August 17, 2013 (F1plus/Jael Arias).- Ferrari started the year with the most competitive package since Fernando Alonso is in their ranks, however, the beginning of the season for the Maranello based squad has been very irregular and appear to be in a downward slope.
For Lotus, it has been a year where they’ve been very consistent in performance despite the slump they went through in Monaco and Canada. In Nurburgring and Hungary they showed they have a car to fight for the championship, but economic problems on the horizon suggest that they may have reached their peak this season.
Another black year for Maranello…
If Felipe Massa defined the F138 during the preseason as a car that came from another planet compared to its predecessor (F-2012), what Ferrari is living after completing the first half of the season has nothing to do with that statement.
The F138 debuted with a podium finish and both cars looked strong during the season opener in Melbourne. During the first quarter of the championship just bad luck and the mistakes made by both pilots deprived the red team from better results.
Ferrari had presented probably the best balanced car of the beginning of the season. With great race performance without sacrificing one lap pace, the F138 also showed excellent management of the tires.
This was the year Maranello hoped to hold a world title after six without winning the crown. The red car showed its peak in Montmelò, with an excellent drive by Fernando Alonso, they were able to win the race from 5th place in the grid, an unprecedented result in the complicated Catalan circuit.
However, from that race on Ferrari seems to be on a downward trend in performance. Alonso, contrary to his career, has been a bit inconsistent this first half.
The Spaniard has alternated podiums finishes with bad races for the potential of the car he was driving. This has led Vettel, who has been able during the entire season of maximizing the potential of his RB9, to be ahead of Ferrari’s number one.
On the other hand, Felipe Massa continues to show that he hasn’t regained his best form after the accident in Hungary 2009. The Brazilian driver fails to convince and signed another bad season starter despite a couple podium finishes.
Year after year, the Sao Paulo driver remains one of the most questioned. Not even the competitive package he had at the beginning of the season has served to prove that he still has what it takes to compete at the maximum level.
The distance Ferrari has to cut with their rivals in terms of performance is wide. The task seems complicated, but given the level shown earlier this year and with the addition of English engineer James Allison from Lotus, there may still be room for them rejoining the fight for the championship.
The dubious alternative…
Lotus has amazed the whole paddock again. The English team achieved the first victory of the year in Australia and everybody put Kimi Raikkonen among the favorites to win the title in 2013.
However, the complex financial situation the Enstone based team is facing raises questions about their position in the championship as an alternative to Red Bull and Mercedes in the fight for the title.
Alan Permane himself (chief engineer) has hinted there is no evolutionary capacity left for the English squad. In a sport that lives from in-season developments this is an important statement in order to establish their competitive position.
Kimi has been the brightest light of the Enstone team. Even when his car hasn’t been in top form, the Finn has managed to finish in the points. Monaco and Canada are the best examples of the fighting spirit of Raikkonen.
The 'Iceman' is on a scoring streak of 29 consecutive GP. He has surpassed the historical record held by Michael Schumacher for almost a decade. His talent doesn’t go unnoticed as he’s on the radar of Red Bull to accompany Vettel in 2014. Even Ferrari sounds like a possible destination for the last champion with ‘La Scuderia’.
Romain Grosjean on the other hand, has been improving his performance after starting the year in bad shape. His races in Nurburgring and Hungary provide him a confidence boost ahead of the second half.
The Frenchman has an undeniable natural speed. It is not unusual to see him ahead of Kimi in qualifying. He is widely supported within the heart of the team and its continuity in Lotus will depend on him keeping his current form.
Lotus options on the present championship will depend on the ability to evolve their already competitive car. The injection of capital from the sale of 35% of the team to Infinity Racing is vital for the Enstone based squad.
So far, they have shown they have a very balanced package that has performed well with all types of tires. And this is the greatest virtue of the E21, its treatment of the fragile Pirelli compounds. But surely, it takes more to win a World Title. Soon we will know if Lotus has that something.