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Number One Contenders to the throne: Ferrari

962   //    21 Mar 2011, 22:22 IST

The name “Scuderia Ferrari” is synonymous with excellence in Formula one. With 16 constructors’ championships and 15 driver’s championships, they are truly the heavyweights in this arena. Times have changed since the dominance of the Maranello unit during the Schumacher era and their close rivalry with Mclaren. Ever since 2009, Ferrari have not always had the fastest car on track with significant aerodynamic changes being introduced into the rules. However this season, Ferrari definitely look like the complete package and could give Red Bull a run for their money.

The Car

The F150° Italia is so named as a tribute to the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy and is the fifty-seventh single-seater built by Ferrari specifically to compete in the Formula 1 World Championship. The innovations on the car are more or less dictated by the change in rules for the 2011 season with the reintroduction of the KERS system and the Drag Reduction System(movable rear-wing). The kinetic energy recovery system, designed by Ferrari, has been produced in conjunction with MTS and Magneti Marelli and was fine tuned based on experience acquired in 2009.  The unit chose to test aerodynamics only in the last practice session and the results have been pretty good in all sessions. Ferrari have clocked the most number of practice laps covering an enormous 5244 kms in both lap and race simulations showing the car’s reliability. Even though Massa drove off track on 2 separate occasions, the car seems to recover well from such mishaps losing very less time from the incidents. No major worries other than some leakage in oil in Valencia and some minor mechanical issues.

The Team

One of the most experienced and talented pit crew who have been very much a strong part of their 16 constructors’ titles. The strategy of team during their winning runs has been exemplary and has gotten them out of pretty tight situations. Fernando Alonso would beg to differ though. The team’s strategic error last season cost Alonso his third driver’s crown at the season ending Abu Dhabi grand prix. Also, their “team orders” during the German grand prix reminded us of the 2002 season when Barrichello was forced to move over to let the championship challenger Schumacher go through. The team was fined and even though the strategy was the best for the team, it was not looked upon well by the FIA officials and marshals. Despite all the controversy, they are the most slick and well oiled unit in F1 along with Mclaren and will definitely give Red Bull a run for their money this year too.

The Drivers

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa was one of the more lopsided partnerships amongst F1 teams last season. The fiery Alonso who has been a constant threat with Ferrari and Renault  is definitely their number one driver and their main contender for the championship. Massa, however, has not recovered completely from the horrific crash he was involved in during the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix or so it seems. He failed to register even one victory last season and his form is a major doubt coming into the new season. If Massa continues to perform badly, he will be forced to follow more “team orders”, which is now legal. His performance will be the deciding factor on whether Ferrari will contest for the constructors’ championship or will have to play second fiddle to the Red Bulls and the Mclarens.

Final verdict: Fernando Alonso – P2 in the driver’s championship, should be another close fight with the young German turk which should go down to the wire. Vettel could blow the rest of the opposition away if Red Bull is reliable, but Alonso is definitely the best of the rest.

Felipe Massa, should be in the top 6 again, but I think he will find form and help Ferrari to atleast place second in the constructors’ race. The performance of the two second drivers of the teams will be the deciding factor for the constructors’ title. Too close to call, but the cards are packed in favour of the Austrian Red Bull team.

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