TeamTalk: A look back at the 2022 French Grand Prix

TeamTalk: A look back at the 2022 French Grand Prix

The centerpiece of the 2022 French Grand Prix was sadly another Ferrari/Charles Leclerc meltdown among other interesting stories. TeamTalk looks back on last Sunday.

After victory in Austria, surviving a reliability scare due to a malfunctioning throttle pedal on his Ferrari F1-75, Charles Leclerc was supposedly heading towards another strong weekend in France, full of confidence, and it all seemed well until the fateful moment when he crashed at Turn 11.

The GrandPrix247 team have got together and penned their thoughts from the 2022 French Grand Prix, each from his own perspective, offering a variety of opinions looking back on last Sunday’s race at Le Castellet.

Kevin Melro: The drivers do a lot of complaining, and so can I

I enjoy Formula 1 most on a clean palette. I have a large appetite for motorsport and sometimes I’ll ruin F1 by overindulging in another form of racing leading into the weekend, but in my own defense it wasn’t my fault this time, a doozy on the dirt Friday night in Pennsylvania took me by surprise.

It happened by accident, but just as I feared, the result was a highly unenjoyable French Grand Prix on my end. I saw 305km of constant complaining from drivers.

Why has this become normal? George Russell and Sergio Perez trying to out-complain each other to a podium gave me the chills. The dead sea scroll length of infractions continues to flow from the “FIA 2.0”, complete with another race altering oppsie…whoops!

The most exciting part of the race was the result of a botched Virtual Safety Car procedure? Is this what excites fans now?

The Sky feed missed the welcome presence of Martin Brundle as I ultimately would have concerns as to what the Sky feed will look like in the case of a permanent Brundle absence.

I can’t figure out why we keep seeing Lando Norris’ pedal cam either. I don’t believe there is a pedal bay more uninteresting on the planet than that of a two-pedal driver two-pedaling a paddle-shifted race car.

All of the above is usually easily tolerable except for the fact that the current version of Paul Ricard is awful and it produces terrible racing. It is the worst race on the calendar without question. Of the wonderful facilities available in France, complete with the hardcore French motorsport fans, this is the one F1 wants? It’s a shame.

I’d be more than welcome to turn the sprinklers on as Bernie Ecclestone once famously suggested that F1 should do, but instead put a four year old in control of its operation so the FIA don’t screw that up too.

I’m happy to move on to many exciting races in the coming weeks which include a heavily upgraded Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, the race F1 doesn’t seem to want anymore. Hmm.

David Terrien: Leclerc pushing too hard, Verstappen so mature almost boring

Once again, we saw Lewis Hamilton beating George Russell, once again we saw Fernando Alonso dominating Esteban Ocon, where at Ferrari Carlos Sainz drove the perfect French Grand Prix weekend when his teammate went from hero to zero in a fraction of second.

Let’s not forget Daniel Ricciardo delivering what is most probably his best race weekend of the season so far and almost matching Lando Norris’ pace all weekend.

These are facts and it shows how strong these guys are and how wrong it was to bury them too early.

But this, except for Sainz, didn’t make the race interesting and I must admit I almost fell asleep. And then Leclerc lost it, it didn’t make the race more interesting either but what a change in the Championship approach.

Some people might say he lost his focus, but I don’t think so. I don’t want to find him excuses but I think he was extremely focused and he might actually have been over driving when he lost it.

First of all, Paul Ricard is located on a hill very exposed to the wind and its back straight is named after the very strong local wind blowing in brutal and sudden gusts, the Mistral.

Coming out of this back straight and going through the easy flat “Signes” corner, drivers come into the double right “du Bosset”. It seems so easy on TV, but it is mega difficult since you have 2 to 3 possible lines, you break sideways at 330 km/h and the wind keeps on upsetting the balance of the car. I am pretty sure Leclerc has been taken by surprise because of a sudden gust.

Some would say he didn’t need to be on the limit since he was clear from Verstappen after the Red Bull driver pitted, but quite the opposite, this is when he had to deliver and give it all.

He seemed to be controlling Verstappen quite easily while having him in his mirrors, but when the Red Bull driver pitted early, Charles couldn’t control him anymore. He didn’t know how strong the undercut would be and how much he had to push to remain in the lead, and remaining in the lead was crucial for Ferrari considering their lack of top speed.

So what did he do? He pushed, he pushed really hard, probably too hard and too close to the limit. He put himself in that zone where he was so close to the limit that a small wind change could mess it all. It only took a fraction of second to wipe out all the good he’s done, and this is hurting him and will haunt him for some time.

When have we ever heard drivers in such self-flagellation demonstration in front of the media? When have they ever talked about mental preparation?

Except for Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg, you never hear about it, and it is for a reason. It makes you look weak towards your rivals. But a mentally strong race driver is like a chain in that he is never stronger than his weakest link.

If the mental aspect is your Achilles heel, then you need to work on it! Do you need to make it public and discuss it? probably not but you need to work on it.

While racing, I experienced strong mental preparation, and this is something huge. I am a very cartesian person and it felt weird pretending ripping trees of the ground as a mental preparation exercise. I actually felt ridiculous when I first started.

But when you start controlling your heartbeat and lower it to 40 pulses while standing in the middle of the day, when you can push the process and be able to learn a track and reach your peak of performance in 3 laps, then it is no longer ridiculous.

However, it is secret because others could see it as a weakness. On the contrary, I believe not working on your mental strength is the biggest mistake at that level of competition, but Charles put a huge challenge on his shoulders over the weekend and even the best mental preparation might not suffice to recover fast enough and remain in the Title fight.

After Imola, this is the second time in the season he puts a foot wrong while pushing too much and this will be hard to wipe away from his memory and overcome, even with the best mental training and support.

On the other side, Max looks more mature than ever. He is almost boring since he no longer has this wild dog behaviour. He now looks so calm, he chooses his fights, he is ready to settle for second and he grabs points even if they are not a race win.

At the beginning of the season, I was questioning the ability of Ferrari to endure the length of a Championship battle, to seize opportunities, to limit the mistakes and keep developing the car throughout the season. So far, I have to say they are failing when compared to Red Bull.

They failed Charles in key moments and at the French Grand Prix, Charles failed them. Ferrari didn’t win a Championship for years and it shows when they are under pressure. Max won an F1 Title and Charles didn’t yet, and it shows in their rivalry.

Red Bull have their weapons sharpened, and Ferrari don’t, Their strategy with Sainz is another proof of their poor management under pressure and this is all playing in Max and Red Bull’s favour.

To finish with a positive note, the Hungaroring is the next race on the calendar. It is narrow, extremely twisty and complex for overtaking. This is obviously favouring Ferrari over Red Bull since they qualify better, they seem to have much more downforce and they shouldn’t be disturbed by Red Bull’s top speed.

If Ferrari wants to keep their chance of winning the Title alive, they need to be on a winning momentum, and it has to start now.

Mark Kay: Many are crucifying Ferrari, I am not

First things first, whilst many are crucifying Ferrari for what happened during the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard on Sunday, I am not, and if I were Carlos Sainz’s engineer I would have advocated for the same call to bring him in when they did.

Sainz’s front left medium compound tyre has blistered to such an extent that the tread surface was visibly starting to open up, and with the track surface temperature at around 55-60°C the high energies that turns 10 and 11 put into the outside tyre would have been clear and present risk.

Sure, there may have been some perceived indecisiveness, but inevitably the right decision was made in my mind as that front left was not going to see out the distance.

I find it ill-informed and unfair to hear that some people think that the reason why Charles Leclerc had his accident on lap 16 of the race was because his throttle had somehow jammed open. Sure, he was complaining about the throttle, but that was after the accident as he was attempting to reverse out.

To those who doubt my perspective and think that some form of conspirative cover occurred, take an objective look at the replay of the incident and acknowledge that the throttle couldn’t have been jammed because as he spun towards the barrier both rear wheels were locked.

The highlight of the race for me was Kevin Magussen’s first lap off the grid. When the last red light went out he was in 20th position, and when he crossed the line to complete his first lap Magnussen was already in 13th!

The nadir of the race for me was George Russell’s attitude after his incident towards the end of the race with Sergio Perez.

Honestly, regardless of who was at fault, by the way the stewards clearly thought, it was a racing incident with no further investigation necessary, but I can’t help but feel that after a few months full time at Mercedes that Russell now exudes the Wolff-style sense of entitlement, as though even his own excrement wouldn’t stink.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a thought.

Daniel Ricciardo apparently feels that his contribution to McLaren is of value. After the race he said: “It’s points so that’s a positive. It’s only ninth but still important.”

Sorry, Daniel, but no it’s not important, and here’s why.

After their double higher points scoring effort at Le Castellet Alpine have now overtaken McLaren for 4th in the Constructors’ and are on 93 points with Esteban Ocon having scored 56 of them and Fernando Alonso 37, whilst McLaren are on 89 point, Lando Norris having scored 70 of them.

Surely, it’s almost game over for Ricciardo.

Michele Lupini: Who’s number one?

The 2022 French Grand Prix will be remembered most for being the race where Ferrari confirmed Max Verstappen as its lead driver this season, Red Bull and Mercedes as its chosen Championship favourites.

No, not for Charles Leclerc’s tumbling out of the lead yet again, and his deep throat confessions. Or for the dangerous release. Those things happen. But for stealing Carlos Sainz’s podium and the team’s last little bit of French redemption.

Was there any reason to bring him in? At all? Besides, maybe to alleviate Charles and Carlos from getting close enough in the log to become more difficult to manage. Either way that’s another limp wristed brain-dead call from the Ferrari pit wall. Now fully endorsed by its drivers. Makes one wonder on what instruction…

Significantly, both Red Bull and Mercedes fundamentally outscored the fastest cars on the grid in France. Again; leaving Max bored; Lewis, and others thinking, WTF?

And now we head to the off season in a week. From which we’ve seen surprises emerge over time. Some dodgy, others not. So, who knows what the status quo will be? Except for Max, for whom that may not even matter anymore.

Just keep on doing what you are doing lad. It must be wonderful being two teams’ number one priorities all at once.

Jad Mallak: Leclerc/Ferrari honeymoon coming to an end?

I wrote the column I usually do after every race, where I jot down some Takeaways from that race, this time the 2022 French Grand Prix, which you can check out here, so I will endeavor not to fall in the trap of being repetitive taking part in this TeamTalk.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Ferrari and Charles Leclerc after the latter’s crash during the race at Le Castellet, while his team did Carlos Sainz no favors with his pitstop and strategy as the Spaniard was delivering a race worthy of being voted Driver of the Day.

But here I want to look at the problem from another angle, as the race at Paul Ricard left me wondering how and when Ferrari will get its act together once and for all, and deliver a clean weekend. On the other hand, how long will the romance between Ferrari and Leclerc last?

That’s how things go within Ferrari. A new driver joins the fold, love is in the air as the team look at him as their savior and the deliverer of their first Title since 2007/2008 when they last won a Drivers’ and Constructors’ crown. The spirits will be high, and things usually start off nicely with a few wins here and there.

But then matters become tough and the cracks start to appear with the whole team going down in a huge Red Spiral towards the bitter end. Divorce from who was supposed to be “The One” happens, and a new sweetheart enters the picture.

It was the case with Fernando Alonso, as the Spaniard joined Ferrari with fanfare in 2010 and won his debut race in Red in Bahrain, and went on to finish that season runner up to Sebastian Vettel after, guess what? A Ferrari strategy blunder at the final race in Abu Dhabi. Alonso missed out on the Title by four painful points.

Over the course of the five years they spent together, things turned bitter between Alonso and the Scuderia, with divorce finally happening at the end of 2014. Enter Sebastian Vettel in 2015.

The four-time World Champion was also surrounded with razzmatazz upon joining, everyone hoping the new German in Red would emulate the other great German, Michael Schumacher, with the team.

It was a promising start as Vettel won three races in his debut season, victorious after his second outing in Malaysia 2015, finishing the season third in the Championship.

But Vettel’s bad luck was that he joined Ferrari in the midst of the Mercedes dominance of the sport between 2014 and 2020, and despite putting up a fight with the Silver Arrows in 2017 and 2018, a series of driver errors and the usual Ferrari blundering meant that matters began to turn ugly, with Charles Leclerc joining in 2019 putting the final nails in the coffin of the Vettel/Ferrari marriage.

Leclerc soon outpaced Vettel, as the German was acrimoniously shown the door at the end of the 2020 season which he had to contend with Ferrari knowing he was on his way out. Awkward.

Now Leclerc is in the hot seat, and despite his dazzling start, winning in front of the Tifosi at Monza in 2019, his maiden win in Red being one race earlier, at Spa that year.

The following two years, 2020 and 2021, Ferrari built tractors instead of F1 cars, and were a write-off ahead of the awaited 2022, as the team, management and drivers, pinned all their hope on the new car they were building for the new regulations, the F1-75, worthy of all the hype that surrounded it.

But the errors are there, both from Leclerc and Ferrari. I am keeping Sainz out of this for now as his turn will soon come I am sure, once the Leclerc/Ferrari marriage fails to endure.

After what went down at the 2022 French Grand Prix, are we starting to see the signs of divorce between Ferrari and their latest hope for the F1 Crown? Maybe it will take a bit more time, but the honeymoon is definitely coming to a conclusion.

Paul Velasco: Ferrari F@ck Up in France, gift win to Max Verstappen

That should have been the headline for our French Grand Prix race report, but Google frowns at swear words in headlines so we went politically correct.

None of that here. Ferrari flopped massively in France, a race they might have won, one-two with Charles Leclerc on pole and Carlos Sainz from the back of the grid.

Put it this way, if the Red Bull pitwall and crew were running the Ferrari show, they would have made a one-two happen, that’s my guess.

Any crew was better than Ferrari’s shitshow on Sunday. While Leclerc self-flagellates himself for what he called his “mistake” but I am sorry, I don’t buy that. He was trying hard on a car with fading tyres, and he was pushing before a stop. Why did they leave him out so long?

Too much mea culpa too soon after the fact. It’s Charles’ style. Not sure why just yet, but it can’t be a good attitude to have for a guy fighting for a Title.

Then over to Sainz, arguably driving the best race of his life, arguing with his pitwall as they got the messages wrong and simply confused and irritated the Spaniard during the heat of battle.

Adding insult to injury, with the Red Bull crews doing 2.4 seconds pitstop, Ferrari messed it up enough for Carlos with an awkward and a lengthy pitstop, before they set him off into the path of a Williams for a self-inflicted five seconds penalty. “Not a stop and go!” as Carlos had to inform them.

It was proper Prancing Horse chaos at its worst.

Mattia Binotto proved he can oversee the building of a fantastic race car, which the Ferrari F1-75 is and perhaps the best F1 car to come out of Maranello in a decade, but as we and many have said in the past and now: Mattia needs help running the sporting side of the team.

Let’s be honest unless something drastic happens or force majeure, this Championship – which has been Ferrari’s to lose since day one –  is lost to Ferrari.

Verstappen can cruise for now as his only rivals are handing him and Red Bull both 2022 F1 World  Championships on a platter, and sadly the Red car is probably the best all-round package out there, with Sainz and Leclerc more than capable, but the team behind them is simply not up to the task.

Hence the Paul Ricard shambles and more to come no doubt. That’s why we love Ferrari! Forza!