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James Allison: Ferrari can be proud of wins but it's still a long way from F1 title fight

As Ferrari celebrates its 900th Grand Prix this weekend in Spa, technical director James Allison believes the Italian team can be “justifiably pr...

James Allison: Ferrari can be proud of wins but it's still a long way from F1 title fight
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As Ferrari celebrates its 900th Grand Prix this weekend in Spa, technical director James Allison believes the Italian team can be “justifiably proud” of the improvements it has made to its 2015 car and achieving its aim of securing two Formula 1 wins in 2015, but still remains some way off mounting a title challenge.

After a disastrous 2014 campaign for the Scuderia, a season when it failed to record a victory for the first time in 21 years, team boss Maurizio Arrivabene stated that achieving two victories was its primary objective after a comprehensive overall of staffing and power unit development during the off-season.

Ferrari was halfway to completing its aim after just two races in 2015 when Sebastian Vettel, who joined over the winter from Red Bull, won the Malaysian Grand Prix. An expected challenge to the dominant Mercedes team failed to materialise when F1 returned to Europe, but Vettel won Ferrari’s second race on the eve of the summer break with victory in the chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix.

James Allison Maurizio Arrivabene

Allison reckons the team can be pleased with the improvements it has made to its package, but acknowledged there was a lot more needed before it could sustain a title challenge over the course of a season.

He said: “I think everyone who works at Ferrari can be justifiably proud of having stepped up from such a low baseline last year and [for] having put a credible car on the grid.

“[But] it’s a long way from where need to be before we can mount a championship campaign, but all of us know that we’ve done a good step forward and the first half of the season has reflected that.”

Ferrari brought a large number of upgrades to the its car at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, but the expected step forward didn’t materialise and the team was soundly beaten by Mercedes in that race. Underwhelming results then followed in Canada, Austria and Britain, despite more parts coming to the car, before Vettel capitalised on his electric start and Mercedes’ in-race dramas to win in Hungary, but Allison admitted the team’s performance had been disappointing before that.

He said: “We haven’t been very happy with the three races or so that preceded [Hungary], so this [was] an extremely welcome tonic.”

James Allison

When the F1 grid returns to action at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, the teams will be bringing more updates to their cars. However, attention will begin to shift towards the cars needed for the 2016 season and those upgrades will become fewer as resources are diverted towards the new car.

Allison explained that while Ferrari will continue to develop its 2015 machine, updates would not be as frequent as was the case in the first half of the year.

He said: “We’ll still carry on working on the car but the realities of having to work on the current car and then think about the new car means every team on the grid has a tapering effort on the current car. I think there’s still much more to add, but it is always in all teams more vigorous in the first half of the season.”

Despite achieving its objectives so early in the season, Ferrari will have to switch its focus onto 2016 before too long if it is to mount a season long title challenge to Mercedes next year. Kimi Raikkonen’s MGU-K failure cost Ferrari a chance at securing its first double podium since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix and the team has not won more than three races in one season since Fernando Alonso won five in 2010.

However, both of Vettel’s victories have come after he managed to get into clean air in front of the Mercedes cars and stay ahead and he got the jump on them off the line in Hungary. With F1 implementing a new clutch procedure for the start of the race from Spa onwards, slower and more random starts are expected. If Vettel and Raikkonen can capitalise on this and get ahead of the Mercedes drivers again, more victories for Ferrari in 2015 cannot be counted out.

JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow observed yesterday in our Analysis: Can Ferrari close the gap to Mercedes? that it would be very hard for the Italian squad to out develop Mercedes in the second half of the season,

"To catch Mercedes in 10 Races Ferrari need to gain almost 0.1s/lap in addition to the normal development rate per event. If we assume the typical wind tunnel development targets of 1 point of downforce per week, or 2pts per event then Ferrari need to gain this plus an additional 3pts per event. So that’s 150% of Mercedes development rate. That seems impossible, based on incremental improvement with a team of a similar size. What is needed is large step changes in Power Unit development and innovation somewhere," according to Harlow.
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