From title contenders to a disappointing season. Ferrari had high expectations coming into the 2022 Formula 1 season and it looked like Charles Leclerc was going to take it to Max Verstappen in the early stages of the year.
Mistakes from driver and team, reliability issues, a downturn confidence and too many psychological blows all saw Ferrari‘s title challenge slip away in the summer.
Following Leclerc‘s mistake at the French Grand Prix, Verstappen became big favourite to be the champion.
Since then though, Ferrari‘s pace has also slowly dwindled with their last victory coming in Austria in mid-July. There are a few reasons as to why this has happened.
Mid-season regulation change
From the Belgian GP, the FIA introduced a technical directive to limit the porpoising which several drivers were unhappy about.
The changes included limiting the flexibility of the cars’ planks which many felt were going to negatively impact Ferrari and Red Bull, whilst helping Mercedes.
Red Bull have not been affected at all, but Ferrari may have been held back due to the technical directive.
The design philosophy of the F1-75 generates a lot of downforce. However, a little bit of this seems to have been taken away because of the mid-season floor and plank regulation changes.
Leclerc in particular has not been able to push the car hard in Q3 like he was doing earlier this year, so it’s dented the drivers’ confidence.
Tyre wear troubles
The 2022 Ferrari F1 car eats its tyres for breakfast, a big problem when points are handed out on a Sunday after 300km of racing.
Pirelli introduced a new 18-inch tyre for this season which has taken time for the teams to get to grips with.
We saw in the season-opener that three pit stops were needed for most drivers, which is unheard of in modern F1.
Of course, the Bahrain International Circuit is one of the most sensitive tracks on tyres but it underlined that there was a lot to learn.
Whether it’s the philosophy of the car, or the engineers being outfoxed by their rivals about getting the most from the tyres, this is an area which has let Ferrari down several times.
Even when Leclerc or Carlos Sainz starts on pole position, it’s difficult to believe Ferrari can win.
Take the Italian GP as the perfect example. Pole position for Leclerc, with Verstappen down in seventh yet there was a sense of inevitability about the Red Bull driver coming through to take the win, which is what happened.
No matter what strategy Ferrari throw at their drivers, poor tyre wear compared to Red Bull and Mercedes will always put them on the back foot.
Power unit problems
Ferrari appeared to have the power unit to beat when Verstappen had reliability issues in Bahrain and Australia.
The pendulum has swung the other way with engine failures in Spain, Azerbaijan and Austria curtailing Ferrari‘s season.
Since Sainz‘s blow up in Spielberg, Ferrari haven’t been as strong on the straights, not running their power unit to its full potential.
They were particularly concerned last weekend in Mexico City which was one reason for their lack of pace as the turbocharger didn’t enjoy the high altitude and thin air.
“I hope it won’t be worse than this because I don’t expect any race worse than this,” said Leclerc. “It’s probably one of the worst races together with Spa, this one.
“But I honestly believe that it is a one-off. For the future we need to understand what we can do in those conditions for us to be better.”
Outdeveloped or not developing?
F1‘s arms race never ends and Mattia Binotto has been very open that his team have no longer been developing the car.
It suggests, Ferrari are going to have a very different machine in 2023 because surely they would want to at least test some new upgrades in the remaining events.
“The last few races were not great,” said Binotto. In Singapore we were very competitive, in Suzuka we were not as fast as Max but it was not a drama.
“In Austin we were competitive in qualifying but not as much in race and Mexico it was much worse but I’m hoping it’s not a trend.
“Mercedes is coming back because they are developing more than we did. We stopped earlier to focus on 2023.
“So I am not worried about their rate of development improvements because I know that we have stopped with our development.”
Have Ferrari proved they are ready to win the championship?
In terms of making a great car, Ferrari deserve massive credit for their jump in performance, from a terrible 2020 to a much better 2021 and, of course, from 2021 to 2022.
It’s that trust element of can they deliver operationally every race, not make mistakes and will they make the right decisions with their development path, if they find themselves in a title fight again. That all remains a question mark.
That’s something which has been the case for a long time, far too long. Ferrari are back at the front, but the mighty Mercedes and the Red Bull–Verstappen combination will require a beast of a car from the Scuderia if they want to topple their rivals in 2023.