New parts can help Ferrari perform
Ferrari face a crucial weekend as the F1 circus moves to Barcelona for the Spanish GP. The opening four rounds of the World Championship have seen the Prancing Horse make its worst start to the season in its sixty-year history, writes Steve Slater.india Updated: May 08, 2009 02:10 IST
Ferrari face a crucial weekend as the F1 circus moves to Barcelona for the Spanish GP. The opening four rounds of the World Championship have seen the Prancing Horse make its worst start to the season in its sixty-year history.
No doubt Ferrari will be hoping for a turnaround in Barcelona where Raikkonen scored a clean-sweep in 2008 - pole position, fastest lap and victory. He left Spain as the championship leader last year.
The Ferrari team is of course not the only one struggling to come to terms with the new regulations. Their rivals, McLaren, BMW and Renault, are all looking flat-footed, as smaller, faster-moving design teams, Brawn and Red Bull in particular, have impressed.
Ferrari are facing problems they are not used to. Not only have their cars suffered from a lack of aerodynamic downforce (and hence grip), they have also been unreliable.
Felipe Massa has failed to score a point after having come close to winning the title last season. We can only imagine how he is feeling.
McLaren and Ferrari have struggled this season because they threw huge resources on their 2008 cars right until the last race. In contrast, Brawn (as Honda), Toyota and Red Bull all focussed on developing their 2009 cars and have thus reaped rewards. Ferrari have had another hurdle to overcome in their preparations for the 2009 season. Back in the Schumacher 'golden years' they invested heavily in a full-size wind-tunnel which allows a complete car to be run at speeds of up to 350kph. They also have two test tracks, one beside the Ferrari factory at Fiorano, and another at Mugello.
The usefulness of those investments has been wiped out by FIA's rule changes - the ban on the use of full-size wind tunnels and the ban on in-season testing of race cars. The latter means that the two test tracks can be used only for road car development. Now as they play catch-up, Ferrari lack two important weapons in their armoury.
However, to reduce the deficit, Ferrari along with Renault and BMW will unveil new aerodynamic aids in Barcelona.
Of the teams introducing the new parts, I think Ferrari will benefit the most. Many insiders believe that the 'double deck' diffuser, which will be fitted to Ferrari in Spain, will not make much of a difference.
What it does achieve, however, is that it allows the driver more control on faster corners - and that will be helpful on the Barcelona track. But McLaren and BMW, whose cars show a fundamental aerodynamic imbalance, will continue to struggle in Spain.
Ferrari and Renault should improve, while Toyota, Brawn and Red Bull are the cars to beat. It should make for an intriguing Spanish GP— and you can't rule out Ferrari just yet!
The author is a veteran F1 commentator on STAR Sports.