What burns twice as bright burns half as long. This well-known idiom is probably the aptest way to describe Scuderia Ferrari’s 2022 Formula 1 season.
If we cast our mind back to the distant past of preseason testing, Ferrari’s lot looked rosy. Fast out of the box; the F1-75 appeared set for victory, with the only evident competition coming from Red Bull’s RB18.
Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc had matured nicely in 2021 and now looked credible Formula 1 World Driver Championship material. His pairing with Carlos Sainz made a tilt at the Constructors Title a feasible possibility.
Overall, Ferrari had the air of a team already building an extension to their trophy cabinet to make way for the silverware to come.
The opening three races suggested that the pre-emptive carpentry work would not go to waste. Leclerc and Sainz pretty much dominated proceedings as Red Bull experienced some hiccups with their Power Unit (PU), and Mercedes tried to make the best of their very own personal nightmare.
Ferrari’s torch was burning bright. Except for Red Bull, the rest of the grid all seemed to be having a bad aero day with the problem of “porpoising”. With the new budget cap in place, there seemed little chance of them catching up before the fat lady of the World Championship started warming up her vocal cords.
Red flag to a Bull
And then it started, Red Bull got their PU act together, and boom, the “Klompmeister” was on the top step, again and again, and again.
The F1-75 and Leclerc were qualifying on pole and even leading the race early on; then, the combination just went off the boil, while the “Bulls” maintained their rapid pace for the duration. It’s difficult to apportion blame here, but I’m convinced the majority lay with the car. Ferrari had the start of a racehorse but the finish of a camel.
On and off
Although the finger of failure was initially pointed at some real howlers of race strategy, it soon became clear that there was something wrong in the tyre wear department. Time and again, both drivers proved they could switch them on faster than any of the other teams. Unfortunately, they were also able to switch them off just as quickly.
The car had the downforce, but somehow, it couldn’t maintain a comparable grip over the race distance. The F1-75 also had the most powerful engine in F1 and, unfortunately, the most unreliable.
Without being privy to the data, we can only speculate as to what the problems may have been. We know the Ferrari front brake arrangement allowed it to put more heat into the forward tyres faster than other teams. If this heat were then retained, it would explain, in part, the rapid front tyre degradation. However, the rears were also collapsing.
No turning here
The problem, I believe, was in mid to high-speed turns. The Ferrari struggled to rotate at corner entry due to the high level of downforce being generated in the mid and rear sections of the car, a problem for many of the teams, including Red Bull, at the beginning of the season.
However, observing both vehicles later in the year, I noticed that the rear of the RB18 eagerly followed its front wheels at turn-in. Unfortunately, the F1-75 needed to be dragged across the track surface, creating excessive wear on the back tyres. Red Bull had found a tweak to resolve this situation. However, Ferrari hadn’t.
I’m not playing anymore
Leclerc then seemed to go into a long sulk, while Sainz, to his credit, took up the Ferrari flag and started to lead from the front, literally; where Leclerc seemed to lack some mental robustness, Mr. Vamos was stoic and unflustered.
Sainz often directed strategy from the car, whereas the Monegasque followed Pit Wall directions blindly; not really a plan when that part of the team is struggling.
In conclusion, Ferrari started well, but ultimately, they were beaten by a better-organized team and a better driver. However, their car was fundamentally good, and if the lessons of 2022 can be leveraged’ then 2023 is a new day, or that’s what I thought until recently.
The news that Matteo Binotto has been let go is a serious blow to any 2023 aspirations. With no planned successor, it would seem that the same strategy virus that infected the Reds earlier in the year has now been caught by the Ferrari board.
I guess the wine is back on the table at Maranello!