The edge of tolerance

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The obvious place to start would be !@#$?@#$ !

I mean, what can you say about things that look like they have completely spiraled out of control for a team that is supposed to be representative of the greatest, most enigmatic and undoubtedly the most evocative name in automotive history?

Imagine how fucking frustrating it must be for their army of fans around the world. The Tifosi. Me. Us. Probably you. And this is before we get to the predicament of their two drivers - Mr. rapid-yet-unlucky Massa and Mr. chocobar-ze-vodka Raikkonen. How bad can things get before they start to get better?

They started out with a car that wasn’t exactly at the forefront of innovation and development. We can understand that. Seeing McLaren in the same situation, it is obvious that these 2 powerhouses who were rabidly dueling for the 2008 world championship had to let some slack as far as the development of their ‘09 machines was concerned. Their drivers, as a direct consequence have had to endure a hellish time on track trying to battle erstwhile midfield no-hopers who have ultimately ended up in front of them.

Moreover, it is really, I mean, really tough to make up lost ground in the course of a single season. Even with the mega resource strength of Ferrari (and McLaren and Renault and BMW), it will be a Herculean task for them to outperform Brawn and Red Bull, because every team on the grid is in a constant state of evolution - everybody is taking steps forward all the time. So, for every one step that the teams in front take, Ferrari and the others will have to take two steps, even three, because what they are doing has to be cumulatively greater than the developmental steps taken by the teams in front if they have to gain on them. That's difficult. Very difficult.

The sad part is, they somehow managed to make that big step forward - as was evident on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix. They had the pace to at least stay with the front runners, if not slay them. That was a start! And then Ferrari's mechanical gremlins and slapdash errors that the crew have repeatedly been making took over. It's not just bad luck any more. It is sheer madness, and dare I say, indifference. They probably have made more tactical mistakes in the first quarter of this season than they have made in all of the last decade - the overconfident and irrational decision to keep their driver back in the pits in order to 'preserve the car and its tyres for the future runs in Q2 and Q3’ (for which they eventually failed to make the cut). Twice! It happened to Massa earlier and it happened to Kimi today. And poor Felipe didn't have enough gas to even get him to the Parc Ferme! In all probablility, the Fezza's crew has become the laughing stock of the F1 paddock. And I haven't even started talking about the mechanical failures that have now become as much a part of Ferrari as their infallible reliability once used to be.

The KERS. Again one question. Why? The teams who invested heavily in this ‘curse’ are the worst off - cases in point Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and BMW. Does the handicap of the extra weight of the system outweigh its benefits of a 90HP boost for a fixed duration of the lap? Oh yes it does. BMW and Renault decided to junk it for this particular race, because quite frankly, with the staggering performance of the KERS-free teams in the front of the pack, these four factory-backed biggies were starting to look a bit like dorks. In modern F1, I guess, the best way to find a gain in performance is to give a lot of importance to aero-development. Credit here has to go to Adrian Newey of Red Bull Racing – they still don’t have that naff double-decked diffuser, and yet they are snapping at Brawn’s heels. Plus, theirs is the only car than looks exquisite, if you exclude the snowplough in front and the scaffolding at the back. Poor Sebastian Vettel – he’d probably have challenged for the victory had Massa not held him up for almost the entire duration of the race. Thoo.

So, what’s it going to be? Ferrari seem to have found some pace, but without reliability and shabby crew-work, it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve a great deal this season.

Clearly, the Schumacher-Todt-Brawn-Byrne combine is being missed. Badly so.