The question that runs through most of the Sport Bars in Italy on Sunday 12 July morning is: “What if Ferrari today competing in Spielberg makes us a surprise like last Sunday’s?” There is no need to remember the facts of the Austrian GP: Evanescent reds in qualifying; Leclerc second under the checkered flag behind Bottas, with a pair of overtaking moves to make scream genuflecting the spirit of Gilles. To materialize that order of arrival it had taken: Verstappen with the Honda engine of his Red Bull dumbfounded; Hamilton penalized in the race for a venial sin; there Ferrrari number 16 spared from the technical death that had appied a third of the starters and Perez without bullets in the last laps due to the tires more than worn. What if it happened seven days later in the Styrian GP? Well, let’s go back down to earth. It would take something epoch-making, like a disqualification with papal bull for all the non-red single-seaters starting from the first five rows of the grid. Because the Ferrari Styria version between Friday and Saturday fulfilled any designer’s dream: to go on the same level in dry and wet conditions. Too bad that this did not happen at the top of the scale of values, indeed …
Leclerc: “Surprised by the gap from those who precede us”
Miracles or cataclysms aside, the Ferrari that returns home from Austria (indeed: that is on its way to Budapest) is of a disarming scarcity. Leclerc unable to overcome Q2 even without obvious errors, Vettel who made it and then vegetated in the slums of Q3, do not admit defenses. Red 2020 looks like the ectoplasm of what last year, in some phases of the championship, had been in the match with Mercedes. Now, however, even Red Bull, McLaren, Racing Point seem impregnable. Not bad, it will be said: in sport (and in life) you win and lose. But in sport (and in life) when you lose you have to do something to improve. Which, in F1, does not only mean training better and learning new game patterns: it means, changing, exploring new technical paths, possibly throwing away what has been done so far and also investing a lot in something different. All actions that a Ferrari should be able to afford: by name, lineage, technical tradition, portfolios, ambition. And instead? Instead nothing: this car we have to keep it, in practice, throughout the season. Or maybe even for the next one. So the new has decided frozen technical regulation: no major changes, simple evolution, budget crystallized for the good of Formula 1, which will thus be able to level the values that currently see the rich teams too advantaged and unreachable. But are we sure it is really so?
Rain does not wash away doubts
Step back. Formula 1 has been talking about budget caps for a while. Now the various emergencies, from the car’s global crisis to the Covid-19 that has exacerbated it, have pushed for gas. From tomorrow a team will not be able to spend more than tot, which is then a situation with many loopholes, but let’s not talk about it now. What is certain is that since last May, in practice, everyone will have to fight for a long period of time with the material and with the technical situation it has today. And who has the least disadvantage from a situation like this? But it is obvious: who is ahead. Or Mercedes. Wanting to simplify as much as possible, a team that is in the lead is less likely to be reached, if the pursuers can change little and nothing. That Mercedes was ahead this year too has already been understood in the Spanish tests at the end of February. And let’s not forget that the new great boss of Daimler Benz, Kallenius, had more than cherished the idea of leaving the Grand Prix to focus only on Formula E. And the market situation of the Stella, as well as for several other car manufacturers, not it is one of the most smiling. So he had a good game, Toto Wolff, to support with a smile the idea of Jean Todt to curb investments immediately. In doing so, and as has been happening for a long time because the Austrian manager, in addition to winning by storm, seems to have a gear or two more in terms of seeing us far away, he took more pigeons with one stone. He made Kallenius happy, who will now digest a little less expensive F1 a little better; he did the part of the enlightened one for the sake of sport, he remained a friend of the FIA and armored the technical advantage of his team.
Ferrari, Binotto: “The stopwatch never lies”
And Ferrari? There Ferrari remained at the stake. Even in Maranello the Spanish tests had revealed without shadows that Mercedes was from another planet. On the contrary: that the Mercedes galaxy (therefore also Racing Point and even Williams) had made progress, as opposed to the one powered by the Cavallino. But in the time between the tests and the freezing of the activities due to Covid has not put in place any technical reaction. The reason for this will perhaps explain a near future. It is said that among the red technicians there is no good blood, that an internal fringe has not raised a little finger to help the creature of Cardile and Sanchez, indeed. And that Binotto has not been able / able to divert this internal flow worthy of the best Tafazzi. But this is not our theme. Even if a Ferrari is already on its elbows and smelling a new, yet another internal revolution scares.
F1 | Ferrari data: beyond the engine there is much more
The question then is: are we sure that the F1 of the budget cap, the F1 of the frozen regulations, is what is needed to improve the situation? Three abundant years ago, in presenting himself as the technical guru of the new F1 branded Libertry Media, Ross Brawn unbalanced: “We want F1 where the driver can make a difference more than it does now”. Jubilant shouts arose. But the way is to sparkle everything, so who is in front of us and amen? Because pilots do their job. And also very well. Leclerc of the first race in Austria was lucky, but masterful. Hamilton in the wet in Austria-2 showed off a ride from the university of racing, graduation stuff by acclamation. A group of guys (Sainz, Norris, Albon, Russell, not to mention Verstappen) are filing their nails to claw tomorrow’s triumphs. What about the rest? Do we really want a calm Formula 1, as well as other European championships, perhaps with covered wheels, where who wins is the case to win also in order to market, marketing reasoning? Are we really sure?