With the talk of Paddy Lowe possibly leaving Mercedes, James Allison finding a home there or somewhere in the UK and the 2017 regulation changes having re-kindled the direct focus of red Bull’s engineering genius Adrian Newey, Last weekend’s Finali Mondiali revealed that Ferrari are also looking for strongly at their chassis development.
A couple years ago, I wrote a piece about beating Adrian Newey as few engineers have but there are couple. Ferrari’s Rory Byrne was such a man and his consultancy at Ferrari could play a key role combined with new technical head, Mattia Binotto, in creating a car that could find a more competitive footing in the 2017 season.
If you had a chance to listen to our Downshift episode here, you’ll hear Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne being incredibly candid about where the real issues are at Ferrari—the chassis. He felt the engines were fine and small improvements would be made but for 2017, it is all about Binotto and the aerodynamic development of the chassis.
Can the Binotto team at Ferrari, along with the consultancy of Byrne, make big gains in 2017? This is where Adrian Newey is at his best. Reading new regulations and exploiting the letter of the law. There is little doubt in Marchionne’s mind that Red Bull’s late season surge in 2016 frustrated him and he does not expect Mercedes to lose any of its steam in 2017. The challenge is immense for Ferrari.
As for Red Bull? One has to wonder if new regulations and an improved power unit will see the team back at the front in the hands of two incredibly talented drivers named Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. I have every reason to believe Red Bull will be back.
Mercedes most likely isn’t going to lose its stranglehold on engine power or chassis development but the end of 2016 was really a testament to the groundwork Ross Brawn created and the team, along with Paddy Lowe, continued to develop with much aplomb. The 2017 season is a completely different beast as far as chassis is concerned and Ross isn’t there to ply his otherworldly skills.
Then there is the question of Renault. This is a team whose technical wonks have been poached and looted when it was Lotus and on life support but now that the manufacturer is behind the purse strings, there are still folks there who know how to win and create a car and with an improved power unit, they could become a serious player for consistent top ten finishes if they get it right.
All bets are off and even if Paddy Lowe leaves, the Mercedes 2017 car is already designed so it will not be as if he’s left them in the lurch. Ferrari told us in Daytona that the reorganization for chassis focus was done in August so we will see if they are playing it safe or if Binotto will deliver a miracle.