No one, least of all Ferrari, underestimates the size of the job required to take the Scuderia back to the top of Formula 1 — and it’ll take a lot more than a talented German multiple world champion to turn around the team’s fortunes.
Even Michael Schumacher needed four years at Ferrari before he won the drivers’ championship in a red car.
As former team principal Stefano Domenicali said earlier this season, the problem with Ferrari’s 2014 F1 car, the F14T, is that it has no one problem; turning it into a regular race winner would have required a transformation in every area, from its engine to its aerodynamics, and clearly that’s now not going to happen.
So all the focus is on the 2015 car. The good news for Ferrari is that the engine freeze that applied to the 2.4-litre formula no longer exists. Although there are some limited restrictions on what changes can be made to the powertrain over the winter, there is the scope for Ferrari (and Renault) to massively modify their engines in a bid to get back on terms with Mercedes-Benz.
On the other hand, the regulations also restrict pre-season testing even more, banning it entirely outside Europe and imposing further limits on wind tunnel time.
Even so, Ferrari will be anticipating that, with a new powertrain to help them get on terms with Mercedes-Benz and star designer Adrian Newey no longer front and centre at Red Bull, there is at least the opportunity to regain lost ground.
Whether losing Fernando Alonso and gaining Sebastian Vettel will help in this quest remains to be seen. But the parallels between Vettel’s arrival in Maranello and the ultimately successful era started by Michael Schumacher in 1996 will be lost on no one. Ferrari will be hoping very much that history will repeat itself.
Finally, there is the management side. It is too soon to tell if the appointment of the inexperienced Marco Mattiacci as team principal was a mistake, a stroke of genius or anything in between.
But rumours persist of Ross Brawn’s return to Ferrari. If he can be lured, if Vettel proves a success, if Ferrari can make an engine as well as Mercedes and if Red Bull is further hobbled by the absence of Newey, maybe Ferrari can return to the top.