Why Ferrari thinks its ‘better prepared’ now than 2017/2018 F1 title fights

Mattia Binotto believes Ferrari is “much better prepared” for a Formula 1 title challenge compared to its most recent attempts in 2017 and 2018.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75.

Ferrari currently leads the drivers’ and constructors’ championships after the opening two races of 2022.

Charles Leclerc won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, while in Saudi Arabia, the pair finished on the podium behind reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen.

The Italian giant has benefitted from the new technical regulations for this year as well as having significantly more wind tunnel time compared to its rivals due to its lowly P6 in the 2020 constructors’ championship.

Ferrari was last in title contention in 2017 and 2018 with Sebastian Vettel but faltered towards the end of the season for a variety of reasons.

“I think keeping up the level of development through the season is always a challenge, not only for us but all the teams,” Binotto said after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“It is true that our competitors are very strong in that and proved to be very strong, while as Ferrari the last two opportunities we had [in] 2017 and 2018 we lost a bit of ground through development. 

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 battle for position.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull…

“Since then as for the car design, we have improved our tools, which are wind tunnel, methodologies, process and simulator.  I think today we are much better prepared compared to the past to do the proper job as well in development. 

“We need as well to add, compared to the time today we have a budget cap which will influence the rate of development, and I think that’s a key point and a key element. My concern is we need to make sure we have got the right policy on that as it can be a game-changer in the fight for development.”

What went wrong for Ferrari in 2017 and 2018?

Ferrari started the 2017 season in spectacular fashion with the innovative SF70H winning two of the opening three grands prix.

Four-time champion Vettel was in the form of his life and produced one of his best seasons to date but ge ultimately came short due to a combination of driver errors and poor reliability in the season half of the season.

Mercedes’ power unit advantage was still significant, particularly in qualifying which gave Lewis Hamilton the crucial edge.

Vettel lost the lead of the championship after of the Italian Grand Prix but with Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico and Brazil all expected to suit Ferrari, a fifth title was still a realistic possibility.

Vettel retired from the lead of the Singapore Grand Prix on the opening lap after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, while a spark plug issue put him out of contention in Malaysia qualifying (where he would have taken pole had he taken part) and Japan.

17.09.2017 - Race, Start of the race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H after the crash with Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB13 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
17.09.2017 - Race, Start of the race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia…

Hamilton ultimately claimed his fifth drivers’ title in Mexico, three races before the end of the season.

Ferrari came back stronger in 2018 with a more powerful power unit, making Vettel title favourite for the first half of the season.

However, a combination of operational and driver errors put the title in Hamilton’s grasp. 

Even without Vettel’s notable race-ending error at the Hockenheimring, Mercedes’ development in the second half of the year - combined with Hamilton’s incredible form - would have tipped the title in Hamilton's favour regardless.

Ferrari will know the importance of reliability and staying operationally strong, while Leclerc, in particular, will have to remain error-free if he is to overcome Verstappen in 2022.

F1 action resumes this weekend when it returns to Albert Park for the first time since 2019 for the Australian Grand Prix.

Ferrari tasted success in Melbourne back in 2017 and 2018 with Vettel winning ahead of Hamilton.

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