2006 Team Review - Ferrari 24 Nov 2006
Ferrari hoped to consign the previous seasons disappointment to history and return to their winning ways in 2006. And with the dream team of Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt et al still hungry for wins, the Ferrari revival was soon underway.
Only the new 248 F1s patchy form in pre-season testing caused any real concern. It was the first Ferrari to be developed entirely under Aldo Costa, rather than his famed predecessor Rory Byrne - and it represented somewhat of a new beginning. In the driving seat the arrival of Felipe Massa as a replacement for long-time incumbent Rubens Barrichello also marked a new era for the team.
Any anxieties were quickly swept away in Bahrain. After showing their competitiveness in practice, Schumacher and Massa locked out the front row on the grid with ease, and their race pace was easily a match for the Renaults. It was only the French teams excellent pit work that gifted Fernando Alonso a win and held back a charging Schumacher.
The Ferraris, however, were not fail-safe. After changing three engines in Malaysia and struggling to get temperature into their Bridgestones in Australia, it was clear the team still had a lot to do before they could truly challenge Renault. Only two consecutive wins courtesy of Schumacher in San Marino and at the Nurburgring kept their championship hopes alive.
Lack of grip made for another troubled race in Spain, while Schumachers controversial qualifying stunt in Monaco dropped the German to the back of the grid and handed yet more points to Renault. With the mid-season fast approaching, the French team had scored four more victories than Ferrari and were leading the title chase by 34 points.
But in Indianapolis, the Ferrari package seemed to come together just as Renault and Michelin faltered. After finishing one-two and scoring maximum points in the US Grand Prix, Ferraris title hopes were gifted a second chance. With his new Bridgestone tyres working well, Schumacher got everything he could from the 248 F1 and took a further four victories from the next six races.
Though still overshadowed by his legendary team mate, Massa shook off his early nerves and started to convert his drives into points. Scoring one more podium and one more win than Renault counterpart Giancarlo Fisichella over the course of the season, Massa performed his role as second driver with aplomb. With the Ferrari reaping an even greater advantage after Renaults mass dampers were declared illegal, the French teams lead dwindled fast.
After Schumacher clinched another win in Ferraris home race at Monza, he finally made his long-awaited retirement announcement. With Ferrari hoping for an appropriate swansong for the departure of their most successful driver, the title battle took on even move significance. But a seventh season victory in Shanghai proved to be Schumachers last. An engine failure at Suzuka and a puncture in Brazil ruined Schumachers chances of an eighth drivers crown, and even Massas second place in Japan and win in Brazil were not quite enough to secure the red team the constructors title. Five points adrift, Ferrari saw the honours go to Renault.
Although not the perfect closing chapter to Schumachers career that Ferrari may have wished for, 2006 saw the Italian team reclaim much of the performance they had mislaid a season earlier and augurs well for Kimi Raikkonens move to the team for 2007.
More 2006 team reviews - Renault, McLaren, Honda, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull, Williams, Toro Rosso, Spyker MF1 and Super Aguri.