As Formula One converges upon Melbourne for next weekend’s Albert Park curtain-raiser, signs are growing that Ferrari have their strongest opportunity yet to break Mercedes’ stranglehold of the sport.
After two rounds of winter testing in which the Scuderia showed a performance advantage of as much as half a second a lap, Ross Brawn, their former technical director and the key figure behind Michael Schumacher’s era of dominance, has identified them as clear favourites for the 2019 season.
While Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has won the Australian Grand Prix for the past two years, he has ultimately flattered to deceive, each time losing the driver’s title to Lewis Hamilton with two races to spare. But, as Mercedes seek to emulate Ferrari’s record of six consecutive constructors’ championships, Brawn believes his former employers are perfectly placed for a resurgence. “Sebastian is more than capable of winning the world championship,” he said. “With the calmness the team now have, they have every chance this year.”
In 2018, the situation at Maranello was anything but serene, with the death of chief executive Sergio Marchionne casting a pall over Ferrari, and the tensions between team principal Maurizio Arrivabene and technical chief Mattia Binotto seldom far from the surface. But with the highly respected Binotto since replacing Arrivabene in the top job, and dynamic young Monegasque Charles Leclerc taking over from Kimi Raikkonen as Vettel’s team-mate, the power dynamic in the paddock has shifted.