F1 legend and ex Ferrari driver Niki Lauda believes that there are parallel problems between the Ferrari team of today and the one that he joined in 1974. He thinks there is still a Schumacher-sized hole at the squad and believes the team are on the extremes of opposed emotion.
“It seems to me that the old, well-known and fundamental Ferrari problems still exist. The people at Ferrari are very emotional: if it goes well, they are relaxed and casual, which is bad for continuous success. And if it’s not going well, there is a merciless pressure from the outside and the inside, creating a rush and quick fixes.
Sebastian came as a beacon of hope to Ferrari; a kind of saviour as Michael Schumacher was. At the beginning it worked quite well, but at the moment Sebastian is struggling in this role.
I cannot say exactly why, but we see that Kimi Raikkonen is often faster, which for me means that Sebastian is weaker. He is certainly not in the role that he expects from himself and Ferrari expect of him. That needs to change, Ferrari needs Vettel as the hope and the anchor for success.”
– Niki Lauda
Lauda was a saviour for Ferrari too, his 1975 title arrived after an 11-year drought for the team. His view on the current Ferrari drivers is interesting, suggesting that a dominant driver is needed to command the team forward. Raikkonen is quiet in front of the press, but is one to provide massive feedback on the car with engineers. Vettel has taken the ambassadorial role in front of the camera and a few radio messages during some of the races this year have implied he is leading. But where Lauda’s comparison falls is in how the Ferrari of his era resurfaced to glory. It wasn’t emotive or driver based, but a technical revamp that saw the team rise to the top in 1975.
Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2, won the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on this day in 1977. pic.twitter.com/JYE6TiJpji
— Kenny's F1 1950-2017 (@Kenneth01742214) August 28, 2016
There was a great frustration for the Italian team regarding engines when Lauda arrived at Scuderia. In 1974, he joined a team in dire need of an engine that could match the dominant Ford Cosworth DFV engine. Similarly to the Mercedes power-unit of today, this engine trumped the rest of the grid fairly easily.
Lauda won his first championship in 1975 and this was arguably down to the revolutionary engine of the Ferrari 312T, which used a flat-12 engine with cylinders that were laid horizontally so that the mass of the engine was placed lower than the common vee-configurations, a clear advantage. The “T” in the Ferrari model’s name refers to a transverse siting of the gearbox, in front of the engine and rear axle, which again followed the flat-12’s philosophy of finding performance in better weight distribution of the car, which improved handling significantly. It also helped Lauda that the flat-12 engine was incredibly reliable. Retirements had been regular in 1974, but not in the year he claimed his first title.
Will the 2017 regulations be open enough to offer this sort of technical overhaul? Whilst the engine token system is getting scrapped, the room for new engineering ideas shrinks:
Constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.
– FIA revised 2017 Engine Regulations (Under: Performance Convergence)
Ferrari’s real issue is that it’s no longer living in an F1 era that allows technical revolution to move teams around the grid.