Ferrari had grand designs on topping Mercedes in 2016. And when given a clean race Sebastian Vettel has provided a challenge to the reign of Mercedes from time to time. He was in control in the opening race in Australia before a red flag and a tactical blunder. A similar blunder in Canada lost Vettel track position against Lewis Hamilton. Those errors combined with some unreliability have put Ferrari 131 points behind Mercedes in the constructors champion, and lurking just 6 points behind them is a resurgent Red Bull.
However that placing hasn’t deterred Ferrari from their initial goal: Beat Mercedes.
“At this stage of the season if I say we are going to give up, it’s not absolutely correct. We need to be focused,” the Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said. “In terms of problems, bad luck and everything we have had already, we are at the top in terms of points. But I hope that these kind of points go down and we start to get better. To say we give up, not at all. I think the fact that Red Bull has performed very well is good for Formula 1, but I still think that our target is Mercedes and not Red Bull.”
It is admirable that Arrivabene still believes. The difficulties of the early season have hidden some of Ferrari’s pace and really put them behind the 8 ball but recent developments on their combustion engine have begun to narrow the gap to the Mercedes power unit but as they develop so have Red Bull. Arrivabene knows that second place in the constructors is a minimum expectation and that a third place finish may cost him his job.
Still, the four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel sounded resilient during this week’s test:
“We’re not going to give up until it’s not possible anymore. Mercedes is ahead of everybody right now but that doesn’t mean we should give up”
Red Bull have stormed up on Ferrari in recent Grand Prix, taking 13 more points in Austria and 18 in Britain, and with traditionally strong tracks like the Hungaroring and Spa next on the calendar Ferrari could go into the summer break third in the standings and looking at switching development focus to teh 2017 car.
The fight for #1 in the constructors may be academic now the fight for #2 and beyond is as fierce as it’s ever been.