One year has passed and the Hungaroring nightmare has returned, as if time has never passed: Charles Leclerc 11th with a gap of 1 ”358 from leader Valtteri Bottas, closely followed by Carlos Sainz. Two red cars out of the top 10, far from a Hungarian track in favor of Ferrari’s potential!
Reading the numbers, you can feel chills down your spine, despite the scorching heat of the Budapest circuit which offered a peak of 63 degrees on the asphalt. The leaders of the Maranello team did well to lower the expectations of a competitive SF21 at the Hungaroring after the positive signs gathered both in Monte Carlo and at Silverstone, because the hope, however hidden, was to see a team once again able to fight for victory.
And, instead, it seemed to see the disappointing SF1000 back on track again, as if the SF21 had never hit the track on this Friday of … passion. At Silverstone Ferrari fought for success with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes up to two laps from the end and in Hungary it collapsed to be no less than seventh force.
It is clear to even the most incompetent in F1 that this Ferrari is too bad to be true, although Friday’s response is even worse than last year: Charles Leclerc eighth at 1.322 and Sebastian Vettel 15th at 1’922. Taking as a reference only the Monegasque who remained in the Maranello team, the deterioration is undeniable.
But the conditions of the morning were quite another thing with Carlos Sainz fourth just over half a second behind Max Verstappen, who dominated the first round with Red Bull. In the short space of a few hours, Ferrari lost about seven tenths of a second, sinking out of the area useful for aspiring to Q3 in qualifying.
The only element that changed was the asphalt temperature. Already in the morning they had reached 56 degrees (which represented the seasonal record), but then it went much further, reaching the peak of 63 degrees in the afternoon. A sauna that has brought the Reds to their knees.
The two drivers with the soft compound were unable to finish a tight lap, because already in the middle of T2 they felt that the tires were slipping because they were overheated. The basin that hosts the Hungaroring seemed to have turned into a circle of hell!
The situation is complicated, but not compromised. The heat wave that hit Budapest as it arrived is destined to go away: tomorrow and Sunday there will be no heat wave like on Friday. Indeed it could even rain in the early morning, so the scenario should change drastically.
Ferrari went into crisis precisely in tire management, finding itself with a problem that seemed brilliantly solved. The Hungarian furnace has exacerbated the problems, but the reactions of the drivers, unusually discordant, suggest that there are important margins for improvement: if Carlos Sainz is rather pessimistic, the same cannot be said of Charles Leclerc …
“We will see the performances tomorrow in qualifying – explained Charles -, but the feeling has been pretty good so far. We know that there is work to be done to maximize our potential, but the road is the right one. The race simulation it looked pretty good. We need to improve on the flying lap. And when we do, we’ll be fine… “.
The Monegasque is not used to lulling himself over illusions, but the expectation is that Ferrari will be able to pick up the thread lost in FP2, to at least regain the pace seen in the morning.
The drop in temperatures will certainly help to go in the right direction. Furthermore, there is the intention to load the SF21 a little more in the hope of limiting tire slippage. The important thing will be to find the right balance in the third free practice session because the Scuderia cannot compromise the race with too conservative qualifying, on a track like the one in Budapest that does not favor overtaking.
In short, before throwing the cross on themselves, the men from Maranello will try to extract all the potential that exists in the SF21 and which has not been seen today. Making people forget last year doesn’t have to be utopian but very realistic …