The 2022 French Grand Prix was brilliant for the Tifosi, with Charles Leclerc vigorously defending from the relentless Max Verstappen. Until lap 18, that is.
Just 24 hours earlier, Carlos Sainz had towed Charles Leclerc to an epic tactical pole position. And then for the initial seventeen race laps, Leclerc gradually wore Max Verstappen down to submission.
Ferrari forced Red Bull into an earlier stop and Leclerc looked content to keep on pumping away on those mediums. Hold that thought: Mediums.
Then it all fell apart. Kudos to Charles on taking (another) one for the team. “I think it’s just a mistake,” Leclerc admitted. “I tried to take too much around the outside, put a wheel probably somewhere dirty. But it’s my fault and if I keep doing mistakes like this then I deserve not to win the championship,” the Ferrari ace admitted.
Not that his rivals lying around in the cool room concurred. But let’s leave that one there.
Like we will never blame Leclerc for losing it for pushing that hard, Red Mist doesn’t blame the team for that pit lane balls up that cost Sainz his five-second penalty. Shit happens. But the team certainly is culpable for throwing Sainz’s certain podium away.
Let’s go back to lap 17, when Ferrari did not respond to Red Bull’s stop. The yellows were clearly good enough to seek out that one stop silver bullet. Charles just pushed too hard, if we’re to believe him. Hold that one too.
At this stage allow me to point out that three cars started the race on hard rubber. Valterri Bottas, who for whatever reason Alfa Romeo sent back out on a second set of whites after his lap 18 safety car pitstop. So he had to stop again to legally take the other compound; and Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz, both of whom took yellows on the same lap. In other words, neither had to stop again.
Sainz Brilliantly Fought Back to Third
Roll on to lap 41. Sainz had brilliantly just moved to third and Ferrari was confusing him and the rest of the world. To stop. What the hell for? The yellows were good enough for Charles to stay out on in a far heavier car, 23 laps before? Gasly is hanging in there chasing Albon down for 12th? And Carlos was free of the squabbling Perez and Russell and stroking away in third?
Would he have caught Lewis? Doubt it. Would Sainz have opend the 5 seconds he needed to kill off the penalty to keep third? Pretty sure.
So did he think so? He said: “I’d just made it to P3 and I saw a podium position. I told myself, if I make these tyres last, maybe I can finish on the podium. At the time I thought it was better to risk it and stay out and see what happens to the tyres.”
As it transpired, Gasly would prove just how right Carlos was to want to trust his feel, “to risk it and stay out there” that is. Gasly had no trouble on his ageing yellows. He gradually hauled Albon in and took a good few laps to eventually find a way past on lap 48, before clearing off to finish almost 4 seconds clear of the Thai.
Which suggests that Sainz may have been pretty close to Hamilton at the end after eleven clean laps on the rubber he’d just passed Perez and Russell on. Just saying…
“We will never know” — Sainz. Really…?
“But we will never know,” Carlos confessed. “It was a feeling and the team had a lot more data on the computer, a lot more numbers to go through and if they took that decision, I’m 100% convinced that they took it with the best of intentions and with the best of spirits.”
Spot on Carlos. If I was being paid $10-million, had free access to a pool of Ferraris and the rest, I suppose I’d take one for the team too. Like Charles also does. For twelve bar.
The real problem is that there is zero accountability left at Ferrari. A place famous for exorcising staff at an alarming rate for failing to toe the line.
What would Enzo Ferrari say of this farce? He was ruthless with his drivers. Drake famously once said: “An insecure racing driver is a fast racing driver.” He fired many of the greatest drivers on earth, on a whim.
Never mind mere staff. It was a nightmare for many a team member, but ultimately, the opportunity to win with Ferrari was once considered far more significant than the mental baggage that bore.
Manager Gardini for instance dared tell Enzo that his wife Laura should calm down. Ferrari fired Gardini on the spot. And then he sent Chiti, Bizzarrini and Tavoni, et al – who dared question old Tavoni’s exit – packing.
Ferrari Was Once Famous For Firing at a Furious Rate
Even long after Enzo’s passing, Ferrari has been famous for firing at a furious rate. Only in 2014, strategy chief Neil Martin, engineering chief Pat Fry, chief designer Nicholas Tombazis and tyre engineer Hirohide Hamashima, a president, two team principals, the engine chief, engineering chief, chief designer, chief strategist and chief tyre engineer all saw the door in a major purge in the pursuit of better things.
But not in 2022. Not since Fiat scion John Elkann and Binotto have been in charge, has anyone been fired. Seems today it’s fine for a limp-wristed team boss to rather bark out orders to drivers to make drivers say exactly the opposite of what the world can clearly see is wrong.
“It’s just, we need to keep progressing and we need to analyse everything and see if we can do better, but I’m convinced the team is doing a good job on strategy,” Sainz insisted later on Sunday night.
Was that Mattia’s finger wagging again? We will never know. But this ‘modern’ 2022 Ferrari Formula 1 team yet again stole defeat from the jaws of glory on Sunday. How many times has it done that this year? Leclerc recons 32 points. And that’s being way positive. Carlos Sainz was on course for a greatly deserved podium to steal a little well earned glory back from an otherwise sorry weekend. But the genii on the Ferrari pit wall… well the genii of the Ferrari pit wall.
Without accountability, it seems we are stuck with them. And for that, like the rest of the real Tifosi, Red Mist simply weeps.