Defeat. It’s not something any sports team wants to encounter. Especially when it happens regularly, i.e. season after season.
Just ask the Ferrari Formula 1 team, because they’ve become quite apt at bowing the knee to rival teams. Taking the last decade into account, Ferrari trailed Red Bull between 2010 and 2013 - failing to finish any one of those seasons ahead of the Austrian team.
Come 2014, with a new set of technical rules and regulations, and Mercedes romps away to six consecutive championships. And Ferrari? Again, they came off second best.
It’s become somewhat of a pattern for this great Italian team to build up hype around its prospects for a new season. But then it is followed by their flaws shining through and casting big shadows on what should be amazing season-long performances.
With the new season less than a month away, Ferrari has been coy about their 2020 racecar. So much so that team boss, Mattia Binotto, said that the car is not poised to win the season-opening race in Australia.
Whether he is telling the truth or not, Ferrari needs to do something about their championship prospects.
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The last time Ferrari won the drivers' championship was in 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen and the constructors’ championship in 2008. In 2007, Raikkonen won the title ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso because of the internal dispute at McLaren. Had it not been for the McLaren duo and their oversized ego’s, Ferrari and Raikkonen would not have tasted glory that year.
In 2008, Ferrari could have won both championships, but a slue of errors on Felipe Massa's part at the start of the season meant that they could only seal the one trophy.
In truth, it’s been a rough few years for Ferrari who, if we’re honest, was last competitive in 2004 when Michael Schumacher won his seventh championship. Since then, it's been touch-and-go for this illustrious team who is failing to rejuvenate its once glorious past. Changes to management and driver pairings that fail to conjure the desired results, all resulted in the team not being able to deliver on their promise.
And in the modern turbo-hybrid era, Ferrari came close to toppling Mercedes, but they never have it in them to take the cigar from Mercedes and smoke it. But that needs to change in 2020.
Image: Getty Images
Just back Leclerc, already!
When Charles Leclerc joined Ferrari in 2019 to partner Sebastian Vettel, no one could have thought that he’d outscore the four-times world champion after the season. Nor would anyone have thought that he’d be the driver with the most pole positions (seven) throughout the 21-race season.
It highlighted that Leclerc has what it takes to be Ferrari’s new championship-winning hope, but the big money Vettel is paid dictates that the team want a return on their investment. While Vettel is good, he is not as good as he used to be. He is not the same driver, with the same passion and drive, as the one who led Red Bull Racing to four consecutive double victories between 2010 and 2013. But Leclerc is a driver on a mission.
At 22-years-old, he has that drive to become F1 champion. He has the shoulders to carry Ferrari’s championship ambitions throughout 2020 and into the all-important 2021 season. Vettel, despite earning a higher salary than Leclerc, and Ferrari need to admit that Leclerc is the future and that any championship hope is dependent on him.
Charles Leclerc (left) and Sebastian Vettel. Image: Getty Images
Why 2020 is important
Ferrari is treading awfully close to breaking some of its own records. And if the team could have their way, they'd want to hold on to those said records.
In 2000, with Schumacher at the helm, Ferrari broke a 21-year drivers' championship drought that stretched back to 1979. In 1999, the team won its first constructors' championship since 1983 - a 16-year gap between titles! Though Ferrari's current winless streak is not nearly as long as the ones of the '90s, the team needs 2020 to turn its fortunes around.
Ferrari needs to win at least one of the two championships to not sign the decade off as another trophy-less venture. Furthermore, F1 needs Ferrari to be at the top of their game, given the heritage and passion the name alone brings to the sport. But perhaps importantly, Ferrari needs the win to build momentum going into 2021. The rules and regulations may be vastly different from the current ones, but building up steam can lift the morale of the team.
The 2020F1 season begins in Australia, 13 - 15 March.