Continuing our team reviews for the 2021 season. Going in reverse Constructor’s Championship order. Next is Scuderia Ferrari. Previous teams can be viewed here:
10. Haas Ferrari
2020 had been a terrible year for Ferrari.
Ferrari had finished 6th in the Constructor’s Championship with a woefully poor car. At times they were even being beaten by customer team Alfa Romeo!
A combination of a clarification in engine rules meaning the engine had less power than in 2019 and a poorly designed car that was too draggy, left Ferrari struggling with performance right from the start.
The team made clear that they were not going to be competing for anything in 2020 and so they would be focussing a lot on the 2022 regulation changes.
With little development allowed for the 2021 car. Ferrari decided to improve some bits with the car. The main aim was to fix the drag issue, along with developing the power unit to make it more competitive.
Talk of any real target for the season would be quickly pushed aside to talk about the focus on 2022. But, a team of the size and resources of Ferrari could not have another dreadful year after 2020.
The team would admit quietly that the hope for 2021 was to be more competitive and set themselves up at the front of the midfield. The whole midfield is very competitive so being ahead would allow the team more leeway to focus on 2022.
Following testing, it appeared that the team had improved from a woeful 2020, but the engine was still lacking behind the Mercedes and Honda. On pace, they appeared to be just behind McLaren in 4th place with a gap back to the other midfield teams.
It looked like a throwback to the late 90s/early 00s with a battle between Ferrari and McLaren this season. Though this time it was for 3rd place, not the Championship!
Ferrari continued to pedal the story that they were focussing on 2022 and this year had already been written off. Some development would be undertaken through the year, but that was more focussed on parts that could improve the 2022 car.
The early part of the season, Ferrari and McLaren were battling for 3rd place but it seemed that on average the McLaren had the slightly quicker car.
In Monaco the team were right on the pace from the start and in qualifying, Leclerc put the car on provisional pole before a crash on the second run ended qualifying for everyone. Those lapping behind Leclerc felt they were on better laps and could get pole, but the red flag ended that and Ferrari got their first pole.
From that high was the low the next day as Leclerc was unable to start the race due to the crash damage and he had to retire on the lap to the grid. A huge shame as starting from pole in Monaco gives an extremely high chance of the race win.
The next race in Baku was expected to be weaker for Ferrari as the very long straight would reveal their engine weaknesses. However, the car appeared to have supreme mechanical grip and meant they could set blindingly quick times through the twisty sections.
The mechanical grip was how they were so fast in Monaco, famous for being a twisty track where mechanical grip reigns supreme.
Again, Leclerc put the Ferrari on provisional pole and on the second runs it was Yuki Tsunoda who crashed bringing out a red flag. It resulted in the Ferrari securing two poles in a row and really boosting the team that they had clearly made progress from 2020.
France was not a good weekend for the team, the car struggled badly with tyre degradation. In the race, both drivers seemed to be going backwards and complained excessively about the tyre wear they were facing.
Ferrari needed to fix the issue and quick. Fixing issues in a timely manor has not always been a Ferrari strong suit.
At Silverstone, the first big flash point between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen occurred, with the latter crashing out of the race. That gifted Leclerc the lead of the race.
Following the red flag period and the restart the Ferrari looked to be the quickest car on the mediums. It appeared that Ferrari had also solved the excessive tyre wear from France. Hamilton couldn’t get closer than around 2 seconds to the back of him so couldn’t overtake.
At the pitstops, Hamilton served his 10 second penalty and had some catching up to do, but having pitted later he had far fresher tyres than Leclerc. With 3 laps to go, Hamilton caught and passed Leclerc who didn’t really have chance to defend.
It was disappointing to lose the win so close to the end, but it was partly luck that they were in that position. After the race, Leclerc didn’t appear too disappointed as he knew how fortunate he’d been. A strong podium for the team though with Leclerc finishing 2nd.
In Sochi, Leclerc was given an upgraded element to his hybrid engine and it definitely seemed like this took them a step forward in performance. Starting at the back of the grid with Verstappen, Leclerc was able to keep up with him throughout the majority of the race.
When the rain came, Leclerc was somewhat caught out and ended up out of the points. Sainz who had qualified 2nd got the call right and earned himself a podium.
If you ask Leclerc, he will call his lonely 4th place in Austin one of the best drives of his career. It was probably the big turning point in the Championship battle, the Ferrari clearly looked quicker than the McLaren.
All 4 drivers were battling together on track at the start. Leclerc managed to pull off into the distance and Sainz looked quicker than Riccardo but just couldn’t get past.
It put the momentum with Ferrari for the latter part of the season. Further strong showings in Mexico and Brazil put Ferrari on the verge of finishing 3rd.
Norris’s late season dip in form helped, but they were already the quicker of the two teams.
In the season finale in Abu Dhabi, all the attention was at the front of the grid, for obvious reasons, and the battle between Ferrari and McLaren went a little un-noticed.
McLaren were still in the hunt for that 3rd place and Norris had qualified well. However, in the race, it was the Ferrari that had the better pace. Norris had some bad luck at the start of the race when he felt he was pushed wide. It’s unlikely McLaren would have overturned the deficit, even if Norris hadn’t been pushed wide and finished higher.
Ferrari finished 3rd in the Championship and it was a big relief for the team!
Sainz managed to finish 5th in the Driver’s Championship ahead of his teammate in his debut year with Ferrari. Leclerc finished 7th.
Ferrari finished 2021 with potentially the strongest driver line-up on the grid. If Maranello can produce a competitive car, it definitely bodes well for the team.
Ferrari scored some good podiums throughout the season. However, finishing 3rd in the Constructor’s Championship with the 3rd best car at the end of the season is the high point. It showed that Ferrari have taken steps forwards and if they get things right for the 2022 car, they will be close to becoming challengers again.
Ferrari being challengers is something everyone in the sport wants to see again!
Sainz’s first podium for the team at Monaco was great to see, along with a great performance in Russia and the Brazil sprint race to earn further podiums.
Leclerc had to wait till Silverstone for his first podium of 2021. He did manage to take 2 pole positions for the team and had a string of solid 4th place finishes. Finishing well ahead of the rest of the field.
For the team it is France which was definitely the low point. The car struggled with tyres all weekend. Far more than any of the other teams.
The team didn’t initially know why they had struggled so much. It wasn’t until the next race at Silverstone they could start trying to fix the issues they had.
Another moment to add to Leclerc’s heartbreak album was Monaco.
Leclerc took a fantastic pole position on the Saturday. He crashed on his second Q3 run and there was doubt over if he would be able to start due to damage.
Listening to the driver radio on his way to the grid was gut-wrenching. You could hear the pain in his voice when he realised he wouldn’t be starting his home race!
It was almost as bad as him losing potentially his first win in F1 at Bahrain 2019.
Full respect to Leclerc though, many drivers would have left the track in disappointment after that. He remained to support Sainz in the race who took a strong second place. It showed the maturity Leclerc has developed in his role as defacto lead driver at Ferrari.
Many will ask why Silverstone isn’t here. It was fortunate circumstances that put him in that position not the actual pace of the Ferrari. His pace on the mediums surprised everyone, but after the pitstops Hamilton was far too quick. Hamilton would have passed sooner had he not had to serve his penalty.
Like every season for Ferrari, the target is to win both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championship!
Speaking realistically, it is unlikely that is going to happen in 2022. However, Ferrari have put a lot more time and resources into their 2022 car than many of the other teams. With the exception of Haas. This means if Ferrari don’t have a significant step up the order, 2022 will be a disaster.
Ferrari have some of the smartest people in the sport and some of the best facilities. It will be very difficult for them to explain away another failed year.
The team are confident that their car will be strong, but a lot will rest on the engine. Ferrari have redesigned the engine for 2022, in one last attempt to catch up to their rivals before engine specifications are frozen until 2026.
They were the first team to report that the increased bio fuel in the petrol for 2022 results in a slight decrease in power. Ferrari have apparently managed to claw most of this loss back so they have lost very little with the fuel change.
While the noise from the team bodes well. It is very dependent on what the other engine manufacturers have managed to also get out of their engines.
Expectations are always high from Maranello. The team genuinely battling for a couple of wins and regular podiums based on pace will be a reasonable result for 2022. It will also allow them to fight for Championships in the coming years, assuming their engine is not the piece lacking.
It might not make the Tifosi too happy to not be at the very top. However, compared to 2020, it has been a rapid improvement for the team.
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