Deep down inside, the engineers and drivers of Ferrari are no doubt happy with the absence of their tifosi around the Monza track during the GP of Italy, which takes place on Sunday 6 September (3pm). Known for their passion, their attachment to the Scuderia but also their high performance standards for the legendary F1 brand, Italian supporters would certainly not have appreciated the spectacle of the red cars mired in a bunch of cars. Nor to see the Ferrari overtaken on the track and on a regular basis by an Alpha Romeo, even more driven by a former member of the house, Kimi Räikkönen.
Nice move by Kimi as he sweeps past his old mate Seb 👋😎
#BelgianGP 🇧🇪 # F1 https://t.co/9qSOvZNKg8
Sunday, Charles Leclerc will start from the 13e square. Sebastian Vettel failed to even qualify for the second part of qualifying and will be in the back of the grid, 17e out of 20 pilots. One more humiliation in a dark year for the Scuderia. After the Grand Prix of Spa (Belgium) on Sunday August 30, the team went down to 5e place in the manufacturer's rankings, light years from Mercedes and beyond the reach of Red Bull. If the Monegasque Charles Leclerc manages a little to delude the drivers with his 5e place and two podiums so far, the quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel vegetates at 13e position having scored just 16 points in seven races.
The blow is even harder for Ferrari as just over a year ago a red tide invaded the same Monza circuit to celebrate Charles Leclerc's victory. It was then his second consecutive success, and, above all, the first for the team at home since 2010. Even behind in the championship, the car could hope for better days, it which has not known a world title since 2007 in individual with Kimi Räikkönen and 2008 for the constructors category.
But here it is, on two circuits where the top speed prevails, the performance of the red cars did not go unnoticed. Particularly those of their engine, which led to complaints from other teams, notably Red Bull. "Ferrari exploited a gray area in the regulations, and they only focused on that" for his performances, explains the 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, now a consultant for Canal +. The team has been suspected of bypassing the measurement of the flow of fuel entering the engine, limited and controlled by the International Automobile Federation (FIA). This deception would give more power to the car.
A little later in the season, the FIA published a “technical directive” as a reminder of this regulation, before confiscating part of the petrol system of the Ferrari engine for study. The players on the circuit inevitably thought about it when they noticed a slight decrease in the performance of the car during the last three Grands Prix of the season.
But the troubles continued in early 2020. In a terse statement, the FIA announced that the two parties "Have made a number of technical commitments that will improve the monitoring of all Formula 1 engines". The investigation carried out remains confidential. At the same time, the Federation has clarified the rules on controlling the flow of fuel, making it almost impossible to cheat there. And this year, Lucilia (the nickname Sebastian Vettel gave to his SF 1000 single-seater) is largely behind.
“It’s always a mistake to focus on just one point. A single-seater is complex! ", reminds Jacques Villeneuve. Worse yet, Ferrari has fallen far behind in development and lacks the resources to fill it. “Inside, no one knows how to improve this area. They are starting from scratch. Hours in the wind tunnel are useless if you don't know which direction to go ”, blurted out the former Williams driver.
For years, Ferrari engineers have left the team, former manager James Allison first, in the middle of the 2016 season. The Briton joined Mercedes the following year. Several engineers of the red mark crossed the Channel after him. “Ferrari wanted to make the team more Italian. But it is useless if the best leave ”, Jacques Villeneuve analysis.
At the end of the 2020 season, Sebastian Vettel, who like Fernando Alonso never managed to win a title with Ferrari, will also be leaving. Announced even before the start of the season, the start demobilized the German, who is now in a shadow of himself on the track. His replacement has already been announced: the up-and-coming Carlos Sainz Jr., 26 and currently with McLaren.
Despite the change, there is little chance that Ferrari will recover next year, where the improvements on the cars will be more difficult to implement. "Today, we are laying the foundations to be competitive and regain victory when the regulations change in 2022", explained in an interview with the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport the boss of the brand, John Elkann. By choosing two young drivers (Charles Leclerc is only 22 years old), Ferrari hopes to start a new cycle. “They are going to settle in Maranello, they will be close to our engineers. The new machine will be born with them ”, John Elkann insisted.
For Jacques Villeneuve, “2022 will only be the start of rebuilding Ferrari. They are now several years behind ". And for this, the role of the two pilots will be essential: “It all depends on their leadership and analytical skills on the track. Are they just fast young riders, or are they as capable of building a team as Michael Schumacher did? ", seven-time world champion, including five times with Ferrari. The tifosi are just waiting for this.