Ferrari back in the victory hunt?
World champions still down, but far from out
Hungary was Ferrari’s best performance of the season. They may have scored more points elsewhere, but this was the first time in 2005 that they have looked in genuine contention for race wins.Few would have predicted such a scenario early in the weekend. Things did not go well for the world champions on Friday, with Michael Schumacher missing the second session with an electrical problem and Rubens Barrichello ending his day in the barriers.
Come Saturday morning, however, and Ferrari were starting to show hints of what was to come in qualifying, finishing third and fifth in final practice. But even that didn’t prepare Michael Schumacher’s rivals for the blistering lap that earned him the team’s first 2005 pole by almost a second from the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya.
Most in the paddock put Schumacher’s pace down to a minimal fuel load, with Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn admitting their strategy was highly aggressive. But it turned out to be less aggressive than Kimi Raikkonen’s, the Finn stopping four laps earlier than the German, proving that Schumacher’s qualifying speed was more representative than many had imagined.
In the end Ferrari had no answer to McLaren’s race pace, and once Raikkonen slipped ahead of Schumacher at the second stops there was nothing the world champion could do but watch his rival disappear into the distance. Once again, whereas Michelin’s tyres appeared consistent throughout, Ferrari’s Bridgestones were struggling for grip in the closing stages.
Nevertheless, the performance marked a huge step forward for both the team and their tyre supplier. After scoring just 18 points in the first five races this year, Ferrari are now a comfortable third in the standings, with a healthy looking 86 points to their name.
The real question is will the revival continue, or did the team just strike lucky in Hungary with their strategy and/or tyre choice? Earlier this year, Schumacher’s staggering race pace at San Marino had many a pundit labelling Ferrari as title contenders, only for all the promise to evaporate in subsequent rounds.
The good news this time, however, is that Ferrari’s rivals will not be testing for the next three weeks and will then head to a track they’ve never driven before for the next round of the season in Turkey.
That level playing field, plus the fact that Ferrari may well choose to continue testing in the meantime – they are not party to the other nine teams’ voluntary summer ban – means we may yet see a red car beat its Michelin rivals to victory in 2005.