Good news for Ferrari: tifosis are not allowed at Monza on Sunday (3.10 p.m., Canal +). The bad news is that they will be back, at the rate of 2,880 people a day, this week at the Mugello circuit. In Tuscany, the Scuderia will "celebrate" the thousandth Grand Prix in its history. The whistles may be more virulent than the “Forza!”. On a cloud over a year ago at the same time, when Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel lined up three victories (Belgium, Italy and Singapore), the Maranello team has been going through a storm since the start of this season truncated by the pandemic (5th in the manufacturer's classification). And she's not going to get out of it.
A trick on the engine
The trouble began when, in early November 2019, at the United States Grand Prix, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) sent the teams a technical directive specifying the mode of engine management. Until then, Ferrari had used a subterfuge to inject more fuel and lubricant, therefore more energy, into the cylinders of its V6. In other words: the fifty or so horses won in this way were not awarded in a regulatory manner. The little trick turned to the political affair when, before the 2020 season, the FIA said it had reached an agreement with the Scuderia, without penalizing it, and received the assurance that the latter would now be in compliance. With disastrous effects on the performance of its single-seaters. But saving face came at that price.
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Aerodynamics, difficult control of the racing car: the vicious circle
With an engine much less efficient than those of the competition (Mercedes, Honda and Renault), the engineers of the design office responsible for the design of the chassis sought to compensate by a more suitable aerodynamics, hoping to gain in the turns which was going to be lost in a straight line. But from the first few laps of the test, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel winced. The pilots quickly understood that they would have to deal with a very delicate car to master without being efficient. Forced to run with almost neutral fins to limit the loss of top speed, the Ferrari is not efficient in cornering and does not allow its tires to operate in the correct temperature window. A vicious circle that is not about to be broken.
A governance crisis
At the heart of this technical crisis, Mattia Binotto is singled out for his managerial wanderings, in particular the inelegant management of Vettel, who will be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr. (McLaren) next season. This engine engineer by training, at Ferrari for twenty-five years, was bombarded as a sports director in early 2019 after the sidelining of Maurizio Arrivabene, a marketing man also considered a casting error. To allow Binotto, who says he has "questioned himself", to refocus on the management of men, he was relieved of his post of technical director in early August. Before the two Grand Prix at home, the president of the Fiat group, John Elkann, wanted to calm the spirits. He dismissed the idea of a crisis and renewed his confidence in Binotto. Without specifying until when.
The rise of Charles Leclerc slowed down
If they have already given up on this season looking like a descent into hell, the managers of the legendary Italian team know that this situation is likely to continue into the next one. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, which caused the closure of Formula 1 factories for nearly two months, the FIA has in fact imposed a freeze on technical development for chassis and engines. Clearly, Ferrari will have to compose until the end of the 2021 season with a badly born car and an asthmatic engine. What slow down the rise of Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver has signed up to 2024 with Ferrari and will have to wait until the last two years of his contract before seeing the light again.