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F1 in 2019: Can it finally be Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel's season?

Sky Sports | Updated: 2019-01-01 18:00:33

A full decade has now passed since Ferrari won a Formula 1 world title.

The past two seasons have offered plenty of hope and increased promise that the drought might soon be over, yet Mercedes' championship dominance in the current era remains unbroken.

So what might Ferrari and lead driver Sebastian Vettel learned from last year and what might change for them in 2019? Carlo Vanzini, Sky in Italy's F1 commentator, helps sets the new year scene at Maranello…

What did Ferrari learn from 2018?
Ferrari won more races and claimed more pole positions, six, than in any season for a decade, yet there was still a sense of underachievement as world championship leads over Mercedes during the first half of the season gave way to distant title defeats. Sebastian Vettel was blamed by the media for making too many errors, while Ferrari themselves lost their way on car development after the summer break.

Vanzini: "The picture was easy to see. Dividing the season in half up to Abu Dhabi, Sebastian Vettel was first in the championship and eight points in front of Lewis Hamilton after 10 races. But he was only fifth, with Lewis first, over the next 10.

"We also have to say that the first 10 races were with Sergio Marchionne at the helm of Ferrari, whereas the rest were without him. I don't want to say there's a direct connection, but when a big boss like Marchionne passes away of course something will happen in a huge company like Ferrari. Particularly because maybe there are some who had a better relationship with him and some who had a worse relationship with him. So things change, but this happens in every company in such situations.

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"For the championship, Sebastian made too many mistakes. In Germany when he was leading the race, in Monza with Lewis and then with Verstappen in Japan. He was also unlucky, because every time he went wheel-to-wheel with someone he spun. This was a pity because we could have had a great championship fight until the end.

"Ferrari was also not as competitive in the last part of the season as they were in the spring and summer period. They had to go back on some technical developments and understand why some things went wrong.

"I thought that Ferrari had the car to win the championship in 2018, or to at least arrive at the last race fighting for the championship. But Mercedes did a fantastic job and Lewis did the best season ever for him. Sebastian did some magical things during the season but if you want to win the championship you can't make so many mistakes."

Is 2019 a big year for Sebastian Vettel?
Vettel enters his fifth season at Maranello still chasing what he has consistently described as his 'dream': becoming world champion with Ferrari. But for the first time since joining from Red Bull he has a new team-mate, with the hugely-promising Charles Leclerc replacing Kimi Raikkonen. So does Leclerc represent a threat to Vettel's established superiority or will the youngster spur him on to new heights? And how is Vettel's standing in Italy now after the mistakes and frustrations of 2018?

Vanzini: "It's the same in Italy in all sports: if you win, you're thought of as the best. But if Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus don't win together, for example, questions will come as to whether it's good to have him at the club or not. It's the same with Ferrari and Vettel. Some people said if Ferrari still had Fernando Alonso last year they could have won the championship two or three races before the end of the season. When you don't win the situation is like this.

"Sebastian has to win the championship to be a hero for the Tifosi, but it was the same with Michael Schumacher. In 1997 after the crash with Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez a lot of Italian fans wanted to have another driver. But then you saw Michael won five championships in a row from 2000.

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"Interestingly, Schumi won his first championship for Ferrari in his fifth season. He won with a new team-mate, Rubens Barrichello. Now it's the fifth season for Sebastian with a new team-mate in Leclerc - although we don't know if he will win the championship!

"At the moment he is not loved like a big hero but there is respect for him. Italians know he has won four championships in a row at Red Bull, two of which were against Ferrari and Fernando at the last race of the season, so he has to be a champion.

"I feel that it's really good to have the change with Leclerc arriving because you have something new to see - and you will see more about Sebastian.

"It will be a very interesting season and start of the season in particular. Sebastian could be in front without any problem or Charles could be in front. Will we talk about Sebastian's career being over or about him winning the championship?

"I don't know, but it's important during the winter to have a different dynamic after the last two championships when Ferrari have lost out. I love Kimi but it was the right time to change something."

Will there be big changes at the team?
Leclerc's arrival aside, evolution rather than revolution appears set to characterise Ferrari's approach to the wider team for 2019 as they attempt to build on the undoubted progress made since a winless 2016 season. But will it be enough given the continued strength of five-time champions Mercedes?

Vanzini: "I will repeat what Maurizio Arrivabene said: the team needs the same people in the same places. Jock Clear will be working more with Leclerc and this is important because Jock has been a brilliant driver engineer with Villeneuve, Schumacher and Hamilton in the past. He has a lot of experience.

"Laurent Mekies, the FIA's former deputy race director, has joined in the revived sporting director role, which is important when you talk about what happens on the track.

"I don't think there will be an 'earthquake' like you sometimes think there might be internally at Ferrari. But they need to talk, they need to understand each other to find the best way to stay at the top level and compete with Mercedes and Red Bull.

"So I hope we experience an incredible season with more than two drivers fighting for the championship."

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