Over the next few weeks we will be reviewing the performance of each team over the course of the 2019 Formula 1 season, and in this article we are looking at Ferrari.
Ferrari left pre-season testing believing they had the fastest car, and there was optimism that Mercedes’ dominant run could finally come to an end, but it turned out completely different.
Mercedes dominated the opening race of the season, and Ferrari repeatedly compromised themselves on strategy, failing to maximise the potential of their SF90.
The SF90 was the first car of the hybrid era to have a more powerful engine than Mercedes, but the car lacked aerodynamic efficiency, and it wouldn’t be until the Belgian Grand Prix that the team got their first win of the year, with Charles Leclerc taking his maiden win.
In addition to strategical errors and a car that simply wasn’t fast enough overall, Ferrari found themselves having to manage both drivers carefully, as Charles Leclerc immediately made an impact, out-performing Sebastian Vettel in the first half of the year.
It was unexpected for both Ferrari and Vettel, with Leclerc expected to be the clear number two driver, but he instantly showed that he was just as fast, if not quicker than the four-time world champion, and that caused sparks to fly on a number of occasions, most notably at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where both drivers collided and retired from the race.
The season ended with Ferrari a distant second to Mercedes in the constructor’s championship, and with Leclerc finishing fourth in the driver’s championship, 24 points ahead of Vettel.
2019 will be classed as a disappointing year for the Scuderia, at a time when they expected to win the championship, but found themselves fighting with Red Bull in the closing races, and so the team will need to make big improvements over the winter if they are to finally take the crown from the Silver Arrows, and Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel declared his season as a “must do better” year after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and it is hard to disagree.
He got caught out by the pace of Leclerc at the start of the season, and it knocked his confidence and pace as a result, but although he was often slower than the Monegasque driver in qualifying, in the second half of the year, his race performances were stronger.
Despite that, he still finished 24 points behind Leclerc in the championship and he will not want to repeat that in 2020.
With the final season of his Ferrari contract looming, 2020 is an important and decisive year for the four-time world champion.
Ferrari made it clear at the start of the season that Leclerc would be their “number two” driver, but the 22-year-old clearly wasn’t paying attention.
From the outset he proved he was a match for Vettel, and would have won the Bahrain Grand Prix had it not been for an engine issue.
Leclerc would have to wait until Belgium before taking his maiden victory, and repeated at the following race in Monza in front of the tifosi.
He remained the more consistent Ferrari driver over the course of the season, but while he was quick over a single lap, he seemed to struggle in the latter stages with race pace, compared to Vettel.
It appears to be a slight area of weakness and Leclerc will need to work on this aspect over the winter, but going into his second year with Ferrari, he could prove to be a tough nut to crack if the Maranello based team are able to provide a championship winning car.