At the end of the season in which Ferrari have been widely criticised for their mistakes, Sam Bird says they pulled off a “strategy masterclass” to hand Charles Leclerc P2 in the Drivers’ standings.
Having led the standings early in the season, Leclerc’s championship quest petered out as reliability and strategy blunders began to creep into Ferrari’s game.
That, coupled with the rise of Red Bull and most notably Max Verstappen, meant Leclerc went into the final race of this season trying to hang onto P2 in the Drivers’ standings where he was tied with Sergio Perez on 290 points.
Playing their cards right, Ferrari went with a one-stop strategy to Perez’s two-stopper, Leclerc crossing the line less than two seconds ahead of the Mexican driver.
But it was enough to ensure he took runner-up in the championship by three points ahead of the Red Bull driver.
Formula E driver Bird says it was a “rare” strategy win for Ferrari.
“They for a rare time this year, I think that they’ve done a strategy masterclass,” he told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“I think that hats off to Ferrari they got it right.
“They beat a car that was faster than them on paper through the power strategy.
“The one-stop did work for the Leclerc… Okay, only just and they needed a little bit of luck in order to do it, but they’ve got the job done.
“And Charles Leclerc is walking away as a runner-up in the World Championship.”
P2 ‘absolutely is a step forwards’ for Ferrari
Although Ferrari’s Tifosi were disappointed not to fight for this year’s World title, Bird reckons runner-up in the standings is a good result for a team that arrived on the 2022 grid having not won a race since 2019.
Leclerc got their season off to a perfect start with a win at the Bahrain Grand Prix, followed that up with another in Australia before Carlos Sainz added a third at the British Grand Prix.
All Ferrari’s victories came in the first half of the season, Leclerc also victorious at the Austrian Grand Prix to bring their tally for 2022 to four.
While the Monégasque driver was runner-up in the Drivers’ standings, Ferrari beat Mercedes to P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Absolutely,” Bird said of their P2. “It’s a step forwards. It absolutely is a step forwards.
“Being being vice champion, it is a step forward for Ferrari, for Charles Leclerc as well.
“This is a team that’s come off the back of a couple of really disappointing years, a team that’s come off the back of a challenging couple of seasons, so they are making strides forwards.
“But can they now go one further and really challenge Red Bull?
“We were all excited in Bahrain, thinking that Ferrari were going to really take the fight to Red Bull this year. And it just didn’t materialise at all. Red Bull were by far and away the better team.”
What Ferrari need to do to fight for the 2023 titles
Already Ferrari are dreaming of launching a sustained title quest in 2023, determined to take the fight to Red Bull after losing momentum this season.
But that’s not going to happen unless Ferrari as a whole, the drivers included, cut out their mistakes. Easier said than done.
Ferrari made several strategy blunders this season, glaring ones such as sending Leclerc out on intermediate tyres on a dry track in qualifying.
But he too made mistakes, his biggest being crashing out while leading the French Grand Prix. Sainz also had several shunts of his own.
Reliability has also been a problem, Ferrari’s engine letting them down. Worryingly in that department, the Scuderia are said to have turned it down in the second part of the championship and yet still had grid penalty after grid penalty for changing parts.
It is going to take a concerted effort over the winter to work on all their problems, Mattia Binotto telling PlanetF1 he will remain in charge. He needs to quash rumours he’s on his way out of the door, uncertainty not helping Ferrari’s cause.
That’s a lot to work on in what amounts to three months but if the steps taken from 2021 to this year are any clue, Ferrari can expect a better 2023. But it still may not be enough for a World title.