The moment Scuderia Ferrari is going through is not the simplest one. The Maranello team started the 2022 Formula 1 championship in a positive way, by having the fastest car in the first part of the season and was expected to fight against Max Verstappen for the F1 title until the end of the campaign. However, the title hopes had already vanished before the summer break, although not mathematically just yet.
This was the result of obvious reliability problems related to the Italian power unit and to often very questionable strategic choices. The return to the track after the summer break was equally difficult for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. This time no accidents, no problems of reliability or strategic choices, but a car that simply proved to no longer be competitive against Max Verstappen and his Red Bull.
What caused it and how a drop in performance of this kind was possible has become the main topic of discussion in recent weeks, even more than the excessive power of the RB18 itself and the possibilities of a one-two finish for Christian Horner’s team. The new Technical Directive penalized the F1-75 especially on a mechanical level, which was clearly Ferrari’s strength – traction and slow corners in particular: this has now become an issue and headaches for the Maranello engineers and drivers.
A more nervous and less balanced F1-75 makes Ferrari’s job a lot more difficult
Since the first race in Bahrain, the technicians have been able to ‘admire’ the result of the work done in the factory in the previous months. One of the peculiarities of the F1-75 car was in fact its ability to get out on the track already with an (almost) optimal setup for the race weekend that was being prepared.
Both F1-75 cars were immediately fast and comfortable, in terms of set-up, for the drivers. They also enjoyed a wide window of use that was not too influenced by changes in environmental (track temperature) or technical (ride height) parameters, as pointed out by F1 experts Giuliano Duchessa and Paolo D’Alessandro for formu1a.uno.
Adrian Newey himself during this season complimented his colleagues / rivals at Ferrari, noting that in Maranello they had produced a very fast car “in all conditions, with any tire, temperature and track characteristics”. Something that Red Bull did not have, as a result of the overweight chosen as a compromise due to the few hours available to design the RB18, given the limits imposed (aerodynamic BoP) by the Federation and to a 2021 world championship during which Red Bull had to focus on each race until the last one, while Ferrari instead already focused on the 2022 project.
Excluding any issues with the new floor (the version introduced by Ferrari at Paul Ricard), after collecting data during the first free practice session for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the attention of the Maranello technicians has again focused on trying to find the ideal balance of the car through a work based on having a better knowledge of the (new) F1-75, especially in terms of set-up.
As previously analyzed, the Technical Directive imposed major changes in terms of ride height and above all the adoption of a much stiffer suspension setup. This jeopardized the balance of the car, which has thus triggered a series of issues, such as a narrower tyre window for the F1-75, which has never been a real problem in this season until the Hungarian Grand Prix.
These changes deprived Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc’s cars of the most important ‘weapons’ to use to fight on track. Ferrari has lost its strength in traction and in the medium-slow sections – due to the stiffness of the suspension alongside a different ride height. This combination of factors has left the F1-75 car without part of efficient downforce, coming from the floor and the diffuser, but above all of that mechanical grip which helped the car perform strong in the track sections with speeds below 170-150 km / h. The technicians are working hard to find the key to the problem.
The new F1-75 now requires a greater effort of understanding and more work on the simulator, but above all on track, to find the right balance and be competitive. On a flying lap, the work is simplified by the new compounds which provide more grip, but in Maranello they are working to improve degradation and once again be fast also over long distances, as even Mercedes has now become a danger for the Maranello team.