Despite a hot start and their best car in years, the 2017 Formula 1 season ended under frustratingly familiar circumstances for Ferrari
Success isn’t always an easy thing to define in sport. Sure, for the winners it is, but what about everyone else? Winning isn’t always possible, nor is it always expected, and in that sense Ferrari’s 2017 is one that is particularly difficult to make sense of.
For the first half of the year, there was no doubt the Scuderia were a massive success. Finishing a distant third, 367 points behind victors Mercedes in the 2016 standings, their turnaround to start the season was nothing short of remarkable. In the first six races, not only did Ferrari manage to split wins with the Silver Arrows, but for the first time in the V6 era, the reigning world champions were being beaten by a team that took the fight to them, instead of just capitalizing on their off-days. You could even make the case Ferrari had if not a faster car, at least a better all-around, race-day package, which their lead through Monaco in the constructor’s standings bore out.
That said, with early success the goalposts began to shift, and now the expectation was the Scuderia would be able to contend in one, if not both championships. In the constructor’s that was less likely, due to both the underperformance of Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ development, but at the very least they’d given Sebastian Vettel enough of a platform to contend with Lewis Hamilton. Even after Vettel conceded the lead to Hamilton in Italy, Ferrari had cause for confidence with the Asian leg coming up, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia, where the sweltering conditions favoured their car. Unfortunately, they totally blew it.
Thanks to a first-lap crash in Singapore (caused by Vettel and Raikkonen), an engine failure in Malaysia qualifying, and a faulty spark plug in Japan, Ferrari’s chances of winning their first WDC in a decade were ruined. Indeed, if Vettel had simply converted his pole in Singapore and podiumed the other two, he’d have won the title by a single point.
After that it didn’t matter they went back to their competitive ways, the damage had already been done. Three very costly races, and as a result, another season which for Ferrari fans ended up tasting fairly bitter. The fact it was a massive improvement, and arguably their best season of the decade does little to absolve the frustration at what could’ve been. Perhaps 2018 will finally be their year, but unlike 2017, they’ll have to do it without the luxury of underestimation.
Woods. Jordan. Schumacher. Time catches up with all sportsmen eventually, and after another disappointing season, it’s hard to deny 38-year-old Kimi Raikkonen a spot on that list. Even if Sebastian Vettel was simply too good to touch, the Finn struggled immensely to fill the role of number two driver, only managing seven podiums and 39% of the team’s points. Maybe the narrative would’ve been slightly different had his ERS not failed prior to a very winnable race in Malaysia, but considering the younger, hungrier talent available, it’s hard to keep justifying his spot in the team.
Setting aside the disappointment of seeing his pre-break points lead overhauled by Lewis Hamilton, 2017 is a year Sebastian Vettel should look back on with immense pride. Even with some notable shortcomings (Singapore, the weird road-rage incident in Baku) he was massively impressive, capturing not only five wins, but surprisingly, the same amount of front-row starts (13) as Hamilton in a car that was almost always second-best in qualifying. Unfairly maligned for the strength of his car while at Red Bull, 2017 proved Vettel deserves his status as a great F1 driver.
- 2017 WCC Position: 2nd – 522 points
- 2016 WCC Position: 3rd – 398 points
- Best Finish: 1st (Sebastian Vettel – Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary, Brazil)
- Average Finish: 3.49
- DNFs: 4 (+1 DNS)
- Times Missed Q3: 1
2 (+1 DNS)
Qualy Pace Difference