Despite some falls, Prancing Horse will soon be back at the races

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Like the gust of wind blowing around the Circuit de Americas, Ferrari were nowhere to be seen at the US Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Scuderia failed to clinch pole position for the first time in six races and Charles Leclerc finished 52 seconds behind winner Valtteri Bottas in fourth after struggling for pace.

Leclerc’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who started from second on the grid after missing out on pole position by just 0.012 seconds, retired with a suspension failure on lap eight.

It proved to be a disaster of a day for a team who were humming with godliness in recent weeks.

But, like all sports, there is the doubters and many believed their slow pace was down to the FIA’s move to issue a directive on engines in the lead up to the race – monitoring the rate at which fuel is consumed by the engine.

The clarification was issued after Red Bull raised questions over a way of potentially increasing fuel flow to the engine.

And with Lelcerc devoid of the same class and Vettel unable to fire during the early stages of the race, some drivers suggested the dip in performance was down to the FIA’s changes.

Max Verstappen, for example, stating that Ferrari had been cheating prior to the technical directive being issued.

Either way, their lack of competitiveness in Texas could just be a minor blip after a stunning array of form in recent weeks.

Since the summer break, Ferrari have posed the threat that was expected to see them challenge Mercedes at the start of the season.

Of course, it is far too late but the Prancing Horse’s resurgence from the Belgian Grand Prix in August onwards has been hugely encouraging for F1 fans.

Ferrari had snatched five successive pole positions and, add in Verstappen’s pole in Hungary, that makes it six races in seven without a Mercedes pole prior to the US Grand Prix.

That would have seemed unthinkable even recently.

You have to go back six seasons ago to find a spell of more than three races where the Silver Arrows went without topping qualifying.

Ferrari have also improved their race pace but are still some distance off Mercedes. They are now much closer on race day but the German team still have the edge.

Nevertheless, Ferrari have made significant strides over the last few months. Whilst they were expected to be quick at Spa and Monza, their speed on twisty circuits at Singapore, Russia and Suzuka were bigger surprises.

A new aerodynamic upgrade has increased downforce and boosted their competitiveness at those tight and twisty street circuits – and bodes well for next season.

The positive – for the last two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and for next season – is that being ahead on raw pace is a significant advantage.

If Ferrari can cut out the numerous errors that have blighted them over the past two campaigns, they can be genuine contenders.

They have won three races this year, 11 less than Mercedes, but they have been in a position to win seven and in formidable positions in others races as well.

Ferrari had a car fast enough to win in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Canada and Austria. That they didn’t was not due to lack of pace but a combination of driver errors, strategy errors and reliability issues.

Had those four races flipped for Ferrari instead of Mercedes and Red Bull, Ferrari would be more of a threat to Mercedes in this year’s championship fight.
The difficulty though, is sustaining a consistent challenge over the course of a season.

As it stands, Ferrari aren’t near the full package of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, but improvements in the off-season could curtail their rivals’ dominance.

Under greater pressure, cracks could appear at a more enhanced rate than the confidence of a Mercedes team who have been at the pinnacle of the sport since 2014.

But with Vettel hungry to atone for a subpar season and the purring confidence of Leclerc, it is set up to be a thrilling duel next season, especially given Hamilton will be bidding to match the iconic Michael Schumacher on seven world titles.

Nobody is as good as Hamilton and the scary thing is the Briton believes he is yet to hit his peak.

But twenty one races is a long and gruelling campaign for any driver or team and anything could happen.

With two races remaining this season, the pendulum could swing again in Ferrari’s favour after their Texas disappointment, but one thing for sure is that they boast two highly ambitious drivers who will be keen to bring down the Silver Arrows’ dominance in 2020.

Sunday’s lack of pace and competitiveness is a small blip and Ferrari fans need to stay calm and be encouraged by their progression in the second half of the season.

Confidence needs to be taken from their recent displays and the high potential to bring a first constructors’ championship to Maranello since 2008.

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