Nine DNFS. Bad strategy calls. Lost positions. This was the scene for Ferrari in 2022.
Many fans are worried they are setting up for disappointment, as they hope the pain of being a Ferrari fan will somehow change this year, and luck be on their side. However, pre-season testing saw Ferrari place fourth in fastest laps (after Red Bull, Mercedes, and sister team Alfa Romeo), suggesting that maybe their engine isn’t as good as last year. However, if their sister team is putting in fast laps (and given that pre-season testing doesn’t necessarily show the full potential of the car), perhaps Ferrari are sandbagging (holding back on the full capabilities of their car) and saving their performance for qualifying and the actual race.
Looking back at the Bahrain Grand Prix. There were groans during the first round of qualifying, when Leclerc caused a red flag after a piece of his front wing fell off. However, he made it through to the second round of qualifying with no issues. The third round, however, sparked fear among fans as Leclerc proceeded to exit his car without an explanation, suggesting something might have been wrong with the car. It was later established the team wanted to “save a new set of softs to start the race on.” This meant Leclerc started third on the grid, after the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.
Despite the fear, Leclerc edged ahead of Pérez, as the lights went out due to the latter getting away slowly. The race seemed to be going well for the Monegasque with no issues until the 41st lap when he had to DNF due to what seemed to be engine issues. There were several groans, from both Ferrari fans and non-Ferrari fans alike. He is quoted to have said “everything felt good so it’s a shame. Now I just hope we can look into it, understand what went wrong and don’t have this problem anymore…”
Carlos Sainz finished in the top five, albeit not on the podium; after his maiden win last year, Ferrari fans can hope for some more wins from the Spaniard.
The retirement came due to the energy store and control electronics, which Leclerc cannot replace as he has already taken 2/2 of them; taking any more of either of the pieces would mean he has to incur a 10-place penalty (per component). This is obviously very frustrating for both the team and fans, and we can only hope that the rest of the season (23 more races) will go smoothly – however, knowing Ferrari, probably not.
There was concern off the track as well. David Sanchez, head of vehicle concept, has resigned after 10 years at Ferrari, amidst speculation as to why.
However, there were positives. Firstly, it was not a completely disappointing evening for the Tifosi as Carlos Sainz finished in the top five, albeit not on the podium; after his maiden win last year, Ferrari fans can hope for some more wins from the Spaniard.
Another positive is the Bahrain curse, which suggests whoever finishes P1 in the first race of the season will only finish P2 in the Championship overall; could one of the Ferrari boys win it? Moreover, there is a possibility for history to repeat itself – in 2022, Leclerc and Sainz finished P1 and P2 respectively, and Verstappen retired from the race, however, lost to Red Bull in both the Constructors Championship and World Drivers Championship overall. The opposite seemingly happened this year with the two Red Bulls on the podium, and Leclerc out of the race. Does this mean a potential Ferrari win? Moreover, even if Leclerc has to incur a penalty, it is still possible for him to fight his way back to the top, the way we saw Verstappen last year at Hungary (P9 to P1).
Only time will tell what will become of the Prancing Horse team. Are they set for another year of pain and failure, or will they defy expectations and go for glory?