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  • Reese Mautone

Ferrari's Weekend Ends In What Ifs After Another Run Of Missed Opportunities At The French GP

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

Ferrari’s pace looked set to earn the Italian team their fifth win of the season until history repeated itself with poor strategy calls and a costly DNF as the team’s Championship hopes continue to fade.

Just two weeks prior, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc displayed a masterclass performance at the Austrian Grand Prix, claiming victory over his Championship rival, Max Verstappen at Red Bull’s home race.

Despite the dramatic and fiery DNF on Lap 57 from Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, the pace of the Ferrari was the greatest takeaway from the weekend, overshadowing the almost certain 1-2 finish loss.

Ferrari’s momentum in terms of development, pace and wins heading to Circuit Paul Ricard - a track which favours Red Bull’s straight-line speed - sat a level above Red Bull.

As for Sainz, the power unit failure in Austria which saw his F1-75 engulfed in flames meant his final engine was too damaged to run in France. The Spaniard was handed a 10-place grid penalty as a result of changing his control electronics unit.

Following this, Ferrari inevitably incurred a further demotion to the back of the grid after taking a new internal combustion engine, turbocharger MGU-H and MGU-K, leaving him to line up in P19 alongside the fellow Ferrari-powered Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

Magnussen, like Sainz, also incurred a demotion to the back of the grid due to a change of power unit elements needed after issues in Austria threatened his ability to cross the line.

Friday’s practice sessions revealed the first signs of disappointment for Sainz who showed impressive pace across FP1 and FP2, recording times good enough to finish in P3 and P1 respectively. His teammate followed suit, ending Friday’s sessions in P1 and P2.

The final practice session on Saturday morning saw Verstappen edge above both Ferraris, with Sainz in P2, 0.354 seconds behind Verstappen and 0.283 seconds ahead of Leclerc in P3.

After controversial team orders and results for the Italian team over the past few rounds, Sainz and Leclerc’s teamwork in Qualifying highlighted the drivers’ unity despite their team’s blunders.

Sainz lit up the timing sheets in Q2, putting in a 1:31.081 lap, a time which would have been good enough to earn the Spaniard a front row start at the French GP, and that set him 0.909s ahead of Verstappen.

Sacrificing his own Q3 session, the plan curated to give Leclerc a tow down Circuit Paul Ricard’s long straights for both his flying laps was executed perfectly by Sainz, securing the Monegasque Pole Position for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Post-race with F1 media, Charles Leclerc had high praises for his teammate’s efforts.

“I have to say that I also had the help of Carlos and that was amazing teamwork,” he said.

“Without Carlos, it would have been much more close, so huge thanks to Carlos and I hope that he can join us back in the fight for the win tomorrow.”

Said “fight for the win,” was short-lived for Leclerc. The Ferrari driver’s self-proclaimed error on Lap 18 saw him end up in the tyre barriers of Turn 11 after a mid-corner spin, despite complaining of ongoing throttle issues. Leclerc’s harrowing scream of frustration down the radio echoed the feelings of the Tifosi as a further deficit in his Championship fight with Verstappen was extended to 63 points.

“We had the pace to win. I made a mistake and paid the price for it,” Leclerc said on his French GP.

Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto took a supportive stance for his usually faultless driver.

“There is no point on dwelling on Charles’ mistake. These things can happen, even to great drivers like him and together, we have already put it behind us,” He said.

Leading to a full safety car, Leclerc’s teammate took the opportunity to pit for Medium tyres. Sainz’s stop was slow, and with the addition of an unsafe release into the pathway of Alex Albon’s Williams, he was handed a 5-second penalty.

Despite this, Sainz’s pace was strong enough to get his F1-75 as high as P3, passing both George Russell and Sergio Perez along the way.

Sainz was called over his radio to pit mid-battle with Sergio Perez, a notion that angered the Spaniard who had passed the pit exit before the call whilst fighting the Mexican.

The Ferrari’s pace looked strong enough to pull a 5-second gap from P4, a position that was still in hot contention between Russell and Perez, however, he was called in yet again to serve his 5-second penalty on Lap 42, and came out with enough pace to recover to P5 at the chequered flag, earning him the well deserved “Driver Of The Day” title with 40% of the fans’ vote.

“I gave everything out there today and, even though we were a bit unlucky with the pit stop and the penalty, we managed to fight at the front,” Sainz said.

Ferrari strategists faced heavy criticism prior and in reaction to the French GP, however, Sainz came to the defence of his team in a pre-race interview with F1 Media.

“I think the team is doing a very good job on strategy this year; I still believe at Ferrari we get super-criticised for things that other teams might be going through also in the pit stop windows,” Sainz said.

“Every time there’s a tricky moment on strategy, we are discussing things. But we are not a disaster like people seem to say we are. We like to discuss things, we are open about them.”

Despite Charles Leclerc’s French Grand Prix DNF, Mattia Binotto still took many positives from the weekend.

“First of all, the F1-75 was very competitive, even on this difficult Paul Ricard track,” Binotto said.

“Carlos had a strong weekend, starting with qualifying when he did what was required of him for the team. In the race, he was patient in the early stages and then made up places lap after lap, including some brilliant overtaking moves.”

Ferrari are confident in their ability to return to the top step in Hungary with their “competitive” car package. After France, Binotto said the team is already looking “ahead to Hungary where [they] want to fight for the win once again."

Formula 1 heads back to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, the final race before the long summer break begins.



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