Ferrari did in Hungary what arguably could be their biggest mistake all year. Not only did it cost Charles a potential win, but also lost the team a considerable chunk of points where Red Bull is at cruising speed towards the trophy.
If you have been living under a rock (or you have no interest in Formula 1), here’s a quick run-down for you.
The two Ferraris started the Hungarian Grand Prix P2 and 3 on medium tires, while George Russell on pole went for softs. Even though they fired up their tires quicker, neither of the Ferrari’s were able to make a move on the Briton.
First round of pit stops, and mediums were the way to go for all the cars. In fact, the F1-75 was even making moves over the pack: Charles gobbled up George with a spectacular move into turn 1, while Sainz had excellent defending pace but was on a different strategy.
Now, midway through the race, the Alpines came out on hards. They had next to no pace on those tires, given the low temperatures and track conditions.
Lap 44, time for the 2nd and final round of pit stops. This is where Ferrari completely bottle their race.
Leclerc, leading the race at that moment, came in for a set of hards while Sainz was still out on his set of mediums. Russell followed in, but emerged with his set of mediums. Leclerc exited P3 ahead of a charging Verstappen in P4, who had already pit for mediums.
Given the fact that Ferrari masterminds decided to put on the white-striped tires in dry-damp conditions, the F1-75 had absolutely no traction. The hard tires are the strongest of the compounds, so it takes even more of an effort to get up to speed in optimum conditions.
Add to that a sub-par out lap from Leclerc, Verstappen had no issues overtaking the former into turn 1. The Monegasque was visibly helpless in face of Red Bull power, as Max overtook him twice despite him even having a showy 360° spin mid-race!
Ferrari took their sweet old time to realise the catastrophe, and pit Charles AGAIN for softs, thereby ending his race by guaranteeing a 6th at best.
So, where and why did Ferrari go wrong?
Well, Ferrari’s perilous strategy was clear on lap 1. A start on mediums against competitors on softs: a clear advantage that Ferrari had given away albeit having the quickest car setup on the grid. Hungaroring isn’t particularly overtake-friendly, so nailing the start is of utmost importance. As expected, the series of failed attempts to catch George Russell on the initial stint was the effect of said tire choice.
Post the first stop, that’s the only part where Ferrari had their act in place. Decent pace from both their drivers meant they had the victory in their crosshairs.
Third and final stint, Ferrari pulled the trigger on themselves. The team’s justification was that their simulations stated hards would be the best choice during the final laps of the race, and would help them against the weak mediums of their rivals. Yes, raw computational analysis is great, but nothing beats visual evidences.
When you see a team struggling on hards, the track temperatures being sub-optimal and you have a championship on the line, this is NOT where you experiment with strategies! Put Charles on mediums, let him take care of them. Tire management is definitely a driver’s headache during the race; that doesn’t mean you deliberately put him on slow tires so that they can last longer.
Having realised the mistake, Ferrari decided to not let the hards warm up enough and switched them for softs. Their justification? They were under attack from Perez on mediums. But his mediums were almost at the end of their capacity! Holding ground would have given them a P4 or even a P5, at worst.
It is high time now.
It is evident that Ferrari are nowhere near as prepared to win this championship as their chief rival. A P2 and P3 on Saturday could only become a P4 and P6 on Sunday. The plethora of strategic mistakes and blatantly repeated excuses for their blunders are doing absolutely nothing to save their dwindling points tally.
On the other hand, both of their drivers are now on the brink of frustration, given that their races are getting compromised due to no fault of their own. And what’s worse, the team’s terrific strategy meltdown essentially gifted the win to their rival and stretched their ever-increasing points gap!
The F1 2022 calendar has given the Scarlet Scuderia about of month of breathing space to get back to the drawing board and figure out their winning ways. Having started the season on a high note, it is imperative they need considerable changes to their strategy team (reliably doesn’t look too good either) if they want to fight Red Bull and not Mercedes. Mattia Binotto claims otherwise, as they feel there’s “no reason to change” in Team Maranello.