You can forgive the LEGO Group the bittersweet timing of releasing their latest Speed Champions sets in the exact same week that the 2017 Formula 1 calendar is in its first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona. After all, included in those hitting shelves are 2016 F1 season-themed Ferrari and Mercedes sets. But, can you forgive Speed Champions the lack of improvement on past issues that rear their head once more?
Price: £12.99 / $14.99 / €14.99 (DE) Pieces: 184 Available: Now
How much can you scrutinise a set that costs £12.99 and, for that money, offers you a Ferrari Formula 1 car, a nifty side-build and a choice of which world champion to drive it? I think, quite a bit, given this is the second year of Speed Champions and when, for all intents and purposes, 75879 Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H is best described as a re-colour (or rather a re-sticker) of the Formula 1 releases from 2016.
Design wise, the frustrations of Speed Champions’ scaling as a wider issue continue to hit the F1 cars the hardest. You have to look beyond that for the changes on the Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H from the F14 T that appeared in 75913 F14 T and Scuderia Ferrari Truck. They are there and they are relevant to those that the real-life equivalents underwent between the 2015 and 2016 Formula 1 seasons – the side-pods, the front wing-and-nose, the width of part of the bodywork at the front end, and the placing and angle of winglets along the chassis are all different.
The colour scheme is also updated, as is the minifigure’s attire and, to represent the change in driver line-up, so too the helmet colours available. A white helmet is in place for Sebastian Vettel, whilst Kimi Raikkonen gets a black one this time. Your choice on which world champion gets the drive can also be reflected with a stickered 1×2 tile along the top of the nose – one with each driver’s number is included. Kudos for the choice of a half-grin face rather than a smiley one – Seb wasn’t too happy during the 2016 season, whilst Kimi is Kimi.
Meanwhile, the side-build of a segment of the pit wall is brilliant. On the one side is a start-finish line and on the other is a pit monitor. It’s a simple construction on the face of it, but one that genuinely offers a piece of multi-purpose build furniture for the vehicle it comes with. The only shame, perhaps, is that it is not modular in concept – if you bought two Ferraris, you’d have a bit of modding to do to create a larger single pit wall.
Side-build and alternating world champion minifigures aside, though, the car disappoints. The aforementioned changes made on this version of the vehicle are more hints of where the attention to detail and expression in design could be applied, rather than affects on the overall aesthetic – they are only subtle upgrades made on a car with a general scale and proportionality that remains way out. Criticisms of this issue that hits the entire Speed Champions line have been made before and it would be a waste to go over what is visibly frustrating about the design of these cars again.
Particular criticism this time around, however, should be directed at how this clear wider issue of scaling and proportionality remains in play. There has been no radical redesign, no improvement on the bulk, and it particularly stings that some of the biggest changes in appearance from the 2016 and 2017 Speed Champions F1 cars come from the sticker sheet included. Quantity is still up there – 29 have to be applied for this set – and ultimately it feels like too much of a reliance on them to provide the set’s overriding authenticity.
Does this rule 75879 Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H and, for that matter, 75883 MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team as sets to steer clear from? Despite the above, no. This review is of my own copy of this set, whilst I will also be buying the Mercedes pack too. The minifigures are great in design, the collectibility of these Formula 1 sets cannot be overstated, and, whilst they are a source of a lot of the criticism aimed at the Speed Champions line, the stickers are great for those with MOCs on their mind. I know that my own attempts at an F1 car or two would benefit just as much – perhaps more, as I’m no artist – from the stamp of approval that these stickers offer the official sets.
Ultimately, whether this is a set for you depends on what you want from it. If that’s an accurate recreation of a Formula 1 car, and/or an advancement on car design traits from the CITY line, then this will likely disappoint. But, it is a set that has a certain appeal. I paid money for it, despite my complaints. You may do so as well.