The struggles of Ferrari have been already visible during the pre-season testing, but most didn’t expect the Italian team to be in a place where they are currently. Although the first race of the season, the Austrian GP didn’t finish that bad for the team, with Leclerc somehow scoring P2 and Vettel being able to reach P10, the Styrian GP was a disaster (Leclerc collided with Vettel on the first lap, which meant DNF for both cars) and the Hungarian GP was not much better (with Vettel P6 and Leclerc P11). With the introduction of the cost-cutting measures that limit the amount of changes that the teams can do to the cars, Ferrari found itself in a difficult spot. And it its no secret now that the car requires quite a few changes to be able to challenge the Mercedes for the podium fights.
John Elkann, the chairman of Ferrari, suggested in a lengthy interview with Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport that the team wont be able to return to the front of the grid till 2022, when the new regulations come in place.
As he said: "[Ferrari is going] through a difficult period that starts far back. We have not won a constructors' world championship since 2008 nor a drivers' one since 2007. There has been Red Bull's winning cycle thanks to aerodynamic capacity and then Mercedes for their great ability in hybrid engine technologies. This year we are not competitive thanks to project errors. We have had a number of structural weaknesses that have existed for some time in aerodynamics and in the dynamics of the vehicle. We have also lost out in engine power.”
He added: "The reality is that our car is not competitive. You saw it on the track and you will see it again. Today we are laying the foundations for being competitive and returning to winning when the rules change in 2022. I am convinced of this.”
Elkann explained that the chassis freeze that prevents the teams from making major changes to their cars during 2020 and 2021 is a key component of why the team wont be able to take up the challenge on the front faster. When asked about how much this freeze has an impact on Ferrari, Elkann said: "A lot, given that we have started off poorly. We must be realistic and aware of the structural weaknesses with which we have been living for a decade, and which the transition to hybrid [power units] has underlined. We have given the okay to the new rules that will start from 2022, because we believe it is right that there is greater competitiveness within F1.”
He added: "We do not see the limitation of budget caps as a constraint on our ability to win. We take it as a challenge. Our engineers, our mechanics and our drivers will find strength and creativity within those bonds to bring Ferrari back up. Personally I have never seen in the last 10 years such a cohesive and strong spirit.”
While the Elkann’s view on the Ferrari situation is definitely not what the teams suffering fans would like to hear, he believes it is important that the team is transparent about the situation and the difficulties they’ve been facing. "The fans are suffering as much as we are, but we know they are close to us. This is why it is important to be clear and honest with them. A long path awaits us. When [Jean] Todt opened that historic cycle [of titles] in 2000, we came from a fast that had lasted for over 20 years from 1979. It took time from him landing in Maranello in 1993 to Ferrari's return to success.” He added: "The important thing then is to work on the track and off the track, in a cohesive way, building the Ferrari we want to step-by-step.”
Lastly, Elkann expressed his complete faith in Mattia Binotto, despite the struggles from the beginning of the season. When asked about Binotto, Elkann responded: "Total trust. Also because Mattia Binotto, who has taken the helm of the Scuderia for a year, has all the skills and characteristics to start a new winning cycle. He was in Ferrari with Todt and Schumi. He knows how to win and from next year he will work with two drivers who are young and ambitious like us.”
Will Ferrari be able to somehow challenge the current struggles and at least try to get a little closer to the front of the grid those upcoming seasons? Or will we have to really wait till 2022 till they’re anywhere near competitive again?