British motorsport commentator / columnist and former Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer shared his thoughts on how Mercedes seem able to take advantage of Scuderia Ferrari’s struggles with tyre strategy in certain “dynamic” race situations, as was the case in the last round of the 2022 Formula 1 season ahead of the summer break, the Hungarian Grand.
The Hungaroring event was suppose to be a track favourable for the F1-75 cars, but eventually Mercedes capitalized both on a strong pace and a solid race strategy to secure second and third place in Hungary with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, just behind race winner Max Verstappen. On the other had, Scuderia Ferrari had to settle only for a fourth place finish for Carlos Sainz and a P6 for Charles Leclerc, as both F1-75 cars slipped from second and third on the grid, despite running firsth and third at a certain point of the race.
This was the unfortunate result of pit-stops and strategy mistakes from the Maranello team, especially with Charles Leclerc, who seemed in a good position to challenge Max Verstappen for the race win, but struggled after being fitted with Hard tyres at his second stop. Despite the fact that Haas and Alpine previously used the Hard tyre and it was clear they had difficulties in warming up this tyre compound due to the cool conditions, Ferrari still decided to mount the Hards on Charles Leclerc’s F1-75 car, which proved a bad choice and led to a third pit stop to switch to the Soft tyres, dropping him down to sixth, without any more time to recover the lost ground.
The result of the Hungarian Grand Prix has almost completely compromised Ferrari’s chances of fighting with Red Bull for the world title, while at the same time Mercedes is now very close to the Italian side in the Constructors’ Championship (just 30 points behind), as Jolyon Palmer feels that Ferrari’s strategy decisions are the main factor for this situation.
“[A key] benefit Mercedes have is Ferrari’s tendency not to maximise their potential thanks to less-than-ideal strategy calls,” Jolyon Palmer explained in his column for the official Formula 1 website – “Again, Ferrari can blame their strategy for not picking up better results than a mere fourth and sixth in Budapest. Almost inexplicably, Leclerc finished behind both Red Bulls that started 10th and 11th.”
Jolyon Palmer believes that Charles Leclerc will be continuing to seek answers from Scuderia Ferrari regarding their strategy calls, which may have cost him a victory for the third time this season, after the events in the Monaco Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix.
“Clearly, the Hard tyres were to be avoided for anyone not on a one-stop – and even then it wasn’t the optimal choice. You could see the logic in what Ferrari did by pitting Leclerc this time – they wanted to protect the lead of the race from Verstappen’s undercut and had to use either the Soft or Hard to satisfy the regulations. Pitting at that point meant fitting the Hards, which ultimately was a catastrophic error. Had Leclerc ceded track position and opted for the Sainz or Hamilton strategy of running Softs late on, he probably would have won the race, or certainly fought for victory at the very least. It was another race win which evaded the Monegasque driver, and I’m sure he was seeking an explanation heading into the summer break.” – he added.
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Jolyon Palmer points out that the Italian side particularly struggles in changing race scenarios, a flaw which has led to the team losing points to their rivals and basically being out of the fight for the title even before the summer break:
“When the strategy is straightforward Ferrari can handle it, but in a dynamic race situation as the Hungarian Grand Prix was, they seem to hit trouble and lose points to Red Bull and Mercedes. It all means that we head into the summer shutdown with [Max] Verstappen and Red Bull sailing away into the distance and Ferrari looking over their shoulders at Mercedes fast approaching, a feat you’d have struggled to believe after the way this season started.” – the British motorsport commentator concluded.