By Ethan Miller ‘23
May 23rd, 2021. The most anticipated race of the Formula 1 season is about to kick off, and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari leads the field out for their warm up lap before the start of the race. Leclerc won pole the previous day and at a track as tight and tough as Monaco, a victory in the prestigious F1 event is all but certain. One problem, though: Leclerc crashed after setting the pole time, and his team worked all night to repair the race car for Sunday’s race.
As Leclerc cruises down the backstretch, warming up his equipment for the imminent Grand Prix, something breaks. It turns out that the car wasn’t completely repaired, and the young driver, Monaco born, sadly pulls into the pits, his chance at a home race win gone.
These sorts of things were the norm for Ferrari for the past decade. The famed constructor, winner of 14 F1 drivers championships over its time in Formula 1 racing, couldn’t stay out of its own way for the past 5 years. Countless errors and blunders have plagued the team for years, and the results have been poor, considering the caliber of drivers that the team has employed. At Monaco in 2021, Ferrari was in the midst of a winless streak that stretched back to 2019- a streak that would extend throughout the entirety of the season. The stagnation within the organization looked bleak, and many wondered whether Ferrari would ever return to its dominant ways, instead of playing second (or third. Or fourth) fiddle to Red Bull, Mercedes, and even McLaren. With 2022 bringing in new regulations and an updated car, the expectation was that the Scuderia would find yet another way to screw up a golden opportunity and fall further behind. In shocking fashion, the opposite happened.
Preseason testing in Formula 1 must always be taken with a grain of salt. Teams like Mercedes are notorious for intentionally sandbagging in tests to hide advantages or, in a sick sense, get their competitors’ hopes up only to crush them come race one of the season. Ferrari topped one of the preseason tests, leading their legions of fans to be immensely excited for race one of the 2022 F1 season at Bahrain. Many were skeptical, but Ferrari showed up to Bahrain- and finished 1-2 in a dominant performance. While both Red Bulls had engine failures, and Mercedes stumbled out of the gate, Leclerc won the pole and led the majority of the race, with his teammate Carlos Sainz finishing second.
The next race at Jeddah resulted in defending champion Max Verstappen winning his first race of the year, but both Ferraris finished on the podium, as Leclerc and Sainz finished second and third respectively. Early on, Mercedes is struggling to find the speed they’ve had over the last decade, and Red Bull has been plagued by reliability issues. And after the third race of the year in Australia, where Leclerc led every lap en route to his second win of the year and fourth of the season, Ferrari is poised to make a title run for the first time in years. Leclerc already has 71 points, 34 more than second place George Russell. As a team, they lead Mercedes in the constructors by 39 points. It’s a long season. But with the phenomenal start they’ve had, Charles Leclerc and Ferrari are poised to make a lot of noise in 2022.