SCUDERIA FERRARI – POINTS: 571 | POSITION: SECOND
Ferrari’s fight against Mercedes in 2018 was one they will look back on as one they should have won. The team from Maranello had Mercedes where they wanted them, under pressure. The Italian marques fightback from where they were in 2014 to the 2018 season is remarkable but once again, political manoeuvring behind the scenes and mistakes from the team and driver meant they missed out on a potential world championship double. Sebastian Vettel’s season went from good to great, to catastrophic. The relationship between the team and driver appeared to break down at the worst possible moments and they were unable to harmonise in the way that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton managed in the low moments to maximise the best moments. 2018, an opportunity squandered.
A win and double podium was the perfect way to begin the season. Clever exploitation of the virtual safety car against Hamilton gifted Vettel the lead and the race victory. The marker was laid down and a double podium meant it was Ferrari who led the way going into Bahrain. In the desert heat of Sakhir, Ferrari once again played the strategy game much more effectively than their rivals in silver and Vettel drove the perfect race on tyres way past their prime to take back to back victories to open his 2018 account.
Ferrari appeared to have made a considerable step forward and Vettel had raised his game with the SF71H. The first crack began to appear in Azerbaijan, a do or die move up the inside of at-the-time leader of the race Valtteri Bottas cost him dear in the end and allowed Hamilton to capitalise and take the race win.
The race in Canada revealed just how competitive Ferrari was. Ordinarily Hamilton’s stomping ground, Montreal was the scene of arguably Ferrari’s most dominant race victory of the season. Their jump in power unit performance now clear and it had left their rivals scrambling for answers and to the FIA in search of them.
A new sensor had been fitted to the car around the time of the Monaco Grand Prix but nothing appeared out of order. It was genuine pace from Ferrari that had the Silver Arrows worried.
And, in the customary spectacular fashion of Formula One, the title race turned and the story of 2018 was planted. Raining hard and having had it all his own way with his title rival starting the race down in 14th, Vettel’s slow slide into the barriers at Hockenheim was arguably the moment the season was lost. Hamilton standing arms wide open with the winner’s trophy aloft, Vettel’s points advantage gone.
The loss of Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne was an incredible blow to the team. His leadership had shaped their revival in recent years with 2018 being the most competitive year for Ferrari in many years. There is no doubt that his passing affected the team hugely and that the internal squabble for power within the team negatively influenced results on the track.
Ferrari would only go on to win two more races at Spa and Austin, Kimi Raikkonen’s final race victory with the team in Texas a highlight of the season. A plethora of mistakes from Vettel in the second half of the year and a huge development stepback by the team completed the capitulation of their title hopes.
Ferrari’s ill-timed upgrades in Singapore had made the car slower and were rectified far too late into the year to restart a title bid. Vettel’s mistakes were the catalyst but both team and driver had buckled under the intense pressure of a world championship fight whereas their rivals only went from strength to strength.
2019 will see the arrival of the highly-rated Charles Leclerc to the team. One of Marchionne’s final acts as Ferrari boss was the promoting of the Monegasque driver from Sauber. His arrival could bring about a transition of power at Ferrari should he really push his four-time champion teammate next season.