferrari and McLaren quartet of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Button impressed in his first season, finishing a solid eighth on 12 while the team’s three podiums all went to Schumacher, with third place finishes in Australia, Belgium and Italy.

2001 was BMW Williams’ breakthrough year. Juan Pablo Montoya joined from Indycars after success in Champ cars and the Indianapolis 500 joined and Button was loaned to the ailing Benetton team. The BMW engine was more powerful and Montoya was in line for his first victory in just his third race at the Brazilian Grand Prix, before a bizarre accident when lapping the Arrows of Jos Verstappen as the Dutchman drove over the back of the Colombian’s car.

Ralf Schumacher took the first victory for Williams since 1997 at the San Marino Grand Prix, dominating after snatching the lead from David Coulthard at the start of the race. His second career win was historic in that it was the first time in Formula One history that siblings had finished first and second as he led home Michael at the Canadian Grand Prix. Schumacher’s third victory came during his home race at the final race around the old Hockenheimring later that season.

Montoya did win a race in his debut season despite a number of technical issues and collisions when he was the class of the field at the Italian Grand Prix. Schumacher finished the season fourth, just seven points behind Barrichello as his brother walked away with his fourth World Drivers’ Championship. Montoya was beaten to fifth by the retiring Hakkinen, the team taking four wins and a further five podiums on their way to third in the standings.

Ferrari were to increase their stranglehold over F1 in 2002, although on occasion Williams did threaten. Williams overhauled McLaren, but their only victory in 2002 was a splendid 1-2 led home by Ralf at the Malaysian Grand Prix to provide the fans and paddock with ultimately false hope that Ferrari would be challenged after 2001. In reality, Ferrari were never off the podium and won the Constructors’ Championship by 129 points, with Williams second on 92.

The 2003 season was as good as it got for BMW Williams. Montoya’s excellent form during the summer almost won him the title, with points npw awarded to the top eight. Ralf Schumacher’s fifth place saw the team finish a much closer second to Ferrari in the constructors in what was the closest Championship fight since 1999.

An indifferent first six races for Montoya heralded three retirements and 15 points as Williams initially struggled for consistency. His season was transformed after victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, during which he led home Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher as the trio were covered by 1.7 seconds.

That victory sparked a run of eight straight podiums including another win at a crash-strewn German Grand Prix lap to leave the Colombian three points behind Schumacher with two races left. Ralf briefly brought himself into contention with a stellar run of form as he won two straight races at the European and French Grands Prix, before tailing off with bad luck and injury.

A drive-through penalty for a collision with Barrichello at the US Grand Prix served just as the heavens opened meant Montoya was condemned to sixth place, which combined with Schumacher’s victory ended his title aspirations with one race left.

After a strong 2003, big things were expected for a 2004 that never took off. BAR and Renault became F1’s new kids on the block and Montoya was on the podium only three times. His triumph at the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of the season was the last of the BMW era.

Ralf Schumacher suffered broken vertebrae in his back at the US Grand Prix and was forced to miss six races, with his place taken firstly by Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia. With Montoya fifth, he was ninth in the standings as BMW Williams limped to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Montoya left to join McLaren for 2005 and Schumacher joined the ambitious Toyota outfit, and the final season of BMW’s association with Williams was contested with Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld at the helm.

Heidfeld was on the podium in Malaysia before a famous 2-3 finish behind the imperious Raikkonen at Monaco, but results dried up as BMW announced their intentions to buy Sauber to form their own factory team.

Webber would end the season tenth on 36 points while Heidfeld left Williams 11th on 28 after missing the final five races, with the team fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in their final year with BMW.

Williams did not buy customer engines from BMW for 2006 and thus ended a six-season partnership during which they scored 10 wins, with 2003 a highlight as they challenged for the title for the only time since Jacques Villeneuve’s 1997 triumph.

After spells with Cosworth, Toyota and Renault the team are now supplied by Mercedes and came closest to winning only their second Grand Prix since the BMW contract ended with a front row lockout by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

The majority of the BMW era will be remembered for Williams being the only team to consistently mount a challenge to the Ferrari juggernaut.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

Image Courtesy of Matthew Pigg

Scuderia Ferrari – Season Preview

Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Wednesday 08 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _L0U5019

Ferrari can consider themselves to be one of the teams that had a successful winter’s work in Barcelona during testing.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel set the two quickest times around the Circuit De Catalunya, and they’ve done enough to have the Mercedes camp worried.

It’s not just on outright pace, where Ferrari were clearly holding back, that the Prancing Horse were competitive.

The Scuderia completed almost 1,000 laps and along with Mercedes were the only team to complete Grand Prix distance runs on multiple occasions.

It is important not to take testing as gospel, despite Lewis Hamilton’s best attempts to make Ferrari favourites after an intriguing pre-season.

After a solid 2015, Ferrari were predicted to take 2016 by storm but as the season wore on it became clear that they were flattering to deceive, with strategic errors in Australia and Canada and failure to develop the car as the season wore on.

After himself having a tumultuous season last year, Vettel wasn’t quick to point out that the Barcelona form guide is only a vague one.

“It’s impossible to predict anything,” he told Sports Bild. “Even the tests in Barcelona only give a basic idea where you stand.

“It is only in the first race that you will know how well you and the others have worked over the winter. We’ll only get real clarity after three or four races.”

Despite his caution, Vettel still that a title at Ferrari is still in the question, after his predecessor Fernando Alonso left after he lost confidence in the Maranello squad.

Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Tuesday 07 March 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _SLB3905

“If not, I wouldn’t go to the start grid.

“All I can say is that the spirit in the team is good, everyone is working for everyone else’s benefit.”

Raikkonen, who won the 2007 World Championship with Ferrari, believes that the team have made a step forward compared to last year.

“There are a few small issues but if we look a year ago, we are in a much stronger position. The car is reliable and we have to be positive with how we have gone forward as a team.”

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

A Penny for the Thoughts of Fernando Alonso After McLaren-Honda’s Latest Woes?

(Image credit McLaren-Honda F1 Team)

 

One can only wonder at the thoughts running through the head of Fernando Alonso as he prepares for yet another handicapped season with the McLaren-Honda package.

The two-time World Champion, who took the last of his 32 Grand Prix victories in Spain almost four years ago, has spent the last two seasons trundling around in an underpowered McLaren, scrapping away for minor points at best. Meanwhile, despite much-publicised errors last year, Ferrari – the team Alonso left as he had lost faith in their ability to win him a third title – have improved immeasurably from their woefully uncompetitive 2014. They even look like they could be hot on the heels of the all-conquering Mercedes team if testing is anything to go by.

Honda had promised to be level with Mercedes after three years but, despite redesigning their engine over the winter, they have nowhere near the amount of power Merc have at their disposal. Even if they did, the reliability has been so poor that Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne brought out the red flag four times (twice each) in the last two days of testing alone. They didn’t once complete a Grand Prix distance inside a day, with their best effort being 55. Mercedes completed 1,096 laps in testing, Ferrari, whose last World Drivers’ Championship came in 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen, completed almost 1,000 themselves.

McLaren?

Well, they completed 475 laps across eight days. That is well over 600 laps down on Mercedes. Their ultimate pace has only been faster than the struggling Sauber team, although McLaren’s 1:21.3 was set on the faster ultrasoft tyre whereas Sauber’s best effort, three tenths slower, was on supersofts.

Honda expect to introduce a newer-spec engine for the Australian Grand Prix but before testing it was hoped they’d introduce that in the second test. Instead of being at least a certainty for points, as Alonso hoped he would be doing after all the noises made by team and engine supplier in the autumn of last year, he’ll spend the Australian Grand Prix sorting out more issues.

Even if they sort out those issues over that weekend, they have a lot of power to make up regardless of what mapping they use at Albert Park. McLaren were between 25-30kph (15-18mph) slower than Mercedes down the straights in Barcelona. The most frustrating thing about that detail for driver, team and fans are that until that deficit is significantly reduced, we will not know how good McLaren’s chassis is.

Alonso seems to rate it, and was frank in his assessment of McLaren’s problem. When speaking to Spanish media during the second test, he accused Honda of “not being ready to win,”, having previously taken to team radio during his second stint at McLaren to lambast the lack of grunt underneath his right foot. No-one will forget the “GP2 engine” or the “amateurs” outbursts anytime soon.

Those words will be ringing in the ears of McLaren, who are acutely aware of the damage to their reputation that Honda’s stagnation is continuing to inflict. However, they cannot just simply make a change, even if Team Principle Eric Boullier says that the engine problems are “putting maximum strain” on their relationship.

Honda contribute a net $100m to the team and with few title sponsors, McLaren simply cannot afford to lose that and buy another customer engine. There are also still seven years left on the ten-year contract agreed in late 2013, when Ron Dennis was adamant that it was the only way McLaren to return to the winners’ circle following a poor 2013.

Three years into the reunion of the glory partnership that swept all before them in the late 1980s, it looks as if his crystal ball was murky at best. While Honda gave themselves little over a year to prepare the most complex engine ever seen in Formula One, the benchmark supplier Mercedes were working on this technology back in 2010.

Honda are proof in that the harsh world of F1 has no sympathy for those who overpromise and underdeliver. By underestimating the mammoth task ahead when they re-entered the sport, they’ve chased their tails in the past two years and in the third are now back where they started. Three years behind, and little sign of bridging a gap the size of the Grand Canyon.

It is barely possible to imagine Alonso’s anger should Ferrari, the team he felt couldn’t give him a title, live up to their winter promise and bring an end to the Mercedes supremacy.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

John Surtees’ Death Will be Felt Across Motorsport

The death of John Surtees will unite the two biggest motorsport communities in a way that no other could. Only the death of Mike Hailwood over 40 years ago comes close.

To say that Surtees, who died at the age of 83, packed a lot into his life is a masterpiece of understatement. “Big John” was already a seven-time motorcycle World Champion before Formula One came calling in 1960, when he was 26.

It didn’t take him long to conquer that either, as he won the 1964 Formula One world championship for Ferrari to emulate fellow countryman Mike Hawthorn six years before him. He was one of the bright lights in a decade of British greats that included Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jacki Stewart to name just three.

Surtees was a big name in his own right before he joined the F1 circus. He took his first title aged just 22 on a factory Augusta to become one of the feared names on the motorcycle scene. John would go on to completely dominate between 1958-60, the year he began his F1 career. During that period, he only failed to win five races, finishing on the podium in three of those and winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1959.

In just his second Grand Prix he took second place at Silverstone driving for Lotus at the 1960 British Grand Prix. That woke the F1 world up, but it wasn’t until 1963 that he was snapped up by one of F1’s biggest names – Ferrari.

He won during his debut season with the Scuderia around the fearsome Nurburgring, making the podium on another two occasions. Despite Clark winning his maiden World Championship, the foundations were set for Surtees to make history.

He had to do it the hard way in 1964. Surtees only finished once in the first four races – a second place at the Dutch Grand Prix – and seemed well out of contention on just six points back in seventh place.

But, assisted by the resurgence of Ferrari in the middle of the season he put together an excellent run of four podiums in the next five race races, including wins in Germany and at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix to leave himself five points behind Hill going into the deciding Mexican Grand Prix.

Clark, the outsider nine points back, dominated the early exchanges as Hill was slowed down dramatically after an incident with Surtees’ teammate Lorenzo Bandini. Clark looked all set to win the title until he retired on the last lap with an oil leak, which left Surtees in third behind Bandini when he needed to finish second.

Ferrari saw this and ordered Bandini to allow Surtees through in an early show of their now regular team orders. Surtees ended up taking the championship by one point to achieve a feat that will never be achieved again and become World Champion of the premier class of car and motorcycle racing.

While Clark ran away with the title in 1965 to regain the championship, Ferrari were more competitive in 1966. However, Surtees left the team following a falling out with team manager Eugenio Dragoni over being dropped for the Le Mans 24 hours when he had every chance of a second world title.

Ironically it was to be Jack Brabham, another man with a unique F1 achievement to his name, who took the title. No other man has won a World Championship in a car bearing their own name since the Australian achieved that feat 51 years ago.

For 1967 Surtees joined Honda and over a two-year stint took one victory, although the Japanese marque left the sport at the end of 1968 after Jo Schlesser’s death at the French Grand Prix. After two years at BRM, he formed his own team in 1970.

Team Surtees was to never hit the heights that their owner managed to and John retired, barring one race in 1972, from F1 in 1971 to focus on running the team. After a lack of sponsorship, it folded after the 1978 season.

Tragedy was to strike for Surtees after nurturing the career of his young son, Henry. The 18-year-old was killed in a tragic accident in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in July 2009, when he was struck on the head by a wheel from an incident ahead. After that, he was to set up a charity in his son’s name to help people recovering from injuries.

Surtees possessed records enviable to most of those who only compete in either Formula One or MotoGP. His feat of winning World Championships on two wheels and four is unlikely ever to be matched. But it is important to remember his warm and endearing character, as well as the history-maker he was.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

(IMAGE CREDIT: ESPN)

Allison Takes Experience to Mercedes for 2017

Former Lotus, Renault and Ferrari technical director James Allison has agreed to join Mercedes in the same position. The 49-year-old, who also won two world drivers’ and constructors’ championships at Renault from 2005, will officially start work in March.

Allison had been out of Formula One since July last year following the death of his wife, and joins following the departure of former technical chief Paddy Lowe to Williams.

On joining the team that won all except two races last year, Allison had this to say: “I am very excited to be getting back to work after this time away from the sport.

“It’s a massive privilege to be given the trust of a position in a team that has done so spectacularly well in the past three seasons.

“I am really looking forward to playing my part in helping Mercedes go from strength to strength in the coming years.”

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff added: “I am delighted to welcome James to Mercedes and very much looking forward to working with him. Our technical team is extremely skilled at every level and at the top of its game after delivering three world championships in a row.”

Allison will officially start work during the first pre-season test in Barcelona, where despite the huge shake up in technical regulations Mercedes are once again expected to be on top.

The Silver Arrows are looking to defend a run of dominance that has seen them win each of the last three World Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.

The new Formula One season begins on March 26 at Albert Park, Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, where yet another thrilling season will start.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

Vettel’s Potty Mouth The Least of F1’s Problems

GP GIAPPONE F1/2016 – SUZUKA 08/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Sebastian Vettel’s radio messages and the subsequent outcry as a result of them have done a lot to reveal plenty about Formula One and the hypocrisy surrounding some of its following.

Vettel called Red Bull driver Max Verstappen a “c***” and told race director Charlie Whiting to “**** off” in the final laps following the Dutchman’s refusal to move over despite cutting the chicane at turn two.

Importantly, and what plenty who have stuck the knife into the four-time World Champion are keen to ignore, he apologised to Whiting straight after the race. Before he climbed onto the podium. Which he was stripped of following a penalty for moving under breaking when defending from Daniel Ricciardo.

Had he not done that he would have faced an FIA tribunal and possibly been fined or even suspended.

Seriously?

They didn’t take such measures at the Belgian Grand Prix of 2002 when Juan Pablo Montoya described Kimi Raikkonen in unflattering terms, nor was it an issue when Ricciardo called Nico Rosberg the same thing as Vettel did Verstappen in the US Grand Prix…last week.

For heaven’s sake Ayrton Senna punched Eddie Irvine in the face at the 1993 Japanese Grand Prix and Michael Schumacher was quite prepared to do the same to David Coulthard at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix. Even the best lose their rag.

This is one example of some irate messages from an array of drivers including Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen and more that have been X-rated both in this and previous season.

His critics, and there have been plenty regarding his expressions of displeasure, appear to have decided that Vettel’s expletives are the biggest crisis since Spygate in 2007.

Let’s be clear. I’m not saying it’s right that Vettel should choose to voice his angst like this, and that Vettel’s choice of words towards Whiting especially was poor. He should not kick off at the Race Director like that and it is also right that he shall be contacting Verstappen to make an apology to him.

But it is being blown out of proportion.

A majority of those who claim to abhor Vettel’s anger are happy to use such language on a day-to-day basis at work. Except that they aren’t doing their job in front of millions worldwide and aren’t travelling at 200mph.

Instead, a good proportion would say far worse things about people they don’t know for a perceived annoying manoeuvre at 27mph in their local suburban avenue.

So how can they expect someone who’s travelling at over eight times that figure to be rational when he feels someone is acting dangerously?

Furthermore, he was bleeped out by Formula One Management when they broadcast those messages, so those of a young age wouldn’t have known what was being said. Those old enough to know what was being said are going to be aware that they can’t turn around to their elder and use similar words.

As for those saying it’s damaging to Formula One, well, doesn’t the sport have bigger problems? Such as the falling crowds, less TV viewers, the still astronomical costs to run a team and the extreme unfairness of the prize money payments between those at the top and bottom of F1.

Not to mention the fact that everyone these days are delighted to have the possibility of having to pick a winner from three drivers instead of two. Though that’s only for special weekends.

The Formula One public are experts at making a mountain from a molehill and this latest furore is exhibit A.

The really tragic thing is that all of this uproar has overshadowed what was an exciting end to a Grand Prix between three of the world’s best drivers in which no quarter was asked or given.

Let’s cut the bulls*** and start focussing on the real issues that Formula One has at this present moment.

Jack Prentice

(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)

Ferrari Mexican Grand Prix, Review

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 28/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

With all of the headlines surrounding Ferrari and in particular Sebastian Vettel following the Mexican Grand Prix, it can be easy to forget that the Scuderia managed to display the importance of strong qualifying.

For all the swearing and yelling at both Max Verstappen and Race Director Charlie Whiting, had Vettel had a quicker car in qualifying, he’d have been battling over which step on the podium instead of just to get onto the podium.

Karun Chandhok made the pertinent point that Vettel could possibly have been challenging for a victory had he been able to qualify higher than seventh, which for long periods was a net eighth as he lost out to Felipe Massa’s Williams at the start.

Ferrari haven’t always made the right strategy calls this season but they got this one-stop strategy absolutely spot on to catapult Vettel to fifth and within stalking distance of the Red Bulls once he left the pitlane.

In the end, he did get to spray some champagne but received a 10 second time-penalty that dropped him to fifth for reasons that have been well documented.

His hard defensive move on Daniel Ricciardo on the penultimate lap made him the first victim of the new “Verstappen rule”, whereby any movement in the breaking zone is banned.

Kimi Raikkonen was another man who would have been aiming for the skies had he not started behind a slower team.

He spent the first third of the race behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India, which had started sixth and Ferrari eventually put the Iceman on a two-stopper.

Like Vettel, he also had shown long run pace that would have challenged Mercedes in Mexico City early in the weekend.

The result leaves Ferrari 62 points behind Red Bull with 86 left on the table, while Ricciardo needs to score six points to guarantee third place this season.

2016 had promised much more than this.

Jack Prentice
(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)

Ferrari US Grand Prix Review

GP USA F1/2016 – AUSTIN (TEXAS) 23/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

If ever there was a way to sum up Ferrari’s 2016 season, Kimi Raikkonen’s US Grand Prix was it.

Raikkonen had moved from fifth to fourth having passed Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and was looking like threatening Daniel Ricciardo’s third place, when, as usual this season, errors meant the end of his challenge.

During his second pit stop, Ferrari left the wheel gun on his front right tyre and as a result, it wasn’t fixed properly. The Iceman would get no further than the end of the pitlane before he retired.

Teammate Sebastian Vettel collided with Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas at turn one – not his first lap one wheel-banging this season, but was unscathed and until both Raikkonen and Verstappen retired was running sixth, unable to do anything about crowd-favourite Ricciardo in third.

The German said that fourth was the maximum that Ferrari were capable of at Texas and he wasn’t far wrong, as strategic mishap was the main reason behind Raikkonen’s pre-retirement assault on Ricciardo.

Ferrari are almost 60 points behind Red Bull and will now not finish second in a season in which they had promised to fight for first with Mercedes, and Mexico promises much of the same as Austin in view of the similar layout of both circuits.

The Prancing Horse will have long turned their attentions towards 2017 with the radical technical changes providing an opportunity to leapfrog incumbent champions Mercedes.

But they will keen to take any opportunities for a victory this season given that the top brass have already labelled this tumultuous season a failure after not building on the successes of 2015, where Vettel took three victories.

The Scuderia will be less than buoyed by their performance in Mexico City last season, as Vettel spun multiple times and collided with Ricciardo at turn one, while Raikkonen clashed with fellow countryman Bottas and retired.

Last year’s Mexican Grand Prix was a sign of things to come for Ferrari this season. Will this season’s edition prove the same?

Jack Prentice

Ferrari, American Grand Prix Preview

GP GIAPPONE F1/2016 – SUZUKA 08/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Ferrari go in the US Grand Prix in Austin in the last chance saloon as far as their hopes for second place in the F1 Constructors’ Championship are concerned.

Max Verstappen’s second place was a hammer blow for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finishing fourth and fifth respectively – both having qualified faster than the Red Bulls but having to start sixth and eighth respectively due to penalties.

Vettel did manage to set his first fastest lap of 2016 in Japan but his winless run is now at 23 races – the longest of his career including his spell at Toro Rosso from 2007-08.

Raikkonen’s race will be remembered for a three-wide pass on Jolyon Palmer and Sergio Perez, and despite early traffic he was only five seconds behind Vettel at the circuit where he took a memorable win back in 2005.

And so it’s on to a track that Ferrari have never won at, although this is only the fifth time F1 has visited the Circuit of the Americas, although Vettel took victory there during his unbeaten streak at the end of 2013.

Ferrari have at least stood on the podium in Texas, with Fernando Alonso taking third in 2012.

The most famous of the Prancing Horse’s American adventures came back in 2005 in F1’s very own American Horror Story, as only six runners took to the start because of safety concerns about Michelin tyres.

The race, as with most this season, is likely to consist of Mercedes dominance followed by a scrap to be the best of the rest between Red Bull and Ferrari, with Austin likely to favour the Red Bull despite the long straights.

It has been a little frosty in the press in Italy, who have criticised Vettel since his first lap collision in Malaysia, while the Ferrari top brass have said publicly that he needs to “earn” another contract and his current deal runs out 2018 while there is speculation that he may seek pastures new.

For Ferrari, that chat can wait should it happen as they bid to try salvage second place out of a season in which they were meant to offer a challenge to Mercedes for top honours.

They’re 250 points behind with four races left.

(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)
Jack Prentice