Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Chinese Grand Prix Preview
By Steve Aibel
Ferrari has ignited the spark of Hope in the Formula 1 paddock and now many teams have been revitalized. They have realized what was previously out of reach, may not be out of reach at all.
In a year where Mercedes was expected to be hand delivered both Formula 1 titles, Sebastian Vettel’s first Ferrari victory in Malaysia has changed the perception of what this years championship may bring.
Maurizio Arrivabene, team principal for Ferrari, is leading the charge of the Scuderia. Arrivabene has come to Ferrari and changed the culture. The team from Maranello is responding! Gone are the days where fear of failure stopped the team from taking the right risks. In its place, Arrivabene has asked for teamwork and smart, aggressive attempts at developing the SF15-T.
For Ferrari, they are also benefitting from the leadership of Technical Director, James Allison. Allison, who moved over from Lotus in 2013, did not have time to influence the creation of the F14-T 2014 car, but this year, the design has more of his hand and direction resulting in a stronger chassis and power unit .
Ferrari have also saved 3 more engine development tokens than Mercedes so they should be able to more aggressively develop their power unit throughout the season. Couple this with a much-improved aero package and it is easy to see that Ferrari has taken a step in the right direction.
But how far do they have to go?
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have a great chance of making good on Arrivabene’s goal of 2 wins for the season. So yes, there is hope in Maranello, but there are others who have also drawn hope from the unexpected Ferrari win.
The door has also opened for Renault. The engine maker has been blistered by criticism from Red Bull Racing. Christian Horner has been very outspoken in his critique of the Renault package and lack of development. So much so, that Renault has been evaluating purchasing a team to increase the value received from their Formula 1 investment. The team mentioned most often for a Renault take-over is Red Bull’s little brother, Toro Rosso.
Red Bull seems to realize that this could potentially leave them without a future engine supplier so now discussions have centered on rebranding the Toro Rosso entry in a yellow Renault livery. This seems to be a much more synergistic approach which could propel Red Bull, Toro Rosso, and Renault forward.
All of this chatter is taking attention away from the fact that Renault is making progress on their power unit and package. Renault have saved 12 tokens for mid season development compared to Ferrari’s 10 and Mercedes’ 7. Waiting and seeing what Mercedes and Ferrari have brought to the dance could position Renault to take the largest step forward as we get to mid season.
Again, a flicker of hope for the French engine manufacturer! Ferrari has opened the door and Renault has realized that Mercedes is closer than they had previously thought.
It is up to Mercedes in China to respond to this paddock wide emergence of hope! Will they crush it and reassume their dominance, or will the paddock inch closer?
If Mercedes comes to China in their typical dominant form, this flicker of hope could be just a flash in the pan and we will revert back to a trundling season of podiums filled with Silver Arrows.
China is a circuit that should play into the dominant Mercedes platform. The technical track requires a balance of both downforce and straight-line speed. With one of the longest straights in F1, 2 DRS zones for overtaking, and expected cooler temperatures, Mercedes could easily repeat the Hamilton-Rosberg 1-2 finish of 2014.
What lingers is Vettel!
Vettel took the third position on the podium last year in Shanghai. Vettel now stands as that flicker of hope that could ignite an unexpected championship battle or it could wash out and become just a spark that caught no wind.
As President Snow said in the popular Hunger Games film….
“A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”
Will Mercedes contain the spark?
This week will go a long way in finding out if Mercedes will stomp the hope from the paddock or if another team will take a step to fan another flame and start a wildfire.
The paddock is moving and they have the attention of the championship Mercedes squad.
Should be an interesting week in China!
- Lewis Hamilton 43
- Sebastian Vettel 40
- Nico Rosberg 33
- Felipe Massa 20
- Kimi Raikkonen 12
- Felipe Nasr 10
- Valtteri Bottas 10
- Daniel Ricciardo 9
- Nico Hulkenberg 6
- Max Verstappen 6
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 6
- Marcus Ericsson 4
- Daniil Kvyat 2
- Sergio Perez 1
- Mercedes 76
- Ferrari 52
- Williams 30
- Sauber 14
- Toro Rosso 12
- Red Bull 11
- Force India 7