The third abandonment of the Monegasque opens the gap against Verstappen even more, favored by the lack of reliability and the strategic errors of the ‘Scuderia’.
The SF75 performed at a high level at Paul Ricard, showing even better performance than Red Bull, but Ferrari only scored 11 points, to 37 for the Austrian team. This is not something exceptional, but rather a constant in this 2022 World Cup. “We had the pace to win. It makes no sense to perform at such a high level if I then make mistakes,” admitted Charles Leclerc after his retirement, the third of the season, which distances him 63 points from Max Verstappen. “Without that bad pit-stop and with a little more luck, we could have finished on the podium,” added Carlos Sainz, fifth at the finish line, although “a little frustrated” for not rounding off his comeback.
The Spanish, always elegant, did not want to make more blood with that error of the mechanics, who took 4.3 seconds to change wheels. Also, he tiptoed over what happened with Alexander Albon. A critical moment, which could have caused a misfortune in the pit lane. Carlos resumed the march with the red light and that haste was punished by the stewards with a penalty of five seconds. Fortunately, the reflexes of the Williams driver, with a timely brake, and the ability of Sainz, with a swerve, avoided a crash where a McLaren mechanic could have also been affected.
Things would get even more twisted on lap 42, when the Scuderia strategists, led by Iñaki Rueda, ordered Carlos to stop, who had just overtaken Sergio Pérez and was riding in third position. His average compound accumulated 24 laps and only 11 remained for the checkered flag. So it didn’t seem unreasonable to stick it out and deal with demotion all the way. In fact, that was exactly what Pierre Gasly did with the AlphaTauri, which resisted 35 laps in his second stint and even had the luxury of overtaking Albon.
“We’re pretty sure”
“The team has much more data than me and they will surely have made the right decision,” Sainz slipped in this regard. “We don’t think it was the right thing to do, but we are quite sure of it,” settled Mattia Binotto, the main red team, citing security reasons. The truth is that Sainz was the only one of the favorites who made two tire changes on a track that extraordinarily penalized each pit-stop. Precisely this year the limitation of 60 km/h as maximum speed in the pit-lane had been extended and the complete duration of the process was estimated at 28 seconds.
With fifth place being bittersweet, Sainz’s disappointment was incomparable to Leclerc’s. “If I lose the World Cup by 32 points it will be my fault,” stressed the Monegasque, with the accounts very clear in his head. To these 25 points lost in Paul Ricard he added the seven that had escaped him in Imola, when a slip against Pérez in the Variante Alta relegated him from third position to sixth.
Likewise, Leclerc will miss the 25 that flew in Barcelona, due to an engine breakage halfway through the race, when he was leading with some comfort. The following week, in Monte Carlo, things got even more twisted for the local idol. Then, a gibberish about the tires, on a track that evolved from wet to dry, ended up relegating him from first position to fourth. Another 13 points to limbo.
Even clearer were his chances of victory in Baku, when he led with 12 seconds over Verstappen. But on lap 20, the power unit said enough, handing victory to Verstappen. That break would condition his options in Canada, since there he started from the bottom of the grid to finish fifth at the finish line.
The culmination of misfortunes for Leclerc would come at Silverstone. There he commanded the operations until a breakdown of Esteban Ocon precipitated the evils. During the safety car, Ferrari renewed the tires of his 55th car, but not those of the leader, who was no longer able to oppose him in the final stretch. After losing the position to Sainz, Pérez and Lewis Hamilton, Charles finished fourth, with 10 points less. The accumulated deficit, even excluding what happened in Montreal, rises to 92 points.
Too many concessions against Verstappen, who with the win at Paul Ricard already has 27 victories, with which he equals Jackie Stewart’s record. “Our lead is fantastic, but probably a bit bigger than it should have been,” confessed the Red Bull leader. Even the disciplined troop of Christian Horner seems surprised by the facilities granted by his great rival.