Ferrari’s F1 Team May Be at a Disadvantage for the Rest of 2017

Ferrari may have started 2017 with a bang, but their momentum could run out.

The first third of this season of Formula One made Ferrari look almost unbeatable. Between Australia and Monaco, their two cars, piloted by Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel, took three wins and five other podium finishes. Combined, this totaled 196 points to Mercedes’s 179. After Monaco, however, performance dropped off, and the two Ferrari drivers have since managed only a pair of podium finishes over four races. Mercedes has taken three wins and three other podium finishes in the same period. Sebastian Vettel still leads the World Drivers’ Championship, but only by a single point, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas a close two and three—and Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen fifth, behind Ricciardo.

While the last few races have not been stellar for Ferrari, their performance could be reasonably chalked up to bad circumstances…and decisions, if we’re to be fair. From here on out, though, Ferrari has some worrying factors to take into account.

Earlier this year, we reported on the possibility of grid penalties facing the team, as they were going through engine components like your uncle goes through Fireball. As of yet, no such penalties have been incurred, leading us to believe many of the components, such as the turbocharger, may be salvaged. Unless the Scuderia feels like putting their race finishes at risk, they may have to bite the bullet and install new parts.

Their once-staggering pace, which could only be foiled with flawless race strategy, is now faltering due to two factors. For one, the setup problems of the rival Mercedes W08 are all but fixed, which have ensured Mercedes three wins from the four races since Monaco. The other problem for Ferrari? Their chassis and engine no longer pair well. F1 Analisi Tecnica reports that Ferrari started the year with a brutish aero package, made effective by an engine that burned oil along with fuel in its combustion chamber. After the oil-burning controversy, however, they say Ferrari was forced to revise its engine, and is again behind the Mercedes in terms of power. That, combined with a less efficient aero package, is partially to blame for the reduced competitively of the SF70H in the last few races. The power boost they received in Britain did not seem to claw back much of the gap to Mercedes.

Ferrari needs to rebuild a championship lead with upgrades to the SF70H before they find themselves at risk for grid penalties late this season. With half the season gone already, time is fast running out.