Ferrari falter under the weight of Imola expectations

There was no idyllic homecoming for Ferrari at Imola, as both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc had races to forget

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The stage was seemingly set for the Tifosi to celebrate Ferrari’s return to relevancy at the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP, but what they got instead was the Scuderia’s first real misstep of the 2022 F1 season.

To say it was all their own doing would be unfair, especially since Carlos Sainz‘s race came to an end through no fault of his own.

Whether it was the desire to silence the critics following his DNF in Australia, or the impulse to put on a show for the adoring home fans, the Spaniard’s weekend got off on the wrong foot when he crashed in qualifying.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. after he crashed out of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

And yet, not all was lost despite the sight of the Ferrari in the barrier at Ravazza 2. The sprint format weekend gave Sainz the chance to make up for his error, and he did just that, passing six cars on Saturday to slot his F1-75 onto the second row for Sunday’s race.

With teammate Charles Leclerc starting second after falling just short in the sprint, all signs pointed towards another epic battle at the front between this season’s two best teams, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Instead, what followed was a race to forget, one that highlighted just how thin the line between success and failure is in the high stakes world of F1.

Both Ferrari drivers were slow off the line, putting them on the back foot heading into Turn 1. The poor starts meant that rather than fighting with the Red Bull’s of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, they were involved in battles with the McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren’s Lando Norris ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during the race REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

With Leclerc forced to tuck in behind Norris in fourth, Sainz looked to have gotten the better of Ricciardo, only for disaster to strike at Tamburello. The Australian couldn’t find enough grip on the wet track and collided with Sainz, ending the Ferrari driver’s race and seriously compromising his own, as he went on to finish 18th.

The sight of the Ferrari beached in the gravel was met with audible groans in the stands. The expectations heading into Imola were understandably high for the Tifosi considering they’d seen their beloved Scuderia win two of the opening three races, along with another two podium finishes.

Luckily, one Ferrari remained in Leclerc, and he seemed poised to take the race to the Red Bull’s after quickly finding a way past Norris.

Verstappen in a league of his own

Verstappen made sure nothing of the sorts took place by easing off into the distance, taking the chequered flag while delivering a message following an uneven start to the campaign.

Perez looked to have second locked up as well, only for Ferrari to roll the dice late on and put Leclerc onto soft tyres. Red Bull duly responded, however the exchange brought Leclerc back in the mix for the runner up position.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during the race REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

That charge ended when Leclerc sent his Ferrari into the barrier at the Variante Alta, damaging his wing and forcing him to pit for a new wing. Although he managed to recover from ninth and finish sixth, the damage was done.

Given the expectations heading into Imola, Sunday’s race can’t be viewed as anything but a disappointment for Ferrari and its fans. Sainz was forced to retire through no vault of his own, but that’s back-to-back races where mistakes in qualifying, along with poor starts, have had a negative impact on his race.

Leclerc admits mistake

As for Leclerc, he admitted after the race that he got greedy in his late bid for second. Given Red Bull were on another level, perhaps the Monegasque suffered from a bit of naivety as well.

Rather than looking at the big picture, which is the World Championship, Leclerc let the moment get the better of him. Like Sainz before him, the Monegasque was guilty of trying to snatch what was in view rather than letting things come to him.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after the race REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

Luckily for Leclerc, the drop from third to sixth only cost him seven points, but it should serve as a lesson for both him and his teammate. It’s the first time either driver has a championship-winning car at their disposal in their career, and while they’ve shown they have the talent to get results, they mustn’t forget that a certain temperament is needed as well.

There’s always pressure to perform at a team like Ferrari, especially when you consider they haven’t won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship since 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Similar performances like the one at the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP will only hurt their chances, but luckily for the Scuderia and it’s drivers, the jam-packed F1 calendar means they won’t have to wait long to try and right their wrongs.

Adriano Boin
Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1 and Ferrari.
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