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2022 has been a bittersweet season for Ferrari (Feature Image Credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)
2022 has been a bittersweet season for Ferrari (Feature Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

F1 2022 season review: Ferrari’s fall from grace

Scuderia Ferrari saw a promising year unravel after a dominant start to the season

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It all started so well for Ferrari in 2022. Two wins in the first three races, including a dominant win in Australia. By the season’s summer break, Charles Leclerc was nearly 100 points behind Max Verstappen. How did it fall away so fast? 

Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari F1-75 at the Australian Grand Prix, the best race of the season for Leclerc (Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)
Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari F1-75 at the Australian Grand Prix, the best race of the season for Leclerc (Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As Ferrari licks its wounds after a bruising campaign, the team will no doubt be plotting how best to fight back. The resignation and immediate departure of Mattia Binotto means a fifth different Team Principal since 2014. Binotto took responsibility for the team’s failings this year, which have included questionable strategy calls. His initial refusal to comment or even condone these errors also impacted the Scuderia’s image and competence. What should have been a potentially tight battle with Red Bull instead turned into a season that saw Max Verstappen and Red Bull obliterate the opposition, including Ferrari.

Due to self-interest and warring factions, Ferrari can be a political nightmare for leaders.  Stability in F1 can aid a team significantly during trying times and cement strong foundations for success. A trait missing from Ferrari for many years, it has resulted in the team imploding, arguably continuing with Binotto’s departure.  Despite the confirmation of Fred Vasseur, the Scuderia risks a dangerous off-season. New management and little time before the first race of 2023 will damage the final preparations of next year’s challenger.

Charles Leclerc proved to be the closest challenger to Verstappen this season. Leclerc must also take partial responsibility for the failed title bid. Crashing out of the lead in France is where his title bid realistically ended. The off-season will help him and the Scuderia forget the calamitous knee-jerk reactions of the teams during races.

The knee-jerk reactions of the team have been present throughout the season, showing the Scuderia still has a way to go before it can challenge for a world championship. Cohesion and self-belief will get Ferrari out of the quandary it finds itself in, however, this will require the team to operate similarly to Mercedes and Red Bull. Let’s take a look at how the season started, and how it all ended with the departure of its 2022 Team Principal.

Rounds one to three: The tifosi’s new hope
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz pose for the camera after securing a one-two at the first race of the season in Bahrain (Image Credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Ferrari started the season in the best way possible, securing a one-two finish at the opening round in Bahrain. Aided by the double retirement suffered by Red Bull, genuine belief flooded the Scuderia. The F1-75 proved fast and Charles Leclerc matched the pace of reigning World Champion Max Verstappen.

The strategy calls from the team were perfect, and while Carlos Sainz’s pace could not match that of Verstappen or Leclerc, he was in prime position to take a podium finish in the season opener. Hopes were high as the team headed to Saudi Arabia.

While Ferrari lost out to Red Bull under the night lights at Jeddah, the battle went down to the final few laps with Leclerc and Verstappen running nose to tail for the majority of the race.  Strategy calls were once again perfect and only the very minor pace advantage of Verstappen prevented Ferrari from taking two victories in the opening two rounds.

The third round in Australia proved to be the high point of Ferrari’s season. An utterly dominant victory for Leclerc with Verstappen having retired early. However, trouble had already begun to show its head. Fresh from a new contract extension, Carlos Sainz spun out of the race on lap one after a difficult qualifying.

Despite this, the team left the first three rounds in high spirits.  The team looked like a championship contender for the first time since the mid-2000s. It operated as a well-oiled machine with strategy and pit stops. Two wins and a second place gave Leclerc a healthy championship lead, while Verstappen and Red Bull were forced to think fast to turn around a very difficult situation.

Red Bull’s brutal strike back
Charles Leclerc finished three seconds behind winner Max Verstappen at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in 2022 (Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)
Charles Leclerc finished three seconds behind winner Max Verstappen at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in 2022 (Image Credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Red Bull knew it needed to respond at the next round, and Ferrari suddenly found itself in the familiar territory of struggling to match the frontrunners. A wet-to-dry race saw Leclerc throw away a certain podium by spinning. He recovered to P6, but it was a costly error so early in the season.

Ferrari struggled to keep pace with Red Bull at the next five rounds. It was at this point that the team began to make questionable strategy calls. The most notable at this stage of the season occurred in Monaco.  Panicking on the radio, Ferrari double-stacked both cars in the pits, costing Leclerc certain victory. That the team called him in at the final corner knowing his teammate is ahead is even more perplexing.

Then at Silverstone, the team mismanaged a situation that saw both drivers out front and wanting to win. Communicating different messages to each driver, Ferrari opted to resolve the situation by pitting Leclerc. Sainz took victory that day, but the photo of Binotto locked in a stern conversation with Leclerc showed the world all was not well behind closed doors. Ferrari’s Silverstone victory was the first in six races. Leclerc’s championship hopes were now beginning to fade fast.

Return to the old ways of Ferrari
Ferrari pit crew
The now infamous pitstop in Hungary which saw Leclerc exit with hard tyres fitted on a cooling track (Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Leclerc raced to a much-welcomed victory at the next round in Austria, giving the team two wins in two races. He knew he needed to keep the momentum he and the team had been building going. However, as the team neared the summer break, he had no clue Ferrari’s season was about to implode.

Leclerc had looked set for certain victory in France. Leading comfortably, the Monegasque made an error and lost control of his F1-75. Spinning into the tyre barrier, the unbridled screams of rage at his error showed Leclerc knew the significance of the mistake. Unfortunately, they never won another race in 2022.

Hungary exposed the journey the team still had to make to be seen as a fully-fledged title contender. In one of the most bizarre strategic calls in recent memory, Ferrari opted to fit hard compound tyres to Leclerc’s car on a damp track. Hard tyres are designed to degrade slower but require significant heat to warm up. A damp track is the polar opposite scenario for hard tyres to excel in. This meant Leclerc had very little grip, and once again watched on as another decent result was squandered.

Aware that strategy calls were now being examined by the world’s media, Ferrari’s next move in Belgium was equally baffling. The team over the radio began asking Leclerc what would be the best strategy as the pit stops loomed. Leclerc, perplexed, answered with what he could while driving at 200mph into the fast left-hander into Pouhon corner. Leclerc finished P6 and Sainz finished P3.

Salvaging a decent finish

By Italy, the championship looked very much over for Ferrari. The team needed a strong display at its home race to counter the growing media storm surrounding its performance and strategy calls. While the Scuderia did not win, Leclerc finished just two seconds behind Verstappen at the finish. It was a welcome result after a very difficult summer.

The team never repeated its strategy call errors of the summer, but now had the very real threat of a resurgent Mercedes looming over it. They had to fight hard to maintain P2 in the Constructors Championship, while Leclerc found himself potentially losing second place in the driver standings to Perez.

The Monegasque’s strongest performance of the year came at the final race of the season. Red Bull had out-developed Ferrari, and Leclerc needed to finish ahead of Perez to secure P2. He did this and was relieved in Parc Ferme.

Ferrari is now indeed a competitive force once again. But it needs to urgently kill off questionable strategy calls, and crucially admit its failings. Binotto refused to acknowledge this until it was far too late.

The question now is if Ferrari will learn the lessons of 2022 and apply them in 2023. The team will be hungry for revenge next season. Hopefully, the prancing horse can gallop its way back to glory.

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