Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

F1’s new era is Ferrari’s best chance in years to return to the top

2022 F1 season

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In the often weird and occasionally wonderful world of online Formula 1 fan culture, where memes and hot takes reign supreme, Ferrari have endured more jokes at their expense than many others over the last 10 years.

Ever since Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on his third world championship title to Sebastian Vettel in the final race of the 2012 season, Ferrari have not been able to mount a true championship challenge capable of preventing Mercedes or Red Bull from holding a duopoly over both Formula 1 titles.

While no one in Maranello – not the drivers, not the team principals, nor anyone on the technical side of the team – has committed the PR gaffe of declaring they would win the title in an upcoming season, that hasn’t stopped them being satirised as the team which eternally believes, or at least hopes, that ‘this year is our year’. That is no doubt at least partly because, given the scale of Ferrari’s resources, expertise and talent (and, until recently, highly favourable commercial terms), there was no good reason for them not to be regular title contenders. As is often said, the best jokes always have an element of truth to them.

For all that, heading into the most anticipated Formula 1 season in recent memory, it’s hard to ignore the signs that, yes, this honestly, genuinely, truly could be Scuderia Ferrari’s most promising prospect of fighting for a world championship in a decade.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monza, 2020
The 2020 season was a disaster for Ferrari
After the well-publicised controversy over their 2019 power unit and their subsequent dealings with the FIA to address legality concerns, Ferrari suffered their worst season in four decades in 2020, finishing sixth in the constructors’ championship. Team principal Mattia Binotto chose to embrace the reality of the challenges Ferrari faced heading into the transitional season of 2021 and work on finding that winning mentality once again.

“For us, it was more important as a team to prove to ourselves first that we are capable of addressing the main weaknesses and improving the product itself, improving our performance and closing the gap to the top teams,” Binotto later explained after the season.

“We had three main objectives for 2021: The first was trying to close the gap to the top teams. Why is that? Because 2020 was a very difficult season – the worst in the last 40 years.

“The second – something I always, always mentioned – was try to improve in all areas over 2020. Especially at the racetrack – which, for me, is race preparations and race management.”

The new F1-75 contains “a lot of innovation” according to Binotto
With such major changes in store for 2022, the final objective for last season was to build a “solid foundation” from which they could attack F1’s entirely new era with renewed confidence.

“That, for us, was something which was key,” Binotto continued, “because it was not only addressing the 2020 car, it was not only trying to improve ourselves and the race cars, but it was important for us to make sure that we are improving as well in terms of, what I would call, ‘solid foundations’ – what’s required to be the best team or a good team in the future.”

By almost every metric, it’s hard not to view the team’s 2021 campaign as anything but a success in all three areas.

Third place in the constructors’ championship, beating McLaren, two pole positions for Charles Leclerc and five podiums between him and new team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr put the misery of 2020 firmly in the mirror. But most impressive was how Ferrari achieved it while applying little development to their 2021 car.

Having used the two development tokens each team was permitted for 2021 to refine the SF21’s rear suspension and transmission, Ferrari had abandoned all development of the car by late spring to focus exclusively on their 2022 car, designated the ‘F1-75’. Unlike Mercedes and Red Bull, there was no distraction of a down-to-the-wire title fight for the Scuderia.

Sainz signed off his first season in red with fourth podium
On the power unit side, following the changes prompted by their brush with the FIA in 2019, a major upgrade introduced for the Russian Grand Prix in September marked a pivotal point in their battle with McLaren in the constructors’ championship. From the moment they arrived in Sochi until the final lap in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari out-scored their old rivals by 62 points.

Ferrari restructured their technical team into four clear departments – chassis, power unit, racing and supply chain management – to become a more effective and efficient operation. Former head of chassis, Simone Resta, was relocated to a new, separate unit in Maranello to oversee the team’s supply of parts to customer team Haas.

As this refreshed technical team kicked their development of the F1-75 for 2022 into overdrive, they had the benefit of significantly increased wind tunnel testing time with which to refine their concepts than their biggest rivals – a legacy of their dismal 2020 campaign. With the already rich resources that Ferrari enjoy, the team will have been much better placed to exploit these additional hours of wind tunnel time than the smaller teams who also earned a similar advantage by virtue of sitting in the lower half of the standings.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that even the cautious Binotto has been hailing the creativity and ingenuity he feels lies at the core of the team’s interpretation of the radically new rules for this season.

“If I look at the 2022 car and the 2022 power units, believe me, there is a lot of innovation in it,” Binotto said.

“I think that the way that the entire engineering team has faced the new design, the new project, the 2022 regulations – which were a big discontinuity – was certainly with a more open mind than before. And that I can myself measure by looking at the car itself, the way it’s progressing, but certainly with the amount of innovation we put in it.”

Leclerc came within three laps of winning at Silverstone last year
And when the F1-75 appears tomorrow, it will have one of Formula 1’s most exciting driver pairings who will both be itching to fight at the very front in pursuit of a first world championship.

As a proven race winner, Leclerc has shown the talent and the nerve needed not just to hold his own in a straight battle with the likes of Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen. After two seasons spent in the doldrums compared to last year’s championship rivals, Leclerc will be more determined than ever to show that he is every bit as capable of being competing for the crown as they are.

Sainz will also be impatiently pacing the factory floors, waiting for his chance to finally get behind the wheel of the car he would have always been anticipating since he first signed the contract to join Ferrari back in 2020. Having impressed Ferrari with his transition into the team last season, especially given how many drivers in new surroundings struggled last year, Sainz heads into 2022 acutely aware that he is one of the two favourites – alongside George Russell – to become Formula 1’s next first-time grand prix winner.

With as open as season as 2022 is shaping up to be, it would also be unwise to assume that the titans of the previous ten years of the sport will not be just as formidable a force this season too. But while few would bet against Mercedes and Red Bull being at least in the mix at the front of the field once again even with the regulations reset, it’s more than likely that the pair will be looking in their mirrors far more frequently this season.

Will 2022 finally be Ferrari’s year at long last? At this stage, it’s impossible to say. But this year of all years, it doesn’t look like any of their rivals have a better chance.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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35 comments on “F1’s new era is Ferrari’s best chance in years to return to the top”

  1. The last time Ferrari were successful in Formula 1 it was because they brought in significant talent from the Championship-winning squad.

    The last time Ferrari faked success in Formula 1 it was because they promoted from within, and that head cheater is still in charge.

    1. All of it from outside of Italy.

  2. I’m not bothered if they win the championships or not so long as they are at least in the fight.
    We need more than just two teams up at the front and Ferrari bring a passion for, and a history within, F1 that few if any can equal.

    1. Indeed! A Ferrari at the front has a major appeal to everyone – fans, sponsors, F1 itself.

      I hope Binotto can pull a rabbit out of the hat like he did with the 2017 regulations. All cars adopted his high side-pod designs. Under him, on pure car performance side, they were on the ascendancy right from 2017 till mid-2019 (part of the ascendancy legal, part illegal). And after that blip from mid-2019 end to start of 2020; again, they were constantly improving since start of 2020 till the end of 2021.

      So, I am backing him to produce a good car which becomes better and better as the calendar goes on.

      But like you said, it is important to go into the race weekend, knowing a Ferrari win is plausible, rather than it being a surprise or a certainty.

  3. As it goes. When Ferrari fails in F1 they produce the best road cars and when they are winning in F1 their road cars aren’t as good as they could be.

    1. As I am more likely to be watching F1 in 2022 than I am buying a Ferrari, I would prefer them to produce mediocre raod cars this year.

      1. Haha! Good one!

  4. Well, they didn’t really use well the last few big changes of rules, did they? What they need is better work ethics and organization (I suppose, I won’t pretend I know best, I’m just a long term fan of the sport). People always talk about passion when they talk about Ferrari. I say, there are different kinds of passion. You don’t have to be loud to be passionate. I don’t imagine they are more passionate about racing than F. Williams was for example. I think Germans, Brits and many others have more efficient kind of passion and they usually choose meritocracy over nepotism or things like hiring only Italians. Tradition is nice, as long as you know when to change it.

    1. And I remember in schumacher era there were key people from all over the world at the ferrari team.

  5. Ever since Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on his third world championship title to Sebastian Vettel in the final race of the 2012 season, Ferrari have not been able to mount a true championship challenge capable of preventing Mercedes or Red Bull from holding a duopoly over both Formula 1 titles.

    To me, in 2017 they were capable of winning the WDC with Vettel, and just about in 2018, too. They mounted real challenges. It would have taken some good luck, and some bad luck on Mercedes/Hamilton’s part, but the challenges were real and capable of taking the title in the right circumstances.

    1. 2017 was a great battle between Hamilton and Vettel (apart from the nonsense at Baku) and had it not been for the start incident with Kimi and Max which took out Seb I believe the drivers’ championship would have been much closer, likely within 10 points.

      1. I should specify the start incident in Singapore

        1. Had Vettel won Singapore 2017 and Hamilton finished 5th (also behind Raikkonen and RB’s), and keeping other results as is, Hamilton would have won the WDC by a mere 6 pts! A massive 40-point swing.

          1. Exactly! 2017 was far closer than people give Seb and Ferrari credit.
            Had he not been caught up in the start mess between Max and Kimi in Singapore (not his fault) or suffered the spark plug failure at Suzuka (also not his fault) the title would have gone down to the wire.

          2. Then you’re underestimating hamilton: the track was wet, I believe hamilton would’ve got at least 2nd even without any crash, and probably it’d have been verstappen to win, not vettel.

      2. The mess was caused by Vettel, not by Max or Kimi.

        1. Indeed it was AlexS, and without it the race probably would not have been an uncontested win for Vettel with the rain likely bringing both Verstappen and Hamilton in play, and Raikkönnen clearly also not about to hang back either.

          Even so, @drmouse is right that the 2017 campaign had good potential and could have been much closer, if not for several mistakes by Ferrari and Vettel.

  6. Well, the stars are aligned for Ferrari this year. If they get the concept of new car right, this might be their best chance to fight for drivers and constructors championship. And if we consider that Leclerc which is already really good will be more mature and rounded and Carlos which is at the peak of his capacity will be at ease already since race 1 make them a very strong line up. They were already really consistent over the full season of 2021, the improved PU was really good by the end of the year; they have good resources in place too. we can indeed have a very strong season for them.

  7. Fingers crossed. I’d love to get excited about Ferrari again. McLaren and Lando have somewhat won my affections.

    Must say I’m pretty excited about this season, I hope there’s some change in the pecking order and some surprises like Apline and Alonso being able to take a win or two.

  8. This really is Ferrari’s biggest chance since 2017/18. They focused all their ressources on the development of their 2022 car and also had more time in the wind tunnel than Mercedes and RB. If it’s ever gonna happen again, this season is the best opportunity to win the title.
    They made a big step on their PU last season, not only making it more powerful (though still lacking with their ICE), but also very reliable. Now they need to find the final bits of performance to close the gap to the very top. They have the right tools to do it, but they finally need to deliver. They can’t afford to make silly mistakes, like they did in 2017 and ’18.
    If they have managed to build a competitive car, then they have the right driver in Charles Leclerc to mount a serious championship challenge.

  9. to increase racing strategies we need to put soft and hard tire at the same time, allow normal fuel and nitro fuel half race and allow party mode on/off half race.

  10. If the leaked images are true then this years car looks like a beast. Those side pods are insanely impressive.

    1. Ferrari leaked images are all over internet

  11. Ferrari has the drivers and I hope they can get the car right. For me the question is their strategy on track, it’s sometimes bizarre and needs to be improved.

  12. By almost every metric, it’s hard not to view the team’s 2021 campaign as anything but a success in all three areas.

    Super-sneaky use of a double negative here…

  13. Honestly, Ferrari will still lose a championship if they had a car like 2020 Merc or 2021 RBR.

    Why? Because they are still a mess operationally. Full of mistakes in strategy, pit stops and God know how many screw ups behind the curtain

    1. Wait there, there’s a huge difference between the cars you said!

      Ofc ferrari would lose with the 2021 red bull, it was at best at merc level, and you know ferrari operationally is not like red bull, but the 2020 merc level? That’s an easy win for any team.

  14. Coventry Climax
    16th February 2022, 23:53

    The chance they have this year is no greater -or smaller- that the chance all the other teams have, or Ferrari’s own chances over all previous years. That’s the key issue with chance : everytime you throw a dice the chance for a 6 (or any other number) is exactly the same as it was all your previous throws and it will be the same for all your future throws too.
    My point is, that there should be something more involved than just chance if you aim to steer it. And that’s where it’s been going wrong all those years, with the people steering the Ferrari company and/or the car and/or the mechanics.
    To be honest, I don’t see anything has changed there.
    Basically, the article can be summed up in it’s last sentence; ‘At this stage, it’s impossible to say. But this year of all years, it doesn’t look like any of their rivals have a better chance.’ Or a worse chance, I would add.

    1. They probably mean there’s a regulation change looming and if you compare the 2016 ferrari to the merc and then do the same in 2017 you see they got very close back then, so why not again? Furthermore, merc and red bull were hardcore developing during 2021, ferrari and mclaren must’ve stopped earlier since they had 3rd and 4th place realistically assured, so while I don’t trust ferrari to get it right, it’s certainly a better chance than some of the main competitors.

    2. Chance to close the gap, that is, not saying they have a better chance to come out with the best car than merc or rbr.

      1. Exactly (except for the part of “closing the gap”), they don’t have a “better chance” than the other teams, but they do have the best chance compared to the chance they had in 2020 or 2019 or even some year before.
        Referring to Coventry Climax post, excluding 2020 and 2021, strange years, PU thing and tokens to consider, in 2017 or 2018 or 2019, they didn’t have the same chance to get a 6 throwing a dice, than this year. Because those cars needed to be evolutions of previous cars. Now, in chance of terms, they have the best chance to do a car as quick as rivals, in years.

        They don’t have a gap to close to another car anymore, the gap in 2021 it’s gone, it doesn’t exist since the 2021 knowledge isn’t useful anymore: they just needed to design and develop (out of a blank sheet) a car as fast (or faster) as RB or Merc. And this means the best chance compared to previous years (not to other teams!).
        Just like 2009 was the chance for RB and BrawnGP to do it.
        Of course Ferrari failed 2009 and 2014 change of regulation. They could fail this one too.
        Of course, that’s not just a “car gap” but also a team gap, since Merc and RB have better engineers (considering the results in the previous years I mean). But this is indeed the best chance in years.

    3. Of course it’s impossible to say, but the chance to get a 6 in 2019 for example (I’m excluding 2020 and 2021) wasn’t as high as this year. In 2017-18-19 they needed to evolve previous year concepts or develop new ones, while rivals were doing the same starting from a better point with previous year car.
      This year instead, they all started from the same blank sheet, so they needed to do the quickest car out of 2022 regulations. It’s pretty different, the dice example doesn’t fit that much (although it’s a pretty good example).

      Of course every team has the same chances, but Ferrari has the best chance compared to previous years. Not the best chance compared to other teams.
      They all could do the best car for 2022. But teams like Mclaren or Ferrari, had of course a better chance to do it compared to previous years.

      You’re writing about something more than just chance, and clearly you’re right. Ferrari hasn’t shown the same talent as Merc or RB in making a fast car, last years. But we’ll see

  15. There is a pic of the F1-75 going around on the web since yesterday, leaked, unauthorized

    1. It looks astounding!

  16. This is an opportunity for them, for sure. But I dont think it was the car that didnt deliver success for them in the past. They seem to have a old school culture not befitting this day and age that is stopping them from getting the right vibe that translates into winning. They act as a big corporation focusing on twisting pr stories to cover up their lack of transparency while wheeling and dealing in back rooms both internally and with stakeholders. Renewing your strategy won’t help in that case. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. They will need to work on far more than the car and their strategy. Besides that I personally don’t like their line up. They seem to have two drivers that are interchangeable and do not necessarily complement eachother. Mistake prone drivers as well. So, while I would love to see them battle at the front, the way forwards will be difficult for them. Although I have to say that should they get some feature incredibly right (ref Brawn diffuser 2009) and the car will be unbeatable, that will accelerate the process they will need to go through incredibly. It will lead to wins and the title which in its turn has a big impact on their culture. If you do not .. up you also dont need to anxiously cover up..

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