Analysis: Ferrari right to be optimistic


It is all too easy in the days before the new cars hit the race track for the first time to talk up hopes of the forthcoming Formula 1 season.

So while it was no surprise to hear Ferrari and Fernando Alonso declaring their optimism for 2013 at its annual Wrooom media event at Madonna di Campiglio this week, behind the soundbites there are genuine reasons to believe that this trust is well placed.

The frustration of last season is still running deep at Maranello. Having bounced back from an awful pre-season testing programme to lead the championship for much of the campaign but ultimately lose the drivers' crown by three points to Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari knows that title glory was painfully close.

Senior figures at the team are in agreement that losing the crown last year - especially when you take into account what happened at the first corner at Spa - was much harder to deal with than seeing the 2010 title slip from its grasp through its own strategy blunder in Abu Dhabi.

But the 2012 season did at least deliver key lessons that Ferrari has acted on.

Personnel-wise there is continuity. Technical director Pat Fry's desire to recruit more brain power for its aerodynamic department has been fulfilled with the arrival of new staff, including Loic Bigois and Ben Agathangelou who are now both in place.

There is change in the windtunnel programme however. Ferrari's Maranello facility is shut for now to address the correlation problems that came to light last year.

Instead, Ferrari will be using the highly-rated Toyota facility in Cologne, which should deliver more consistent data.

There is also a bigger push being made in the field of simulation, both in terms of staff and facilities at Maranello for car developments, and a more advanced simulator for the drivers and engineers, which will be helped by the arrival of Pedro de la Rosa.

The situation surrounding regulations should help too. The advantage other teams had in DRS performance - which was critical in qualifying – will be effectively wiped away by the new limits on when the rear wing can be opened.

Furthermore, teams are all unified in their understanding of what the best exhaust layout is for the current regulations. Last year's uncertainty over how far to push the rules proved costly early on.

On the driver front too, things should be better. Alonso proved his mettle last year with an almost flawless campaign, while Felipe Massa rediscovered his form in the second half of the campaign to give a glimmer of what should be possible for the team in 2013.

Reality will bite next month when the new cars hit the race track. And while no one at Ferrari is promising that the world championship will be brought home to Maranello, the team is sure it will enter the campaign in a far improved situation to last year.

As Alonso said: "We can be faster or slower [than the others] but not 1.5 or two seconds off the pace, because it was a record what we had last year. It is maybe impossible to be worse than last year, so I am confident."

Considering how close Ferrari came to the title last year after its disastrous situation at the start of the campaign, the team knows exactly what is achievable if it gets things right from the off.

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