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Ever since Kimi Raikonnen broke British and Spanish hearts in 2007, completing an epically unexpected title run, Ferrari have been searching for their next great title hope. Whilst many would look at 2022 as a false hope, it equally may have just been a false start.
It’s highly likely that many Tifosi joined Charles Leclerc in his ear-splitting scream of disappointment in late July, as he crashed his Ferrari out of both the lead of the French Grand Prix and any contention for the Drivers’ World Championship. Previously, the Monegasque driver had led the title race by a 46-point-margin, before cacca hit the metaphorical wiper blades.
A sequence of cataclysmic events after the French tragedy meant life got gradually worse for Ferrari and Leclerc. Both the team and driver had to settle for second best in both championships.
But 2023 has the chance to be significantly different.
How 2023 could be different for Ferrari
Ferrari’s fresh perspective on their championship hopes starts off the track. The team will have a newly signed team principal and general manager in Fred Vasseur.
The ex-Alfa Romeo boss was the number one name in line to succeed Mattia Binotto, who resigned prematurely from his post shortly after the 2022 season concluded. A definite reason for his absence is still yet to be given, but rumours of no-confidence by Ferrari higher ups is where most of the fingers are pointing.
As chief technical officer, Binotto was hugely responsible for Ferrari’s resurgence to the front of the field since taking over the department in 2016. He was promoted to team principal in 2019. He unfortunately failed to produce the same results and so, this is where Vasseur comes in.
Since becoming team principal of Sauber in 2017, Vasseur has clearly shown his ability to run a successful F1 team. A cool head and lack of drama in the Alfa Romeo camp are the perfect credentials that the current Ferrari family desperately need.
Without critical strategy errors and numerous mechanical failures, there’s little doubt Ferrari would have been in the conversation for title contenders in 2022.
But even if Vasseur can get a handle on the car and its handlers, it’ll mean nothing without a world title winning driver in the hot seat.
Does Leclerc have what it takes?
Charles Leclerc entered 2022 on a relatively low note, after falling to seventh in the Drivers’ Standings in 2021. But a win in Bahrain and a dominant performance in Australia soon started to turn heads. At one point during the season, his 46-point advantage in the standings forced many to pick him as F1’s newest world title winner.
However, due to Ferrari’s inability to handle the heat of the moment, Leclerc’s title hopes were quickly slashed, as was his enthusiasm. During the closing stages of the 2022 season, Leclerc seemed both defeated and deflated. He was forced to watch Verstappen lead lap after lap on his way to a second consecutive world title.
Fortunately for Leclerc, 2023 presents a new and distinct opportunity.
After Red Bull blew up the internet by breaching the budget cap and finding themselves on the developmental back-foot in the new year, Ferrari will once again have a chance to lead from the front.
Continued developments including aerodynamics and the power unit, will mean Ferrari’s car will be fast. Additionally, the fixes to the ever rupturing MGU-H should mean it’s reliable too.
Leclerc also has the advantage of having Carlos Sainz as a criminally underrated teammate. Despite hitting a few early bumps in the road, the Spaniard showed he was able to keep up with Leclerc, and even pick up the pieces should poor strategy or unreliability strike.
Having raced under Vasseur already in his days at Sauber, Leclerc could finally feel comfortable at Ferrari in 2023, with only an inferior teammate and a lagging Max Verstappen to contend with.
Featured Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office