Ferrari see 2022 season descend from roaring success to painful failure

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, leads Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Brazil November 2022

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz leads Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Brazil November 2022

From such an exciting starting point, it was mind-boggling to see Ferrari unravel to a stage where a new team boss was needed.

Ferrari are on an extended streak without tasting title glory in Formula 1, their last experience coming in 2008 when they won the Constructors’ title.

But after largely spending 2020 and 2021 stuck in the midfield, the campaign that followed was seen as Ferrari’s chance to return to a position where they could challenge for championship glory once more. On this mission, they succeeded.

With the blank canvas that was the new 2022 Technical Regulations, Ferrari gave us the season’s initial pacesetter in the form of the F1-75. With two wins from the opening three rounds and Charles Leclerc 34 points clear in the standings, it looked like the Scuderia were well and truly back.

But what we saw from Ferrari upon their return to this grand stage was a worrying self-destruction, Carlos Sainz’s Australia crash and Leclerc’s spin in Imola merely the start.

There were further critical errors to come in the driver department, Leclerc crashing out of the lead in France the glaring example, but equally as worrying was the fact that Ferrari’s strategy and power unit departments were doing the team’s cause no good at all.

Leclerc’s PU blew while leading in Spain, before Ferrari left him out for too long in Monaco and later accidentally double-stacked their cars. Leclerc went from leading to finishing his home race P4.

There was the double DNF in Baku, not pitting Leclerc in Silverstone, meaning he went from leader to finishing P4, Sainz’s engine went bang in Austria, Leclerc lost the win in Hungary when put on the clearly struggling hard tyres…

But wait, there’s more.

In Belgium, Ferrari pitted Leclerc to go for fastest lap, only to leave him right behind Fernando Alonso and in need of an overtake. He did, but of course failed to set the fastest lap and was later demoted back behind Alonso anyway for speeding in the pit lane.

In qualifying for that race, where Leclerc knew he would start from the back due to engine penalties, they sent him out on new tyres when his only objective was to give the tow to Sainz.

Next time out at Zandvoort, Sainz got the late call to pit and his tyres were not ready, then got a five-second penalty for an unsafe release at his last pit stop.

Sainz crashed out at the start of a wet Japanese GP, and then in Sao Paulo Ferrari sent Leclerc out onto a dry track with intermediates, expecting rain to come. Other drivers got a lap in on the slicks, so Leclerc was left to start P10.

Of course, there were good strategical moments for Ferrari, like their masterclass in Abu Dhabi to secure P2 for Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship and the same spot in the Constructors’, but the damage had long since been done.

The implications of Ferrari’s errors were compounded by the fact that in the second half of the season, Red Bull began to gain the upper hand in the development race, Max Verstappen going on to win a record 15 races in what turned into a dominant campaign. Red Bull cruised to the Constructors’ crown, too.

From such a strong position, it is almost inexcusable that Leclerc finished 146 points behind Verstappen in the Drivers’ standings and Ferrari 205 adrift in the Constructors’, but that was the reality.

After a season of question marks surrounding his position, Binotto went on to announce his resignation from the Ferrari team principal role at the end of 2022, Frédéric Vasseur confirmed as his replacement as he makes the move from Alfa Romeo.

Now, for all the bad points which put a downer on Ferrari’s season, it is important to remember the big positive – they went from midfield battlers to title contenders. And with a much cleaner campaign, it could have been a very different story. So, Vasseur has a strong foundation on which to build.

Abu Dhabi, and arguably Austin before that showed that Ferrari can get it spot on in the strategy department, perhaps only when wins and titles are not realistically on the line, so Vasseur must ensure that the team can produce that level regardless of the situation.

Should Ferrari find those final few tenths on Red Bull for 2023, get that power unit in good health and reset their strategic minds, then there will be every chance that they can use next season to make the nightmares of 2022 feel very distant indeed.

Leclerc and Sainz too have points to prove in 2023, as right now, their errors have suggested that they perhaps are not mentally tough enough yet to handle the pressures to competing consistently at the front of the grid.

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