F1 2022, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, Ferrari, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Mattia Binotto, strategy, championship
The wrong Ferrari driver won the wrong British Grand Prix.
The record books will show that Carlos Sainz took his first F1 win on his maiden pole at Silverstone, and the Spaniard undoubtedly deserved both. He wasn’t the fastest driver on either Saturday or Sunday, but he executed the most efficiently to secure qualifying and the race swung in his favor.
There’s no point in being the fastest rider if you’re not the best on the day either.
Watch all the practice, qualifying and races of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship™ live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >
But Ferrari team members can be forgiven if their celebrations were a little mixed.
Although Ferrari started its two drivers in the top three and in a one-two formation at 75% of the race distance and despite Max Verstappen suffering crippling race damage early and Sergio Perez crashing to last after five rounds, the picture of the championship changed little despite the stimulating victory for Sainz’s garage.
Max Verstappen started the race 49 points ahead of Charles Leclerc and finished it with a barely diminished advantage of 43 points. Red Bull Racing’s buffer has dropped from 76 points to 63.
The goal was wide open for Ferrari to revive their title charge but the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
How could things have gone so wrong?
THE RAP SHEET
Carlos Sainz was rightly in track position ahead of Charles Leclerc in the opening phase of the race thanks to their qualifying results, but it was clear almost immediately that Leclerc was the fastest driver.
Leclerc didn’t hesitate to talk about it either.
“If Carlos is struggling, let’s go [swap]he told his engineer. “We’re wasting time”
When he refused permission to pass, while watching Lewis Hamilton loom taller in his mirrors, he again emphasized his position.
“What should I do? I’m screwing up my race,” he said. “Do something please. I’m not trying to improve my result, I can just go faster, guys.
But Ferrari opted to keep its drivers in formation through the pit stop window on laps 20 and 25, and Sainz held on to the lead in stride, still significantly slower than his team-mate.
“We are losing time compared to Hamilton,” said Leclerc. “[This time] is not enough in my opinion.
The team waited until lap 31 to reverse the order, and in the eight laps before the safety car Leclerc sprinted at the rate of half a second per lap.
The team had sentenced him to 15 total laps behind Sainz since the first time he broke the one-second barrier. Part of that was on the medium tyre, on which his advantage is impossible to know for sure, but extrapolating his pace from the hard compound he lost around seven seconds without being allowed to overtake.
Remember this number.
THE DEADLY BLOW
Those seven seconds proved crucial on lap 39, when Esteban Ocon’s car came to a stop at Copse and triggered a safety car.
At the end of the previous lap, Leclerc led Sainz by 4.2 seconds, while Hamilton was 6.1 seconds behind the leader.
The time needed for a pit stop under the safety car at Silverstone is around nine seconds.
Leclerc was dangerous to Sainz by around five seconds and to Hamilton by around three seconds – in both cases less than the possible seven seconds he had already lost due to poor strategy.
Ferrari had made its bed. Now he had to stay there.
The pit wall wondered how he could beat Hamilton to victory. Had he pitted Leclerc, Hamilton could have stayed away, and the team didn’t – mistakenly, it turned out – believe the soft tire would be fast enough to catch the Briton in such excellent form.
So he left Leclerc out and hauled Sainz, hedging his bets that if Charles’ old tires couldn’t stand up to Hamilton, he at least had Carlos with a shout.
We know that turned out to be the case. Sainz came out on softs to win, while Leclerc lost a podium to Hamilton and Sergio Perez – who is also ahead of him in the championship, don’t forget –
“THE ONLY THREAT IS HAMILTON FOR US”
Ferrari was chasing the wrong driver. Rather than asking how to beat Hamilton, he should have been asking how to maximize the damage done to Verstappen’s championship lead.
The answer to this question was clear: pit the two cars against each other.
Mattia Binotto insisted her drivers weren’t far enough apart for a double stack – even though, under the speed of the safety car, there were nine seconds between them, which should have been enough – but that didn’t really matter. Fourth-placed Perez was so far behind that only a pit lane disaster would have lost the team a double podium finish.
Of course, Hamilton could have – and probably would have – responded by staying out and inheriting the lead, his tires still reasonably fresh from a pit stop just six laps earlier, but that wouldn’t have didn’t matter.
Losing to Hamilton would have had no material impact on the championship. The Briton is out of contention this season.
But instead of Leclerc finishing second, scoring 18 points and reducing his deficit to Verstappen to 37 points, he slipped to fourth and off the podium, allowing the Dutchman to limit the damage caused by his seventh place finish.
ANOTHER FERRARI STRATEGY DISASTER
So why did Ferrari find themselves in a position to miss an open goal so dramatically?
The root cause is far from Silverstone.
The first is a growing conservatism on the Ferrari pit wall, which despite the team’s reputation for bizarre strategic calls, is a relatively new addition to its thinking.
It started at the Monaco Grand Prix, which he disastrously mismanaged to turn a front-row lockout into a one-two finish.
The opportunity to make a double pit stop there ultimately ruined Leclerc’s race, and the hangover from that moment no doubt hung over the pit wall at Silverstone in the precious six seconds the team had to decide whether or not she could afford to try to stop both cars. Again.
Indeed, Ferrari’s strategic work in the UK reeked of conservatism. His dithering over team orders and safety car coverage are the actions of a team enjoying a comfortable title lead and with little to lose, not a team running out of time to recover lost ground. against Red Bull Racing, one of the most advanced teams. in the competition.
MORE MOTOR SPORTS
PIT TALK: Monster crash scars revealed at Silverstone
‘POLITELY LEGGING IT’: Tom Cruise joins list of celebrity snubs
‘TOTALLY STUPID’: Hamilton backs F1 protesters but slams track invasion at Silverstone
Worse still, throughout the race the drivers seemed more interested in the bigger picture of the race than the pit wall. Leclerc showed several times that he was aware of the time he was losing behind Sainz when Hamilton was in front of both of them and then behind them after the stops.
Sainz also reversed the team’s decision on the safety car restart when he was asked to pull out of Leclerc to try and contain the field. The Spaniard pointed out that the soft tire was much stronger than the team apparently thought and that the only way to win the race was for him to seize the opportunity.
He may have seemed as selfish as he overtook Leclerc, but in the end he made the right call and not the team, a situation which also brings to mind Monaco when he accurately predicted the fastest tire strategy.
But the other problem is that Ferrari has resisted marking Leclerc as its main championship challenger, its number one driver, despite the points situation before Silverstone claimed such an appeal.
Leclerc was barely in touch with Verstappen’s title lead, and with Sainz still 24 points behind his team-mate before Great Britain, his chances of winning the thing were slim. It may seem cruel again before mid-season, but the only way to avoid unnecessary delays around team orders is to clarify which driver has priority.
Ironically, that gap is down to just 11 points now, making it harder for Ferrari to make that decision from now on.
In the grand scheme of his career, Carlos Sainz deserved the chance to win and the win he eventually got as a result, and he’s sure to rack up more poles and wins. But at the British Grand Prix, he got the wrong Ferrari driver by winning the wrong race.