Ferrari fight back as Sainz lays down marker – What we learned from Ferrari in 2021
Ferrari shrugged off a disappointing 2020 campaign to reclaim some ground to the frontrunners last season.
Two years ago the Scuderia struggled through its worst campaign since 1980 but an improved power unit package in 2021 helped Charles Leclerc and new recruit Carlos Sainz to compete for third in the championship.
With Ferrari harbouring hope of a title challenge under F1’s new regulations this year, GPFans takes a look at what we learned from the team last term.
Sainz’s reminder of talent as ‘new generation’ steal focus
Anyone who follows F1 will have heard the hype around the new generation of F1 drivers entering the fore.
Yet by finishing fifth in the standings last year with multiple podium performances whilst adapting to a new car, Sainz has put his name forward in a ‘you forgot me’ kind of way.
The reality is that despite making a few mistakes in practice or qualifying through the season, the Spaniard was quick whilst also reliable.
Sainz raced 99.77 per cent of all laps across the year, two per cent [or 25 laps] more than the next most consistent finisher, going on to finish ahead of his team-mate in the final drivers’ standings.
Given the machinery is provided, Sainz may well be a world champion in waiting.
Leclerc performances deserved more
By finishing behind Sainz in the standings, you would be forgiven for thinking Leclerc had a poor season. In fact, it is quite the opposite, with the Monégasque actually outperforming his team-mate more often than not.
The pace that saw him drag a woeful car through 2020 continued into 2021, with qualifying and race performances keeping Ferrari close to McLaren in the early salvo of the season.
Two pole positions underlined his talent and Ferrari’s progress, although one at his home race was marred by a crash that ensured he would fail to take the start.
And let’s not forget, Leclerc was only a handful of kilometres away from taking his first win since 2019 at the British Grand Prix.
In the end it was a strong season for Leclerc, even if the final standings didn’t reflect how well he drove.
Poles prove pace improvement
The aforementioned pole positions are a visual indicator of the improvements Ferrari had made between seasons.
With the switch in focus to 2022 last year and the lack of in-season development, it was always likely the two teams at the top would pull away as the championship battle intensified, so to battle when there was a more even playing field would have delighted team principal Mattia Binotto.
The previous year had been a trying time for everyone at Maranello and with instances of internal implosions during times of crisis at Ferrari before, the way the team pulled together to dig themselves out of a hole must be commended.
Of course, a win would be more satisfying than a pole, but at least all of that hard work was validated by the timing screens, albeit at outliers in Monaco and Azerbaijan.
Strategy improvements pay dividends
Aside from the technical issues Ferrari had in 2020, the team had struggled with strategic mishaps for years.
Such issues were highlighted in Sebastian Vettel‘s final year with the Scuderia where tempers often frayed, but last year the team seemed to get on top of the problems.
There were no clangers where drivers dropped positions due to a poorly timed pit stop and on the whole, the execution in the pit lane was improved.
With the field only getting tighter over the coming years, this will need to be a recurring strength.
Hybrid system seals the deal
The most exciting development for Ferrari all season was the introduction of its 2022-spec hybrid system as part of a power unit upgrade in the second half of 2021.
The performance from the car thereon in was clear to see, with the gap to McLaren overturned in the race for third.
That allowed Ferrari to effectively test the system before homologation, meaning any rectifications would have been achievable.
Not only did it help cement third, it could prove to be crucial in the future.
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January 13, 2022 at 04:16PM