Ferrari Formula One in Monaco, May 2017. Monaco Grand Prix, Ferrari Driver Sebastian Vettel. Image Dan Istitene/Getty Images. New York Times Intl Edition, Monaco Grand Prix 4 page supplement.


Ferrari Formula One in Monaco.Driver Sebastian Vettel. Photo Credit Dan Istitene/ Getty Images. Courtesy and with thanks New York Times International Edition.

Monaco Grand Prix Lead up.

Sebastian Vettel at work at the Spanish Grand Prix this month. Thanks to the resurgence of the Ferrari Formula One team, he is leading the standings for the world championship. Credit Dan Istitene/Getty Images
After eight seasons without a title and watching Mercedes brutally dominate Formula One for the last three years, Ferrari is again not only winning races, but also challenging for championships.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari’s lead driver, says the team has “unleashed its potential.”

Vettel heads into the sixth round of the series in Monaco on Sunday leading the drivers’ standings by six points over Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, after winning two races in Australia and Bahrain, and finishing second in China, Russia and Spain.

Although Mercedes leads the constructors’ championship this year, it is by only eight points over Ferrari. Hamilton recognizes that Vettel and Ferrari are serious contenders after the work the team has done to improve its car.

Hamilton beat Vettel in Spain on May 14 by just 3.4 seconds. “It was the rawest fight I can remember having for some time, which I loved,” Hamilton said.

Vettel is also again enjoying the competition, after changes that have made the cars faster, with more downforce and grip, but have also made them harder to drive.

“Down the straights, we were faster than ever last year, but that’s not really a skill. You don’t need to do anything to go straight, other than hit the throttle. But in the corners, that’s when you feel alive, and where these cars more closely resemble those I remember when I started out in Formula One in 2007.”

After the last of his four successive titles with Red Bull in 2013, Vettel endured a lean three years, winning just three races over that period.

The wins were all in his first year with Ferrari in 2015, when he finished a distant third in the drivers’ standings behind Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who was with Mercedes at the time.

The unleashed potential Vettel describes has been more than three years in the making, since the arrival of the current hybrid engine era in 2014. Mercedes won 51 of the 59 races from 2014 to 2016, forcing Formula One to change some of its regulations to break the team’s dominance.

Ferrari, which has not won a championship since 2008, was viewed by many Formula One experts as a team in disarray, especially toward the end of an abysmal 2014.Maurizio Arrivabene was then handed the reins by a new chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which owned Ferrari at the time.Despite an upturn in 2015, yielding the three wins for Vettel, a poor start to 2016 prompted Marchionne to restructure Ferrari.Lorenzo Sassi subsequently took charge of the power unit department, while Enrico Cardile was named to run the aerodynamics department.

Courtesy and with thanks Ian Parkes. New York Times International Edition.