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On tap this week:

  • All change at Ferrari
  • Bernie's back
  • 1988 McLaren still the best
  • F1 going back to 1,000HP?
  • Quote of the Week: Nightmares about the Dakar Rally
  • F1600 on TV

In what can only be seen as confirmation that the Scuderia had the wrong people in place during Fernando Alonso's five years in scarlet, Ferrari continues to dump key personnel as it readies itself for a new high-profile driver.

When four-time F1 champ Sebastian Vettel arrives in Maranello next season, the team will have a very different look from the Alonso years.

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There's a new team boss in former Marlboro man Maurizio Arrivabene along with a few other new faces in the front office. In the garage, the team shed chief designer Nikolas Tombazis, the aerodynamicist who was responsible for many cars driven by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, and director of engineering Pat Fry.

The guy tapped to turn things around is James Allison, who moved to Ferrari from Lotus in mid-2013 after designing the surprisingly quick car that took Kimi Räikkönen to victory in the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

One of the most significant additions may turn out to be Sauber refugee Esteban Gutiérrez who joined the team last week as a test and third driver. His on-track contribution may not be huge, but his deep-pocketed Mexican backers' may be key to helping Ferrari get back on top.

Two-time world champion Alonso, who drove to 11 wins in his five years at Ferrari and used his massive talent to almost steal two titles from Vettel despite an underperforming car, believes that's just what will happen.

"I think what they missed [in my] five years is just some more performance in the car, and technical resources," Alonso said last week.

"They have the talented people, they have the resources, they have the motivation from everybody in the team, so in time they will win. With the budget they have, next year they will be favourites."

Random thoughts

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No matter how you feel about Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, it's difficult not to admire his ability to cling to power even when it looks like all is lost.

Six months ago, the diminutive 84-year-old seemed to be on his way out as F1 commercial boss after being hauled into a German court to face bribery charges related to the sale of the sport to CVC Capital eight years ago.

While many suspected the case would finally sink him, Ecclestone emerged unscathed after paying a $100-million fine to Bavarian prosecutors to make it go away. Now, he heads into 2015 stronger than ever.

Last week, Ecclestone got his seat back on the board of F1 after being forced to step aside due to the bribery charges and appears to have as tight of a grip on power as ever.

By the numbers

Several year-end reviews of the 2014 Formula One season have suggested that this year's Mercedes is the most dominant car in the history of the sport.

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While its numbers are impressive, the 2014 Mercedes doesn't beat the 1988 McLaren-Honda driven by easily the best driver pairing in the history of the sport, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

The 1988 McLaren won fewer races than this year's Mercedes due to a shorter 16-race season, but its winning percentage is tops in the history of F1. The Prost-Senna duo took the chequered flag in 15 of 16 races (94 per cent success rate), while the 2014 pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg won 16 of 19 tries (84 per cent). Prost and Senna also established the F1 record for most consecutive wins by a constructor at 11.

In addition to the better winning percentage, the McLaren drivers also led 1,003 of a total 1,031 laps raced (97 per cent) in 1988, compared to Hamilton and Rosberg running at the front for 978 of 1,134 (86 per cent) this year. The two teams were in a statistical tie when it came to pole positions, with the Mercedes mark of 18 in 19 races giving it a 95 per cent success rate, one percentage point better than the Prost and Senna's 15 of 16.

When it comes to 1-2 finishes, Prost and Senna stood on the top two steps of the podium 10 times (63 per cent) in 1988, compared to Mercedes' 11 in 19 races (58 per cent).

The only area that 2014 team slightly outpaced its 1988 rivals was in podiums. The Mercedes pair took 31 out of a possible 38 (81 per cent) podiums versus 25 out of 32 (78 per cent) for Prost-Senna.

Technically speaking

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The engine debate in Formula One seems to have re-opened again, as the Formula One Strategy Group is apparently looking at moving away from the 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 "power units" introduced in 2014.

Although too late to make any difference for next season, the plan suggested by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is to go back three decades to the days of 1,000-horsepower motors. The catch is that these new ones would only cost only about $14-million for teams that need to buy engines from manufacturers.

This latest proposal is a bit of a departure from the push to a more environmentally friendly F1 where manufacturers hope to develop fuel economy and green technology that can be transferred to road cars. It is thought that a move away from this direction would find some engine suppliers rethinking their involvement in the sport.

Quote of the week

"The big challenge is really the mental side of staying concentrated, not making mistakes, and not crashing. Crashing is basically what I am having nightmares about — specifically rolling over in the dunes where we can't get the car back on its wheels or crashing in a way that damages the car so we can't get going again. The mental side is really important, just being able to concentrate and just stay on the ball for six, seven, eight hours of driving per day on the special stages."

— David Bensadoun of Montreal's ALDO Racing on the challenges of the 37th Dakar Rally that runs through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia from Jan. 4-17, 2015. Bensadoun and his co-driver Patrick Beaulé are part of the only all-Canadian team entered in the 2015 version.

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The last word

For race fans who missed the airing of the F1600 SuperSeries race from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on TSN earlier this month, the event is now available on YouTube.

This year's inaugural F1600 SuperSeries pitted the top racers from the entry level open wheel series in Ontario and Quebec in a highly competitive eight-race showdown. It was good news for young racers and perhaps marked the first step toward the return to a national series at this level. A strong cross-Canada series would only be good news for this country's budding racers who must now venture south of the border to test their meddle against top national talent.

The next televised race is from the 2014 Honda Indy Toronto weekend. It will be shown on TSN on Jan. 5 and will go online a few weeks later.

The eight-race series was won by Brampton, Ont.'s, Chase Pelletier who clinched the title in the final weekend at Trois Rivières. Pelletier used that success to secure a seat with Team Canada at the 2014 edition of the famed U.K. Formula Ford Festival at the Brands Hatch Circuit.

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