On the face of it, the Mexican Grand Prix was hardly ideal for Ferrari however in real terms it was an oddly perfect weekend.
Still, Mexico’s Montezuma Revenge was not Maranello’s biggest weekend news. That went down at Imola, where our Scuderia unveiled its first real Le Mans challenger in 50 years.
First, let’s discuss Mexico. Ferrari knew that it would never be in the mix at that altitude. But it got worse. So, to bring both cars home fifth and sixth, even if that’s its worst two-car finish of the season, was important.
Mexico City Grand Prix problems higher than just altitude
“Our power unit did not have the best performance this weekend, but that’s only part of the equation,” Mattia Binotto pointed out. “There’s more than that, the ride and the balance was not great and both were problems that we did not detect earlier in the Mexico weekend.
“Being strong in FP1, and then the FP2 tyre test masked our problems. We believed that a soft-medium tyre strategy was the right choice for the race, but we were already struggling in qualifying. That was accentuated even more in the race.
“So, it was a difficult weekend, but still essential to bring the cars home and pick up as many points as possible. Charles and Carlos did the best they could, but it is vitally important that we improve in the last two race to end the season to the best of our ability.”
Sainz knew Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez wouldn’t be kind to his Ferrari F-175
“We knew that we’d lose performance in high altitude,” Carlos Sainz pointed out. “The engine did not go how we wanted, but Mexico is a very particular track that never suited us. “Maybe something was also going on with the tyres, but we did the best we could.”
“Mexico was a one-off,” Charles Leclerc added. “We maximised absolutely everything and we were still a minute away from Max, which is huge. “I hope we are back to our usual performance in Brazil, but we also need to make our bad days better.”
Now, while many would expect a blasting from Red Mist at this point, far from it. There’s only praise for the Scuderia. Sure, the engines were likely turned back. Charles’ probably more than Carlos. And the downforce-hungry F1-75 was starved of it in the thin Mexican air.
The team knew it would struggle in Mexico
The team knew it would struggle, but it pulled together to make the best of it. Both cars scored well, Ferrari managed the gap to Mercedes and even if the focus is now very much on 2023, it turned a difficult Mexico weekend into a decent result. A step forward indeed.
Moving on to Imola. The new 499P unveiled at the annual Finali Mondiali over the weekend, is Ferrari’s first sports prototype racer in a half-century. The new Quattro-Nove-Nove P Le Mans Hypercar is a huge moment for Maranello.
Absent from a proper frontline Le Mans attack since it was humbled by Matra in ’73, Sportscars are probably more important to Ferrari than Formula 1. The Cavallino spent its first quarter century as carmaker proving its worth in both F1 and sportscar racing.
Ferrari is no stranger to sportscar success
No stranger to sportscar success, Ferrari won no less than thirteen world championships in 20 years from 1953 to ’72. That compares to 15 F1 Constructors, and 15 Formula 1 World Drivers titles over 72 years of Formula 1.
The premier endurance racing series has been known by many names over the years. Ferrari first took the 1953 and ‘54, ’56, ’57 and ’58, and 1960 and ‘61 Sports Car World titles. Maranello then won the 1962, ’63, ‘64 and ‘65 International GT Prototype championships.
Ferrari then became 1967 International Sports-Prototypes champions, and finally took the 1972 World Championship for Makes. Ferrari also won Le Mans nine times versus Porsche’s 19 and Audi’s 13, before Fiat pressure urged Enzo to choose one. And F1 it was.
Ferrari has its Le Mans work cut out
Now known as the World Endurance Championship, sportscar racing is stronger than ever with a massive influx of manufacturer teams to the series. So, Ferrari has a fight on its hands if it wants to reclaim that Le Mans and WEC glory.
Next year Maranello takes on Toyota, Peugeot, and possibly Glickenhaus, Hypercars, and Porsche, Cadillac and Alpine LMDh cars. BMW, Lamborghini and possibly Acura are set to join the fray from ’24. And all of them want to win. Bring it on!