Former Formula 1 driver turned pundit Martin Brundle says something forced Ferrari into conservation mode in Mexico.
Now out of the 2022 title picture, Ferrari are competing for pride in the closing stages of the season, while also looking to ensure that they remain out of the clutches of Mercedes to finish P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.
Both aims took a hit at the Mexico City Grand Prix though, Ferrari lagging far behind both Red Bull and Mercedes.
The race weekend had started positively for Ferrari as they recorded a one-two finish in the opening practice session, but by qualifying they had slipped down the order, Carlos Sainz managing only P5 on the grid with Charles Leclerc P7.
Splitting the pair was Valtteri Bottas in the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo challenger.
And then in a race of limited highlights, Ferrari had perhaps the dullest afternoon of all out there, Sainz and Leclerc circulating behind Red Bull and Mercedes but ahead of the midfield, finishing P5 and P6 respectively.
It has been reported that the Ferrari power unit had to be turned down due to the high-altitude nature of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, something which team boss Mattia Binotto confirmed, though he stressed that this did not explain all of their problems.
As for the other factors which combined to create a lacklustre Ferrari display, Binotto admitted that the team are still at a loss for an explanation.
With two rounds to go, Ferrari’s advantage over Mercedes’ in the Constructors’ Championship has been cut to 40 points.
Reflecting on proceedings in Mexico as part of his Sky F1 column, Brundle wrote: “The main intrigue was that both Red Bulls were on used soft tyres and both Mercedes were on new medium tyres on the grid, and for a while as the Red Bull tyres began to cry enough it appeared that Mercedes could run much longer at a reasonable pace and seize the initiative.
“Meanwhile Ferrari were simply not at the races, they didn’t have the pace despite having large amounts of downforce attached and were clearly protecting something at this 7200 ft-altitude circuit as they were destined to finish a minute behind.”
Backing up Binotto’s point about more reasons being at play than just the power unit, Brundle pointed out that it was working well in the back of Bottas’ Alfa Romeo, the Finn a standout throughout qualifying to achieve such lofty heights on the grid.
His race pace was not quite as strong. Having lost a place to Fernando Alonso at the start, he did pressure the Alpine driver for a time, though would ultimately cross the line P10, claiming a single point, his first score since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
“It must be said the Ferrari power unit in Bottas’ Alfa Romeo was relatively flying along nicely,” Brundle noted, “although he would ultimately have been disappointed with only one championship point in 10th from sixth on the grid.”