Ferrari are struggling again - it must be spring
Stefano Domenicali's sudden departure an acknowledgment of failure and points to another frustrating season for Ferrari fans
In recent years, it's become a reliable sign that spring is finally upon us: the sight of Ferrari struggling to keep up with the pace setters.
What is it with the Prancing Horse? The team flatter to deceive in testing, teasing us only to sorely disappoint fans in the first few races of the season. As Fernando Alonso will testify, if a team don't get off to a flier in the championship, success that season is probably beyond them.
Ferrari have had anything but a flier at the start of this season and are failing to keep the likes of Team India at bay. Three races in, and it's a shambles. Alonso is used to wringing the best from an under-performing Ferrari, but even he has managed only two fourth places and is fourth in the championship. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen has scored just seven points and languishes in 12th place.
It's worse in the constructors standings, where the Italian outfit lie fifth, 78 points adrift of leaders Mercedes. When they couldn't even complete running in the test session in Bahrain recently the team's season was effectively over.
In the end, heads had to roll and it is the team boss Stefano Domenicali who has gone. He's been in charge since 2008 and hasn't won a championship. Formula One seems to be more like the English Premier League at the moment when it comes to firing those in charge of teams. Remember the removal of Martin Whitmarsh at McLaren as Ron Dennis wrenched back control of the team?
Domenicali's fate appeared sealed when his boss Luca di Montezemolo walked out of the Bahrain Grand Prix well before it had finished. It would seem he'd seen enough. The problem is that the new man on the pit wall, Marco Mattiacci, is already being spoken of as a stopgap measure. Everyone seems to be whispering the name of Ross Brawn, the man who brought so much success to the Marinello outfit before.
Again, this has echoes of football. Caretaker managers, speculation and destabilisation during the season. It rarely makes for success. Second spells in charge also seem less than successful, so Brawn may think twice before taking the plunge.
What does seem certain is that Ferrari are destined for another season as also-rans. That's a shame not only for Ferrari fans, but for all of us.
What isn't a shame is the news that Red Bull lost their appeal against the disqualification of Daniel Ricciardio from the Australian Grand Prix. Of course, this being F1, there was a fair amount of acrimony, with Mercedes lawyers chiming in to accuse Red Bull of blatantly ignoring rulings over fuel flow during the race, and suggesting further punishment.
Things seem to being going all the way of the Silver Arrows at the moment. The tribunal decision denies vital points to a dangerous rival, while another threat, Ferrari, are in disarray. They have been able to do what Ferrari couldn't achieve: accept last season's underperformance to ensure they were absolutely on top of the sweeping new regulations this year.
What an added bonus to have two drivers of such ability, and to have such faith in them that they are allowed to race in such spectacular fashion as they did in Bahrain last time out. The only team orders they received were to bring the cars home in one piece. Let's hope Messrs Hamilton and Rosberg keep us as royally entertained in China and beyond.
Mercedes seem to have an equally sensible view on engine noise: that is, it doesn't matter. There's certainly been a lot of noise produced over the lack of decibels. If F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has his way, the cars will soon sound more throaty, with the sports governing body, the FIA, looking into it. Ecclestone's suggestion seems to be a high-tech version of the boy racer solution, oversized exhausts.
Like in life generally, hot air and excessive noise often seem to count for more than the actual important things.