On Wednesday, a new wind blew in Fiorano. For the first time, the Scuderia has opened the garage of its private circuit to its new recruit, Carlos Sainz. For the Spaniard, it was an opportunity to see that red suited his complexion, to familiarize himself with a new environment and to discover the methodology of the Prancing Horse.

The team did not have much to hide from the few journalists present on site, the driver having made his first laps with the SF71H, a two-year-old single-seater. No matter: the image helped dispel memories of a tense season, which began with a bitter divorce from Sebastian Vettel and ended with Ferrari’s worst record in forty years.

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Although talented and consistent, the son of the two-time rally champion, who arrived from McLaren, is not here to embody a new era. And the introduction of the new technical regulations, sold as a small revolution and initially scheduled for 2021, has been postponed for a year in order to give builders time to cash in the financial losses linked to the pandemic. It is also in this sense that much of the development has been frozen, especially aerodynamically.

17 wins behind

In this context, should the Scuderia fear a new ordeal? Not necessarily, if Mattia Binotto is to be believed. “This team has been able to finish second in the championship in the previous five seasons, except once we finished third., underlined the boss of the team, last December, in remarks relayed by the official site of F1. I think finishing third is not completely impossible. And I think that must be our minimum goal for next season. “

Obviously weakened by a calamitous exercise, the leader said what he could. Usually, Ferrari does not detail its intentions so as not to suggest that it is considering something other than the title, even when the manufacturer knows it is out of reach. The gravity of the situation pushed Binotto to find a middle ground: a little ambition but not too much either.

Our flops for the 2020 season

In 2020, the Scuderia was stranded in 6th place in the “Manufacturers” classification, a good distance from Renault (5th) and miles from Mercedes. 442 points, precisely. The equivalent of … 17 wins. Ferrari paid a heavy price for its exploitation of the gray areas of the regulation, in 2019, thanks to which it was able to overtake Mercedes in the race for engine power.

Suspected of cheating by rival teams, the Scuderia had then made a secret pact with the FIA, before the body imposed new technical directives intended to plug the breaches in which the Italian team had engulfed. It was at the beginning of winter, when Ferrari had already oriented the architecture of its single-seater according to an engine which, in the end, no longer met the standards set by the regulations.

I was told that they had made up most of the delay

A chain reaction ensued: with a less powerful propellant unit, the whole concept of the SF1000 was shattered, especially in terms of aerodynamics. In straights, the pilots complained of a “parachute effect”. In curves, Sebastian Vettel lamented an unpredictable rear end.

Carlos Sainz during his first tests with Ferrari, on January 27, 2021, in Fiorano

Credit: Getty Images

During the season, Ferrari had quickly resolved to abandon developments which would have been only minor, in order to devote most of its resources to the development of a new engine for the 2021 season. “We have invested a lot, Binotto confided last November. He is on the dynamometer [structure permettant de tester sa puissance et sa fiabilité avant son intégration dans la monoplace, NDLR] and its performance in terms of power and reliability is promising. “

What arouse the curiosity of the competition, like that of Red Bull, whose leaders are used to commenting on the work of neighbors. “Heard Ferrari has made noticeable progress with their new engine, recently whispered Helmut Marko, consultant for the Austrian brand, to RTL.de. I was told that they had made up most of the delay they accumulated last year, which is about 50 horsepower.. “

The others too have taken the lead

A nice bluff from the Austrian team? “For now, putting forward these figures is a bit of a fantasy, tells us an Italian journalist close to the Scuderia. Of course, filling the power gap is Ferrari’s priority since it is the central issue. But you can’t find 50 horsepower at the snap of a finger. And before achieving this, it is above all necessary to be able to certify the reliability of the engine and the new parts.. “To test it, Ferrari and the other teams will only have a small sample of three days of testing, in mid-March, in Bahrain.

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Another problem: legally speaking, the Italian team did not have the same latitude to correct the aerodynamic shortcomings of its single-seater, even though a development token system will allow it to modify certain parts of the car. Despite this, even a miracle would not guarantee anything to the Prancing Horse. “I think our engine will not be the least efficient on the plateau […] but i don’t know what the others are doing, Binotto pointed out. Only the track will tell. “

The other teams did not sit idly by: Mercedes, which will supply the engines for McLaren and Aston Martin, had already used the last Grand Prix of last season to carry out tests. The manufacturer Honda, manufacturer of Red Bull and AlphaTauri, also invested in rethinking its engine before leaving F1. If all these teams have also taken a step forward, Ferrari will therefore have to be able to take two. Or three.

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