Ferrari- a team questioning itself and its drivers and a driver line-up that has lost confidence in themselves and their team! How did they get here and how do the get back to world championship winning ways.
Their current driver line up has been in place since 2021, when Carlos Sainz left his Mclaren for a seat with the Scuderia. Sainz initially signed a 2 year deal that was extended in 2022 till the end of the 2024 season. Charles LeClerc had already been with the team since 2019 and after winning 2 race and plus out scoring and performing his 4 time world champion winning team mate Sebastien Vettel in his first season at the team, took the team up on their offer of a 5 year contract that to ends in 2024.
Although its not typical to be discussing contracts a year in advance, its common knowledge that Ferrari know a good thing when they see it and had either or both drivers shown the required, worthy performances, those contracts would have been settled already.
In a recent interview Charles was relaxed about the lack of future talks, saying he "hasn't set (himself) a deadline" to start them. While after Monaco and recent rumors of Ferrari's courtship of Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz' comments on the subject encouraged the team to have his future settled by the start of the 2024 season. Stating "I like to start the season knowing where ill be racing next year", "before the beginning of next year or at the very beginning of it"
Unfortunately for Sainz and LeClerc, F1 has a long memory and right now those memories are full of Ferrari's flying off the track for no good rhyme or reason, throwing away great chances and much needed points. So how confident are the drivers in keeping what has long been known as the most coveted seats in Formula 1. But is there ultimately another reason neither of the duo are in a rush to resign for the prancing horse?
Nobody can ignore that its not just the drivers making costly mistakes, and you could say that in actuality their mistakes pale in comparisons when compared to the recent performance of the team themselves. Is the teams current display of woeful race management causing Charles and Carlos to question their futures driving in red.
The 2022 season showed the world the fundamental issues within Ferrari. Despite starting the year with arguably the strongest engine, a solid package in spite of the car porpoising and the highest hopes for the championship in years, it rapidly became clear its engines reliability was questionable at best. Retirements from the lead, double DNFs and a never ending list of component penalties, left both drivers out of the fight for the championship early in the season. But far worse and genuinely painful to the ego of formula 1's 'greatest' team, were the incomprehensible strategy choices, wrong tyre calls, mistimed, mismanaged pitstops and visible dysfunction within the team. Once even, only having 3 tyres waiting for a very competitive Calos Sainz at Zandvoort, that left the whole F1 community in utter shock at the state of affairs within the team. As a whole the 2022 season proved to be one that Ferarri and the drivers would like us to all to forget quickly but will haunt them forever.
After a summer break that saw the departure of long term employee and team principle Mattia Binotto and the appointment of former Sauber boss Fred Vasseur. the 2023 season has shown improvement in both the cars reliability and pitstop efficiency, it sadly still seems the team and drivers are still struggling in their respective rolls to put together a decent weekend, let alone championship challenging campaign.
Sainz and LeClerc are still making unforced errors with costly results and the team are still making compromising strategy calls that ultimately punish the drivers. But can the drivers mistakes be attributed to their lack of confidence in Ferarri.
During last weekends Monaco grand prix Sainz described Ferraris choice to cover off Hamilton behind them, rather than go longer and challenge Ocon in 3rd later in the race as "weak" over team radio and Charles Leclercs race could only be described as uncharacteristically timid and lacking his usual flat out, aggressive style. Are the drivers so unsettled by the team recent bad form its effecting their ability race properly. Ferraris issues are deep rooted and can be found in almost all facets of the race team, change is needed and historically Ferrari have never shied away from implementing drastic change but when all is said and done will it be a change of Ferrari's own choosing or have the drivers already lot faith in their future at team and are already looking for greener pastures.
The rest of the 2023 season is crucial for Ferarri, while its unlikely anyone will challenge the dominant Redbull's, the Scuderia need to be regularly beating both the Mercedes and Aston Martin's to claw back some of the credibility the have lost in the last 2 years and hope by 2024 Fred Vasseur has found and fixed the issues causing Ferrari this much pain.The pressure is on!
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