Power play: Ferrari F1 engine builder to start work at Mercedes soon

Lorenzo Sassi, who was fired by Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne last summer, will start work soon at Mercedes.

He will be following in the footsteps of chassis designer Aldo Costa, who was chucked out of Maranello, but has enjoyed great success since with the three pointed star.

Sassi was held responsible for an engine development that went wrong last year, a mighty push that was intended to put Ferrari at least level with Mercedes for the second part of the season. It didn’t materialise and Ferrari weren’t able to capitalise on a strong start to the season as Mercedes struggled at some venues with the chassis and tyre combination.

They also hit reliability problems at key stages of the season.

After an enforced period of gardening leave, Sassi will join the team under Andy Cowell at Brixworth. As a long time Ferrari man it will add to Mercedes’ understanding of Ferrari’s technical capacities and new culture under Marchionne and technical chief Mattia Binotto.

Ferrari will no doubt build this year on a wonderful chassis, while Mercedes will hope to have made their 2018 car less of a ‘diva’.

Unless one of them has found a ‘silver bullet’ these factors may well prove to cancel each other out.

So it will be very interesting this season to see how the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes shapes up with regards to the engines. Mercedes has dominated for the past four seasons, but the game this year is to make engines last for seven Grands Prix.

This means having peak power for qualifying modes and in short bursts of the Grand Prix, but also having a regime where reliability is protected at all costs with a minimal compromise on performance.

Ferrari raised its game on qualifying modes to score some important pole positions last season, something that had been missing from its game for some time as Mercedes was able to turn up the dial for the final runs in qualifying.

This qualifying boost was encouraging for the competition and it will be the key to Ferrari’s chances in the 2018 season, as little else is changing on chassis regulations, while Pirelli has a similar range of tyres with one step softer for street circuits.

Oil burning, whereby additives that are not allowed in fuel, were introduced to the combustion process via the engine oil, has now been outlawed by the FIA regulations. There will no doubt be new battlegrounds opening up in the search for the incremental gain in competitive edge.

The new cars will start to be rolled out in the next week and then the testing will start and we will begin to get a picture of

Photos: LAT, Piola

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