Ferrari’s Formula 1 car was never quite as good as it looked at times in 2022, with the Scuderia’s stunning start to the season creating a false impression of the team’s overall potential.
That is the opinion of respected technical analyst Craig Scarborough, who believes Red Bull’s stuttering start to the year flattered the Ferrari F1-75.
Ferrari seemed to be the overwhelming favourites to claim the 2022 title after Charles Leclerc won two of the opening three races to establish a 46-point lead over Max Verstappen, who retired in Bahrain and Australia.
Although Leclerc claimed the most pole positions of any driver in 2022, Ferrari only added two more victories across the remainder of the year with Verstappen ultimately winning 15 races – breaking the record for the most victories by a driver in a single season – to secure his second successive Championship.
Ferrari’s failure to capitalise on their strong start resulted in the resignation of team principal Mattia Binotto earlier this week.
Appearing on F1 journalist Peter Windsor’s Twitch channel, Scarborough has claimed Red Bull’s difficulties in optimising their package at the start of the season made Ferrari’s car look far more competitive than it was in reality.
He said: “Ferrari won the winter championship, as they so often do, and we are always like: ‘are they really good?’ And we got to those first races and Red Bull were having problems, everybody else was having worse problems, and Ferrari looked like they had it sussed.
“They had this stunning-looking car, qualified really strongly, held off Verstappen in the races until reliability got in the way – things were looking great and we suddenly thought this is Ferrari’s year at long last.
“I think that was a little bit flattering at that point. Red Bull were overweight, they were struggling with the tyres a little bit, the car was quite difficult to drive in those early stages and they had their reliability issues.
“Ferrari developed a car quite the opposite to Mercedes in lots of respects – a very low-drag car with these big sidepods that managed the airflow along the back of the car and it was the ridge on the sidepods, not the dip, that was the really important thing.
“They’d got such a different package but internally the car was very conventional, which always gives you lots of reassurance that they haven’t gone too far with a concept to make it work. Mercedes had to really change the shape of their car to get their package to work.
“But the problem was it just didn’t have enough downforce. They were able to get the tyres to work in qualifying – quite how with the downforce they had was hard to fathom – but it really showed in the race that their tyre degradation was so much worse.
“The more they tried to put wing on the car to get the downforce, the slower they became and that drag which they were trying to cut out from the car naturally was overcome by [the extra wing].
“I actually think Ferrari flattered to deceive very early in the season. I don’t think that car was ever quite as good as we thought it was and by the time Red Bull got their car worked out, really it was only qualifying when that Ferrari shone.”
With Ferrari failing to win a race after the summer break, the implementation of the anti-porpoising technical directive at the Belgian Grand Prix has been cited as a key reason for the team falling behind Mercedes in the competitive order as the season neared its end.
However, with the technical directive announced five rounds earlier in Canada, Scarborough feels the teams had plenty of time to prepare for the rule tweak.
He added: “I couldn’t see any real correlation between the two because that technical directive came out so late after it was announced that everybody had developed their cars in preparation for it.
“The difference was that Ferrari had stopped developing their car and were safeguarding their power units, Mercedes were getting on top of the underlying performance they had in that car, as limited as it was, and tyre management in the race and as a result they got so close by season’s end.
“I don’t think the technical directive hurt Mercedes and equally I don’t think it really hurt Ferrari. I think Ferrari had actually been on a downward curve almost since those first few races, they were on a downward trend throughout the year as Mercedes were going the other way.
“They just simply had to cross each other at some point.”