March 13th, 2013 (F1plus/E. Black).- Have you ever cheered for your favourite team or athlete/driver and defended them tooth and nail against all those who slammed them? Sure, we all have. It's part of being a sports fan. Deep down though, you know you're frustrated to the point you would like to just smack some people around to wake them up. Some Tifosi might be feeling the very same way this season if what we saw in testing is not corrected.
The Italian team from Maranello seems to be in better shape in this pre-season testing than they were last year. It is a difficult statement to quantify or defend, however, during the tests; the car seemed much more behaved and planted.
The drivers all seem to think the new F138 is a better race car than its predecessor yet both admit there is much work to do.
There is no doubt that they have ironed out some of the flaws with the reworked front pull-rod suspension. Aerodynamically, it seems more efficient. It's hard to tell, but one dead giveaway during testing was that they used much less of the flow-viz (aero paint) than last season. Ferrari was struggling to understand the aerodynamic characteristics even during the season.
Arguably, Ferrari had two major problems last season with their F2012. The first, as I mentioned, was understanding the car's aero and the second being its inability to manage its tyres.
In part, both are related. The lack of aerodynamic grip through medium and high speed corners caused the tyres to degrade at a higher rate than those of rivals such as Sauber and Williams. With the use of Toyota's wind tunnel in Cologne Germany, Ferrari may finally be coming to grips with its aerodynamic challenges.
I'm still struggling to understand how a team of this calibre has been unable to resolve the issues with its wind tunnel. You may recall that the team discovered issues with it back in 2009, which they claimed was responsible for its poor form.
Impressively, the team has done quite well despite this, which makes me wonder how much better they might have been if they had resolved the issue in the beginning.
Fast forward to Barcelona winter testing 2013. Many on hand during testing noticed two issues with the F138 which are concerning.
The first issue was a problem with lose front wheel nuts or bearings. It was quite evident when Massa's wheel decided to go it's own way which left the little Brazilian three wheeling to a stop. The second incident wasn't very noticeable to many if at all. It was spotted however, by my friend Craig Scarborough, who was on hand.
The second issue was one that Tifosi know all too well. The rate of degradation on the rear tyres was higher than that of some of the other cars. It is true however that we don't know what was being tested or what the fuel loads were, so we cannot draw a valid comparison. It is also true that the lower than expected ambient and track temperatures may have affected the grip levels, but that's not really a good excuse as the conditions would have been the same for everyone.
The conclusion? If Ferrari's fears of tyre degradation are true, then the Tifosi might be crying the blues yet again. I can still hear the cries of disappointment from the Canadian GP when Alonso dropped back like a limp dog after his Pirelli's fell off the cliff just a few laps from the end.