FLASH: Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) should be more competitive in Baku, Azerbaijan than they were in China.
The Big Q1: Why?
MercedesAMG became the 1st team in 27 years to begin a F1 season with 3 consecutive 1-2 finishes, inflicting another brutal blow to Ferrari’s World Championship aspirations in China.
But this next round in Baku should provide the circumstances for The Scuderia to stall that momentum…
Oh how Barcelona testing must seem like such a long time ago for Ferrari. They left Spain buoyed by their strongest pre-season in living memory. Hopes of them delivering a sustained title challenge, and perhaps even leading from the front, were high.
But, now 3 races into a 21-event season and they are 2nd in the constructors’ championship.
The Big Q2: How did this happen?
As is often the case in F1, it is a combination of a series of factors, while the Silver Arrows have been near perfect.
In Australia, Ferrari could not run their power units in the way they wanted to. They also suffered horribly with balance issues. The track surface simply did not suit their car and they struggled to generate bulk tire temperature, as the rarely used circuit cleaned up as the weekend progressed.
Bahrain was better, Ferrari having cured their engine issue to allow them to run the unit at full power, and that hauled them to front of the pecking order in terms of pure power unit performance, as proved by the speed trap data. The track surface also suited them and combined with warmer conditions, generating tire temperature was not so much of an issue.
Add to that the fact the circuit has traditionally been one of MercedesAMGs’ weaker tracks and the stars aligned for Ferrari to dominate, until a short circuit within an injection control unit robbed Charles Leclerc of victory, while an error from Sebastian Vettel ruled him out of contention.
The to China and the Shanghai International Circuit. While it was warmer than usual, the cooler conditions relative to Bahrain combined with a rough track surface, Ferrari fell back again.
It seems that when the track is smooth and dirty, Ferrari can generate tire temperature, but when it cleans up, as it did at the weekend in China, they falter.
In contrast, MercedesAMG appear to be generating much more down-force, which means they are able to generate more bulk tire temperature as the track cleans up. That means more grip and therefore a faster car, and that is why they ran comfortably in China.
And they were helped by Ferrari using team orders for 3rd race in succession, this time losing time that while ultimately did not cost them victory did highlight a potential weakness that could be exploited going forward.
The Big Q3: Why might Baku offer Ferrari hope?
The Scuderia’s power advantage over the rest of the pack will make even more difference on the Street Circuit given it has 2 long straights that make up about 50% of the overall track length. The middle sector, the twisty part of the track, will be more challenging so getting the aerodynamic configuration right will still be important.
Baku is a high efficiency circuit, which should suit the slightly lower drag Ferrari than MercedesAMG. Data in this area suggests we could see a swing of around 3/10ths sec in terms of aerodynamics in Ferrari’s favor Vs MercedesAMG.
The Big Q4: Will it be enough?
Tires are the great unknown. If they can get the rubber into the right operating window, Messers Vettel and Leclerc should have the edge.
Get it wrong, take their eye off the ball in terms of strategy, or get caught up in issuing team orders, and defeat #4 will be staring at them.
And let us not forget that the last 2 editions of the race have been dramatic…
Ferrari is the Aristocrat of the automotive sector.
HeffX-LTN overall technical outlook for RACE is Bullish across the board, and there is very little resistance here and none above 140.26. All of our Key indicators are Very Bullish in here.
Baku Grand Prix this weekend, stay tuned.