Ferrari and the art of favouring drivers

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By Jawad Yaqub, Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Rather than experiencing shock during the Hungarian Grand Prix over Ferrari’s race tactics, there was that familiar feeling of ‘why are we not surprised’, as once again Sebastian Vettel was prioritised over Kimi Räikkönen.

    Despite starting from pole position and having a solid grasp on the race during the first portion, Vettel encountered issues following the exit of the Safety Car.

    His steering found itself aligned to the left while driving straight, hampering the German throughout the race.

    The one and only pit-stop made by the 30-year-old did little to improve the situation with the #5 Ferrari, as it clearly began to neuter his pace advantage.

    Having been instructed by his engineer to “avoid the kerbs” on such a technical circuit, the dominant pace seen earlier by Vettel was now absent. Instead, the sister Ferrari of Räikkönen found itself as the faster car.

    However, the pace did not translate over to the result that the 2007-world champion would have desired – with the Scuderia yet again telling their driver to maintain second position.

    “Kimi had good pace and could go a lot faster than me for the majority of the race,” Vettel remarked post-race, acknowledging that his teammate was the quicker of the duo on this occasion.

    While the argument (if they would bother) from Ferrari would solely revolve around the points for the championship battle, in which Vettel is closely matched to Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton, the Scuderia unnecessarily risked losing the race for Vettel’s title gains.

    With the pace having been slowed by the leader, the Silver Arrows both were in a position at the end of the race to mount an assault on the red cars. So much so that Valtteri Bottas was advised to let his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, past for the faster Mercedes AMG to have a crack at the win.

    Ultimately, this did not eventuate for either Hamilton or Bottas – though the class put on display was remarkable, with the Briton allowing his teammate back into his original position, on the podium, at the final corner.

    Hamilton did lament that the change of position could come back to bite him in the backside at the end of the championship, but the decision supports the Mercedes mantra of attaining the best result at each race.

    Contrast that to Ferrari, whom trail their rivals in silver by 39 points in the constructors’ standings, and opened the door to being stripped of a guaranteed victory in Hungary.

    Yes, come the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the extra seven points accumulated by Vettel for finishing first instead of second may be the differentiator between winning a fifth championship or not.

    Though, the three points conversely lost by Hamilton may have worked to the German’s favour, regardless of whether he won the race or was runner up.

    It’s Räikkönen who stands as the biggest loser for the umpteenth time. With many critics out to have him ousted from his incumbent position, the team restricting their former world champion from being the best on the day appears a lose-lose situation for the Finn.

    All the while, Ferrari look set to announce an unchanged driver line-up for 2018 come their home race in Monza. It would be remiss to ignore the possibility of the 37-year-old remaining winless at the behest of his employers.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 2nd 2017 @ 11:13pm
      Chancho said | August 2nd 2017 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

      I might be coming at this from a different perspective as an Aussie living in London, but I am getting sick to death of hearing about how valiant Hamilton was – the news over this has been relentless. I’m so over the comparison between the 2 teams and Toto Wolff saying ‘well, we let them race/we are fair’ thing… not that long ago he insinuated there was an Italian collusion between Ferrari and Pirelli and the reason why they were doing well which turned out to be nothing more than Vettel doing his homework at the start of the season which the MB drivers didn’t do… but where was Wolff after both Ferrari’s had tyre problems at Silverstone?

      Yes, at that closing stage of the Budapest race I was surprised that Hamilton gave the place back and also to have the forethought to do it in such away to prevent the fast approaching Verstappen usurping them both, it took a lot of maturity and in fact he went up a lot in my estimation. I always had him down as a quick driver but lacked much strategic thinking and always with the sulking and the chip on his shoulder (the “I deserve the WDC over Rosberg because I didn’t have a privileged upbringing” gave me the sh*ts). But lets just calm this down a bit and look at it this way:

      1.) in terms of the WDC, the current driver position is very different – it’s a 3-horse race which RAI is not in contention for, but the two MB drivers are. We keep hearing about the ‘what if’ with Hamilton needing the 3 points at the end of the season, but what if Hamilton didn’t give the spot up and Bottas lost the WDC by a narrow margin? Especially when you consider…

      2.) Bottas out qualified Hamilton so deserves to have been given that 3rd place back given Hamilton couldn’t get the job done after they asked Bottas to move over. Bottas would be rightly miffed!

      3.) The passing between the teams is not an apples-for-apples comparison… Ferrari would have given away more in terms of points by making the 1-2 swap than what MB would have for 3 and 4. In fact, you could argue Hamilton did his reputation a world of good by giving up relatively little.

      4.) Back to the WDC at the end of the season; IF Ferrari let RAI past and Vettel finished the race 2nd, and then at the end of the season Vettel didn’t win the WDC by a narrow margin, what would have been the point for them swapping?

      4.) Additionally, it was clear that catching and passing on that track was not going to be easy – so if, as you point out, Vettel’s times were so bad, then why weren’t the Mercs able to catch/pass the Ferrari’s? Or even RAI passing Vettel for that matter? Yes, they risked the win but I believe Ferrari were vindicated with the outcome because they had a good probability that MB wouldn’t be able to catch/pass them. Ferrari weren’t to have known Hamilton had no radio for a big chunk of the race and they would have been going off the data in front of them which indicated the Mercs weren’t an immediate threat. I’m sure things would have been tense at the Ferrari pit wall AFTER Mercedes let Hamilton past, but they contained it.

      All I’m really asking for is for some level headedness over this situation. Yes it was surprising given the nature of the sport and things we’ve seen in the past but this ‘Ferrari is evil and MB are angels’ position is getting a bit hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong the Barrichello incident in Austria and the ‘Fernando is faster than you’ situation was pretty low, but Hungary 2107 doesn’t even compare.

      • Roar Guru

        August 3rd 2017 @ 8:28pm
        Jawad Yaqub said | August 3rd 2017 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

        I guess, Kimi himself did admit that he should have qualified ahead of Seb in Hungary to guarantee himself the win. Though Monaco was a strange one, with Vettel just outsmarting his teammate with the superior strategy. It’s more so for the desire to see Räikkönen win again. Yes, he is not in the championship hunt, though the best driver on the day does deserve the accolade. I do agree with you Chancho, that compared to what happened to Rubens and Felipe, this wasn’t as explicit – though we ought to consider ‘what if’ they lost the race.

        As for Mercedes AMG, it was surprising that on this occasion that Hamilton did yield to the team. Should we expect him to do it again? Probably no.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 3rd 2017 @ 11:45pm
          Chancho said | August 3rd 2017 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

          Yeah, Monaco was an odd outcome… almost like a contra-strategy with the over-cut. But I think it only worked because Vettel was able to wring the neck of the tyres in that phase between Raikkonen pitting and Vettel coming in (from memory)?

          No, I can’t see that happening unless it’s a clear ‘if you can’t get it done in x laps you have to give it back’… actually having said that it didn’t work for Sainz and Verstappen in Singapore a couple of years ago did it? It’ll be interesting to see how the relationship evolves in the team now and if they will ever ask a driver through.

          I think Hamilton did owe Bottas though, was it Spain or China earlier in the season where Bottas let him through twice in the race?

    • Roar Guru

      August 4th 2017 @ 5:14pm
      Bayden Westerweller said | August 4th 2017 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

      It’s clear that Raikkonen will only prevail if Vettel is completely out of the equation, until then, Ferrari are willing to do whatever it takes to prioritise the German, even if it completely torpedoes the Finn’s race. You would hope that Sunday was the clincher for a 2018 extension if negotiations were previously in the balance, thus the mooted traditional Italian GP unveiling should be a matter of course.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 4th 2017 @ 7:25pm
        Chancho said | August 4th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

        But conversely, you can’t really argue that Raikkonen has built a solid case for having parity/priority. He’s clearly off the pace and his best chance was in Monaco but that went against him. I love Raikkonen, but it’s clear he doesn’t have that ‘killer instinct’ anymore.

        I think you’re right though, as long as he’s happy with the rear gunner role (which I don’t think he’s been that great at either by the way) he’ll be signed up again.

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