Not everyone thought they could do it. Following Michael Schumacher’s retirement from competitive racing, the year out and subsequent leaving of Ross Brawn and a fairly major shake-up of other key staff at Ferrari, few thought they’d actually be able to continue their winning ways. But in 2007, win they did. The final race saw Kimi Raikkonen collect a long overdue and deserved championship. A few races previous the team had seized the constructors and the Scuderia had succeeded. But it wasn’t all plain-sailing, and 2008 is going to be difficult for a number of reasons.
Most notably, McLaren. Had the Woking team not been thrown out of the constructors race last year, the path to the title would have been trickier for Ferrari. Arguably the MP4-22 was a better car, but when the competition gets whittled down to BMW, it really doesn’t make for a fair fight. However, McLaren appear in testing to be strong and are once again looking to be Ferrari’s biggest rivals in the 2008 campaign.
One advantage Ferrari have is consistency in drivers though. Felipe Massa is proving to be a handy number two, with potential to raise his game. Although a disappointing performance in 2007 left many feeling as though he has already blown his chance, a sentiment echoed by many in the motor sporting world. However, Massa has matured since being at Ferrari, and I don’t think he can be ruled out straight away. Three victories in 2007 is something you cannot ignore.
From the outset, Ferrari have a trump card in their number one driver, Kimi Raikkonen. Although little emotion passes through the Finn, he must have been relieved to have finally won the title, and his anticipation for 2008 must be growing. Now Kimi knows he can win, and now he understands how a winning season is put together, he has to start this year as the favourite. He has proven his critics wrong and demonstrated peerless pace. Although 2007 wasn’t perhaps one of Raikkonen’s greatest years of pure racing, we know he has that ability to draw on if needed, and that alone makes the Finn a danger in any car, let alone one of the fastest.
The F2008 has been running superbly well in testing over the winter. Ferrari have once again shied away from the big tests where most teams participated, instead spending a fair amount of time in Bahrain, only allowing themselves to be compared to Toyota. When they have shared tarmac with McLaren, BMW and Renault, they have looked good, but not unbeatable.
The team are working very hard on reliability for this campaign, which is something that started to show a few signs of cracking last time around. In their dominating 2004 season, Ferrari retired from two races, one for each driver. Last season, they accumulated three. While the increase is slight, and actually a decrease over 2006, the key difference is that in 2004 the team had little competition; it didn’t matter as much if they didn’t get a perfect result at every attempt. But with BMW improving, Renault surely looking to be on better form and McLaren hopefully remaining within the rules, Ferrari have to ensure they score as many points as possible and limit their retirements.
Ferrari will retain the drivers title with Kimi Raikkonen taking his second. The constructors will be much harder though, and they will end up finishing second after the Brazilian Grand Prix.