The first five races of the 2019 Formula 1 Championship have seen a complete Mercedes domination. Scuderia Ferrari struggles to understand the SF90. From the tifosi‘s perspective, the hopes of finally seeing the Prancing Horse clinch another World Title are already fading away, despite the long season ahead. What are the underlying issues within the team and the car itself?
The SF90 is a mystery
Back in February, the Prancing Horse had fuelled the expectations of fans by delivering an outstanding performance during winter testing. The SF90 looked fast, and Mattia Binotto’s outlook was positive to say the least. Even Sebastian Vettel praised an “almost perfect” car. The team was set for success in the season. However, many people were taken aback by the whole management’s excessively promising remarks, which were maybe outed too soon. The communication bias (later highlighted when the challenger didn’t perform as expected) might be part of the issue. The team was overly confident about their performance, and showed no worries when confronted with a car, Mercedes’s W10, that took over two years of research and development.
However, the signs were there. Despite being the fastest in straight line speed, the SF90 had reliability issues and a worrying lack of pace in slow corners as early as February. The updates brought to the Spanish GP, which should have been major, barely improved the car’s February laptimes. In the meantime, Mercedes leapt forward.
What’s at stake
At first, the team was positive they would soon find the issues with the SF90. Presented with an electronics reliability problem, Maranello quickly switched to another specification of the component. When the team couldn’t find the right window to utilise the 2019 Pirelly tyres efficiently, the blame fell on the new hydraulic suspension, which the team has only implemented starting from the last few races of 2018. Now, even aero updates couldn’t save the SF90 from its worrying behaviour in slow corners.
Mattia Binotto has finally spoken up, stating that the car’s concept might be fundamentally flawed, and that finding a solution could take way longer than expected. On the other hand, Toto Wolff replies with the obvious. When a car’s problems heavily fall on the concept itself, updates are way less functional compared to those brought by the teams who got the original idea right. The season is not over, but the Prancing Horse needs a quick fix.