Ferrari’s final assessment of the 2018 is leaning towards a negative rate, owing to the challenging times and events it has been through and has not sorted out completely to this date.
Overall the team has managed to improve under the technical aspect compared to the previous season, perfecting a number of solutions, which turned out to be key to build a gap, concretely and also figuratively, throughout the first half of the season. In fact, this year Ferrari could finally exploit his full potential, having found stability after James Allison’s departure. Sebastian Vettel commented: “The team has made some giant steps forward. Our current team is stronger than it was 4 years ago, when I arrived. There is more unity compared to what there used to be back then. We have proved that the outfit has a lot of potential, we already had a very good car in 2017, and this year as well.”
However, a fatal combination of factors compromised Ferrari’s rise, which eventually evolved into Mercedes’ resistible rise.
The point of breakthrough for Mercedes was reached with the Austrian GP. Toto Wolff pushed for a thorough car revamp to tackle their invasive tyre management issues. Such ingent investments conspicuously boosted their campaign, while Ferrari’s downfall became more and more ruinous following Marchionne’s passing. Despite the fact that Vettel was already caught at fault on a number of occasions within the first races, the pressure deteriorated Ferrari’s integrity on a whole.
Such an impactful and detrimental blow to the team’s pride and principles destroyed the identity that Ferrari had created and tried to defend in any way possible. Many would disagree on this, but even the timing of communicating Leclerc’s arrival to Kimi Raikkonen before the race at Monza was wrong. Additionally, Suzuka’s qualifying tyre distaster made Arrivabene unnecessarily manifest his cantankerous attitude, as he blamed it on the pitwall, instead of diplomatically addressing the issue. His nemesis Toto Wolff, on the contrary, always kept himself himself cold-blooded all season long, always acting accordingly to the team’s best interest.
Ferrari’s character became perishable and weak, as Mercedes was growing stronger every race. It took Ferrari one month to realise that their September updates were ineffective, which persuaded them to go back and rebuild their on-track credibility from there, although all top 3 teams remained close and highly competitive until Abu Dhabi. The team’s attention was constantly shifting from the new management to the 2018 campaign, going back and forth, resulting in a general lack of focus.
The Maranello-based team will try again next year, having laid a rather solid foundation following the arrival of Laurent Mekies, who made his first appearance in Abu Dhabi as Ferrari’s new sporting director. The altercations between Arrivabene and Binotto are yet to be placated, with Elkann and Piero Ferrari directly taking the matter in their own hands to pacify and squash any disputes. The future lies in the new management’s hands. It has now become crucial to maintain a stable and proactive environment, putting any disagreements and differences aside for the sake of the team.
Rumours would suggest that Ferrari’s 2019 challenger, which will be unveiled on February 15th, has a more powerful engine and more downforce than the SF71H. However, December’s traditional stream of Ferrari-related rumours appears to be rather irrealistic (far off from ‘unreliable’), as we must take into account that winning the championship requires more than a competitive car, namely guidance, harmony and unerring consistency.