Jolyon Palmer: Ferrari cannot handle ‘dynamic’ race strategies like Red Bull

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc with Red Bull's Max Verstappen in parc ferme at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2022.

Jolyon Palmer believes Ferrari’s strategy department falls apart once a race situation requires fluidity or flexibility.

Palmer made the assertion following the Scuderia’s disastrous strategy calls during the Hungarian Grand Prix, which saw Charles Leclerc finish down in sixth place after starting from the front row of the grid.

Making the situation even worse was the fact that Red Bull recovered from 10th on the grid, with Max Verstappen coming through to victory – mostly due to his team’s correct strategy decisions.

Ferrari fumbling their strategy so badly has earned the team quite a lot of criticism, with Palmer remarking on how the Scuderia appear to be the complete opposite of Red Bull and Mercedes in terms of strategic strength.

“When the strategy is straightforward, Ferrari can handle it,” he wrote in his column for the official Formula 1 website.

“But in a dynamic race situation as the Hungarian Grand Prix was, they seem to hit trouble and lose points to Red Bull and Mercedes.

“Again, Ferrari can blame their strategy for not picking up better results than a mere fourth and sixth in Budapest. Almost inexplicably, Leclerc finished behind both Red Bulls that started 10th and 11th.”

Palmer: Ferrari were boxed in

Palmer said the mistake made by Ferrari was in their use of the hard tyre compound, but could see the reasons why the team made that tyre choice and the timing of the pit call for Leclerc.

“Clearly, the hard tyres were to be avoided for anyone not on a one-stop,” he said.

“Even then, it wasn’t the optimal choice. You could see the logic in what Ferrari did by pitting Leclerc this time – they wanted to protect the lead of the race from Verstappen’s undercut and had to use either the soft or hard to satisfy the regulations. Pitting at that point meant fitting the hards, which ultimately was a catastrophic error.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in action at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

“Had Leclerc ceded track position and opted for the Sainz or Hamilton strategy of running softs late on, he probably would have won the race, or certainly fought for victory at the very least. It was another race win which evaded the Monegasque driver, and I’m sure he was seeking an explanation heading into the summer break.

“It all means that we head into the summer shutdown with Verstappen and Red Bull sailing away into the distance and Ferrari looking over their shoulders at Mercedes fast approaching, a feat you’d have struggled to believe after the way this season started.”

Palmer predicts Mercedes victory is imminent

With Mercedes capitalising on Ferrari’s errors to take second and third place in Budapest, Palmer said it looks like a mere matter of time until the Brackley-based team score their first win of 2022.

“In theory, this was a race that Mercedes weren’t expecting great things from,” he said.

“It certainly looked as though they were in damage limitation mode after free practice. Sometimes you can’t tell how much performance teams are hiding throughout the Friday sessions, but Russell described it as ‘one of their toughest Fridays of the season’.

“Perhaps unsurprising, considering the bumpier and lower speed nature of the circuit.

“Given the wet FP3 on Saturday, it’s amazing the team managed to turn the car upside down and get it into a proper working window for qualifying, without any further representative running.

“Thirteen races in and the trajectory of the team is the clearest of all on the grid: they are undoubtedly edging their way towards a first victory of the season, which I predict they will have in the next handful of races.

“The other benefit Mercedes have is Ferrari’s tendency not to maximise their potential thanks to less-than-ideal strategy calls.”