Ferrari: The Next World Champions?
Written By Asmi Mathew, Edited By April Thorne and Elisabeth Brown
The 2022 Formula 1 season started off with a huge success for Ferrari by earning the first 1-2 of the season led by Charles Leclerc in Bahrain. However, despite this success, it seems like everything has been going downhill for them since then. Due to Red Bull Racing having engine-related DNFs at the season opener, Ferrari established a good gap between themselves and the constructor in P2 after the Bahrain Grand Prix while Leclerc became the first Monegasque Formula 1 driver to lead the championship.
With a double podium from the team in Saudi Arabia, they remained the leading constructors. Leclerc held a 20-point lead over the reigning champion, Max Verstappen, who had won his first race of the season. Another DNF for Verstappen in Australia and win number two of the year for the Monegasque meant that he comfortably led the drivers' championship with 34 points over Mercedes’ George Russell in P2. The team from Maranello remained at P1 in the constructor’s championship after the race in Australia, even though they had lost out on a good amount of points after the team’s first DNF of the season with Carlos Sainz.
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Ferrari’s first home race of the season at Imola ended up being a bit of a disaster after Sainz ended up in the gravel for the second race in a row with a DNF, this time because of a first-lap racing incident between himself and McLaren driver, Daniel Ricciardo. Leclerc started his race right behind Verstappen, who bagged Pole Position by winning the Imola sprint race. During the closing stages of the Grand Prix on Sunday, the Scuderia Ferrari driver was trying to chase Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez for the second step of the podium. While trying to do so, Leclerc ended up spinning and losing out on many points that were vital for both the title fights. He crossed the chequered flag in P6.
Going into the Miami race weekend, Ferrari and Leclerc were still leading their respective championships. The Monegasque driver led a team 1-2 in the qualifying session for the first ever GP in Miami, while a mistake on his last Q3 lap meant Verstappen dropped from provisional pole to third. This weekend was an overall success for the team with a double podium finish, with Leclerc in P2 and Sainz following him in P3.
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Sainz secured a solid P3 start for himself in his home race, whereas Charles took the Spanish GP pole. A good race start for Leclerc meant that he dominated the race from pole and led for 26 laps until the engine in his Ferrari gave out, forcing him to retire for the first time this season and causing him to lose the championship lead to Red Bull’s Verstappen by six points. Sainz achieved his highest ever points finish in Barcelona with a solid P4, bringing a good points haul for the team. This race result meant that the Scuderia had officially lost their constructors' championship lead to Red Bull by a good margin.
Everything started to get better for the team in Monaco with Leclerc getting pole for the second consecutive year at his home race and Sainz in P2. However, Ferrari threw away a first win on home soil for Leclerc by causing strategic errors during the race. The Monaco race weekend ended with Sainz in P2 and Leclerc in a disappointing P4. Both Verstappen and Red Bull extended the lead over their rivals by a significant amount.
The Tifosi hadn’t lost hope yet and rightfully so because Leclerc was on pole for the third consecutive race of the season in Baku. Sainz had been running in P4 when he was forced to retire due to a mechanical issue. Leclerc had been leading lap 20 when smoke had started pouring out of his F1-75. In the end, he was forced to retire due to an engine issue, triggering the team’s first double-DNF of the season. Ferrari left Baku with zero points and was forced to see their title rival get another 1-2 finish.
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The Canadian GP saw Leclerc starting at the back of the grid because of taking a completely new power unit after Baku in Azerbaijan, which Ferrari confirmed was beyond repair. Sainz equalled his career-best race result by finishing the race in P2 whereas Leclerc secured a P5 for the team.
Silverstone came in the form of redemption for Sainz, who grabbed his first pole position there. Not only that, he also won his first ever Grand Prix in the entire seven years of his Formula 1 career. The Austrian GP was won by Leclerc after a lack of podiums in the past five races. While Sainz was on his way to complete a possible 1-2 for the team, his engine caught fire and he was yet again forced to retire.
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The Grand Prix at Le Castellet came with a lot of excitement for Ferrari fans who were hoping to see Leclerc win two consecutive races and close the gap between himself and Verstappen in the standings. However, what happened was totally unpredictable. Leclerc was forced to retire from the race while leading, for a second time this season. This time, though, he spun out because of his own mistake. One could feel the disappointment on the team radio just moments after he lost the lead. Sainz's race went well after starting from P19 and overtaking his way into the top five. While battling with Pérez for the last podium place, Sainz was called in for a pitstop, despite his suggestions for one a few laps prior. This caused him to lose nearly 30 seconds, almost dropping him out of the points places. Using his skills and experience, Sainz took the chequered flag in P5, ensuring a good amount of points for the team on an unlucky weekend.
This just proves that it is incredibly important for Ferrari to fix their reliability issues if they want to remain contenders for the title fights. Having retired seven times in recent races is not a good look for them. Both the Ferrari drivers have great potential and, if given the right car, there is a high chance that at least one if not both of them will be actively contending for the drivers' championship.
In Hungary, Leclerc was fighting for the win before the team responded to Verstappen’s second pit stop by pitting Leclerc as well and putting the hard compound tyre on his car. The hard tyre was proving difficult for many drivers, therefore making it a baffling decision by Ferrari. Leclerc ended up making another pit stop for soft tyres, and went on to finish the race in sixth. Sainz ended up in fourth, stating that slow pit stops and the race pace of the F1-75 not being on par with Red Bull were the reasons for his result.
Every race weekend, one thing or another seems to go wrong for the team. Sometimes they end up having mechanical issues or there is something wrong with their engines. The other times, Ferrari being Ferrari, messes up tyre strategy or has slow pit stops, which play an equal role in the possibility of a maximum points haul. On the rare weekends where the team seems to have no problem with the car, the drivers end up making mistakes during the race. As of now, Verstappen is leading the driver’s championship with an astounding 80-point lead ahead of Leclerc. The likelihood of Leclerc being able to win the World Drivers’ Championship is now very low, which is undoubtedly a huge disappointment for the Monegasque, his fans, and the Tifosi.