Vettel can profit as Ferrari get it all right
Scuderia set to end their nine-year title drought
Sebastian Vettel 4-1
A major shake-up in the regulations of Formula One usually results in a changing of the guard at the top of the pecking order.
It’s hard to say with conviction that that will be the case again this year after the latest re-write of the technical regulations, but there are certainly reasons to believe that the dominance Mercedes have enjoyed since 2014 could be at a close.
In that year, a switch to hybrid turbo engines brought an end to four years of Sebastian Vettel claiming the title, often unchallenged, in his Red Bull.
The Renault in the back of the Bull was no match for the Merc and the rest is history.
Under this year’s rules power and aerodynamics seem to have almost equal importance and, while his overalls are a different colour this time, that could swing the advantage back to Vettel.
The German joined Ferrari in 2015, and although his first year there was promising with three victories, last season was a tale of frustration and missed opportunity. Possible wins went begging in Australia and Canada while he was uncharacteristically involved in a number of first-lap altercations.
Winter testing should never be considered a solid formguide, but there is evidence that Ferrari are better prepared for this season than for any since they last claimed the constructors title in 2008.
A new design philosophy, focusing on the car as a whole rather than trying to maximise each area separately, seems to have paid off and the engine appears much closer to Mercedes power.
Kimi Raikkonen’s unofficial lap record at Barcelona on the final day of testing probably wasn’t as far superior to Mercedes' potential as it looked, but it was still impressive and suggests that Ferrari are serious challengers.
And their speed and consistency on race-simulation runs also suggested they could be at least a match for Mercedes.
Those laptimes were the barometer by which seasoned clockwatchers confidently, and correctly, predicted the Mercedes dominance in the last three years.
Mercedes are there to be beaten and Lewis Hamilton will undoubtedly be looking to show new recruit Valtteri Bottas who’s boss.
Bottas was highly rated in his early days but his inability to dominate Felipe Massa at Williams has led to enthusiasm for the Finn cooling.
Raikkonen spent much of last season ahead of Vettel in the standings. However, while the Finn was undoutedly the more consistent Ferrari driver last year he never looked like winning a race.
If this year’s car turns out to be a potential championship winner then we can expect to see Raikkonen rack up the podium finishes but he’s more likely to act as a tail-gunner for Vettel than mount a title challenge himself.
Red Bull’s test car notably lacked any aerodynamic bells and whistles which might have been expected from genius designer Adrian Newey, and the general feeling is that they were holding something back.
However, it could be the case that the lack of power from their Renault unit leaves them needing to keep drag to a minimum.
S Vettel to win drivers championship
2pts 4-1 Betway