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Formula 1

Ferrari – F1 2022 ‘outsider’ or genuine title threat?

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

Ferrari hasn’t won a Formula 1 world championship since 2008. With it winless in the past two seasons, is it farfetched to think this will finally be the year that barren run comes to an end?

A strong showing in both pre-season tests has left Ferrari batting away claims about its potential supremacy left, right and centre.

The final testing leaderboard doesn’t make a great case for Ferrari fighting for a first title since its constructors’ championship success 14 years ago.

Charles Leclerc ended the Bahrain test third-fastest, seven tenths behind Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen and even behind the Haas of Mick Schumacher.

But there’s reason to be confident the gap to the front is not so large.


Almost 90 minutes passed between the setting of Leclerc’s and Verstappen’s times, when there would have been a significant difference in track grip. And there are suggestions Ferrari might have been running its power unit in a more conservative state, with some evidence of this when we compare the data behind the fastest laps.

F1 Red Bull Mercedes Ferrari comparison

Leclerc was considerably slower than both Verstappen and Mercedes driver George Russell on the start-finish straight until Turn 1.

And there is a slightly smaller speed deficit on the next straight to Turn 4.

This explains why Leclerc was almost four tenths slower through the first sector – and the time would probably have been greater than that given Leclerc was able to carry more speed through the first corner.

We’re hesitant to declare that Ferrari was down on power compared to the Red Bull because the same data shows it comparing much more favourably on other straights later on in the lap.

So this could be down to opposing energy deployment strategies. Perhaps Ferrari simply had less electrical power at the start of the lap, perhaps a lower power mode was responsible.

Ferrari F1 Bahrain

Moving to other parts of the lap we can see a trend of Ferrari impressing in the slow-speed corners but suffering slightly at high speed.

Leclerc is quicker than Verstappen through Turns 1, 10 and 13, and seems to match him through Turns 14 and 8.

But he is noticeably weaker through the quick Turn 6-7 Esses, and loses a bit through the quick Turn 11 at the end of the back straight.

It’s tricky to draw definitive conclusions from that limited data set as fuel loads and engine modes could easily eliminate or exaggerate any gaps.

Still, it is informative nonetheless.


Ferrari F1 Barcelona test

Ferrari completed a very productive test in Bahrain. It had the third-highest number of laps at 349.

It was the busiest team over the entire test, racking up 788 laps across the Barcelona and Sakhir circuits. That’s 10 more than Mercedes and 100 more than Red Bull.

F1 testing mileage rankings

No wonder Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto summed up the test in a positive manner, with an emphasis on mileage and reliability.

“I’m pretty happy because it has been consistent driving through the six days of testing, making a lot of mileage, and quite reliable,” he said.

“It’s always good and positive because we’re collecting a lot of data, learning about the car. Both drivers have adapted themselves.

“This was the learning phase and the first objective. In that respect, we can be happy with the preparation and the way the test has gone.”

Mattia Binotto Ferrari F1

It’s not just that the Ferrari was on track a lot, though. Ferrari’s rivals were quick to point out how impressive the F1-75 looked at the same time.

Mercedes reiterated throughout testing that both Red Bull and Ferrari seem to have an edge, while many others noted that Ferrari has been strong.

“We do seem a step behind our rivals and we do have a lot of work to do because in every condition the Red Bull and the Ferrari seem a step ahead of us,” said Mercedes driver George Russell.

“As it stands, Red Bull are looking incredibly strong, Ferrari are looking really solid, and we have some work to do.”

Unsurprisingly, this is something that Ferrari has been keen to downplay.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari F1

Leclerc says the Ferrari is reliable but he doesn’t know if it’s fast. Sure, they’ve done all the tests they want to do, but as for the pecking he says they have “no idea”.

Team principal Mattia Binotto also batted away a suggestion it might be the favourite and instead considers Ferrari “outsiders”.

“We are not the favourites,” said Binotto. “The favourites are the teams that were the best last year, because they are strong. On track, they are very fast.

“We’re outsiders. It’s true we’ve had a good testing and a good start to the season.

“But to become favourites, we need first to have good races, prove that we are capable of winning. They’re still the favourites.”


Charles Leclerc Sebastian Vettel Ferrari F1 2019

We have seen this before from Ferrari. As a contrast to Mercedes having low-key tests and then going on to dominate, Ferrari’s produced a few too many false dawns.

The few times Ferrari has started with a truly competitive car in recent years it has either faded, as it did in 2017 and 2018, or it has been too hit and miss, as in 2019.

Carlos Sainz referenced those very seasons in an answer dismissing how Ferrari has caught the eye.

“Everyone is impressed, like everyone was impressed in 2017, 2018, 2019,” he said.

“Testing means nothing, so I don’t know why people fall into the same trap year after year of trying to analyse testing too much.”

Ferrari F1 Test Bahrain

And when the likes of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton talk themselves down and talk Ferrari up, Sainz has a quick response: “Same thing: typical Mercedes, typical Lewis.”

It seems likely that Ferrari is in one of three positions.

It is either genuinely fast and a potential threat to Red Bull and Mercedes. Or it is being flattered in some way.

This could be that Ferrari’s just very well-sorted, as its high mileage attests, and has looked good throughout while Mercedes has struggled and Red Bull had to wait until the final day for a big upgrade.

Certainly Mercedes feels it is the one out of position at the moment, as Russell indicated: “I don’t think they’re exceptional, I think we’re probably not as competitive as we’d like.

“The Ferrari and the Red Bull are in the sort of natural position and I think we’re just a little bit further behind.”

Or perhaps Ferrari is in a bit of a middle ground between the fastest car (Red Bull) and the upper midfield – like 2021, but a bit a bit quicker. If it ran lighter on fuel here then its performance would be a little bit less impressive.

But if Ferrari’s as strong in the opening races as its testing form and rivals lead us to believe, then comes the next test: it’s going to need to prove that it can sustain that form for an entire season.

That’s the big unknown, as Ferrari has a checkered recent past when it comes to delivering on its initial promise.

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