Formula 1

Ferrari must go aggressive if they want to beat Mercedes in 2016

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It's the big unknown heading into the 2016 Formula 1 season, can Ferrari really challenge Mercedes?

The fabled Italian team made incredible strides in 2015, positioning themselves at the head of the chasing pack. Sebastian Vettel rolled back the years with three victories and now there's hope he can enter the battle with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the championship.

A power battle?

Speculation has run and run in recent weeks over gains made by Mercedes. The team is predicting output of over 900 brake horsepower from its unit this year but Ferrari are also thought to be around that threshold.


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While the power units are taking centre stage in the quest for answers its far from the only area where Ferrari can find an upper hand, however.

New tyre rules set to add spice

Last year the Scuderia were closest to the Silver Arrows on tyre-hungry circuits. Malaysia was the prime example of how maintaining tyre degradation remains Mercedes' biggest weakness as Vettel made his Pirelli rubber last and he was able to pull ahead.

This year new tyres rules will add extra spice with the teams free to choose 10 of the 13 sets they are allocated from three different compounds.

This means teams who traditionally have been better at looking after the tyres, Ferrari included, can opt to run a softer compound than a rival. If that's the case, then, with performance often increased by a second or so with each compound, that can have a major impact on the races.

Ferrari must make Mercedes think

But, keeping this within the Mercedes/ Ferrari battle, what Ferrari must do is prepare to be more aggressive in its strategy calls.

Many times last year there were periods before pit-stops where Vettel would be closing on the Mercedes. A more aggressive approach would have seen the German pit first, put on fresh rubber, disrupt Mercedes' plans and gain time knowing they can make the tyres last.

But instead Ferrari tried to go longer than Mercedes, which meant Hamilton and Rosberg would actually extend the gap on Vettel thanks to their new tyres.

Lead the development race

Then there's the development race, with two of the highest budgets on the grid, Ferrari and Mercedes are certainly not short of resources to make significant improvements during the course of a season.

In the last couple of years, such has been the lead held by Mercedes, we haven't really seen them pushed to bring upgrades without knowing they are fully ready but that could change if Maranello again push hard.

Aerodynamics has been the Achilles heel of Ferrari ever since 2009, whether it was against Red Bull or Mercedes last year. When downforce was needed in the medium-to-high speed turns, the red cars fell back as was proven at circuits like Silverstone.

Matching Mercedes in this area will be the final piece of the puzzle as aero still plays a key role despite the engine-dominated formula we have today.

Engine development is also crucial. With the token system still in place for this year, Ferrari must be clever as to when they use them. Bringing upgrades that give the team a boost could also advance Mercedes plans and may risk unreliability, something that has been seen at times in the last two years.

The team-mate battles

Then there's the matter of maintaining harmony. With Rosberg predicted to put up a stronger challenge to Lewis Hamilton this year the cracks that have already shown within Mercedes may only get wider.

That would create opportunities for Ferrari to take advantage whether it be with strategies in the race or capitalising on an 'off' weekend.

However, will all be well between their own drivers? With all the talk surrounding Seb and very little about Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn will be wanting to prove himself in what may be his final season. So what do Ferrari do, risk Raikkonen's wrath by focusing a title challenge on Vettel or risk Vettel losing points by allowing an even fight?

There's plenty of elements that can make the 2016 F1 season a compelling story throughout and most can't wait to see who will strike the early blows in Melbourne.

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