Let’s put aside all the hopes and assumptions about the impact of the 2022 regulations on close racing for a second. Let’s focus on the lessons we’ve come to learn from history. One valuable lesson is that regulations tend to shake up the field and create new favorites for a championship.
And in many cases, whoever wasn’t too distracted by the possibility of winning the championship in the year before the new regulations can focus on coming out on top. Ferrari happens to be one of those teams.
Currently, the best they can do is fourth in the constructors’ championship. However, they seem to be looking at it as a fairly distant goal for which McLaren would have to massively drop the ball to bring it within reach.
The focus is on improving synergy within the team, something that helps a lot when troubleshooting and trying to solve in-season problems.
But what happens when 2022 comes around and they have a top two package that slightly edges the next team? What if we get a repeat of the start of the 2nd half of the 2019 season?
The days when their straight-line speed had them taking poles, and even wins in places like Spa and Monza. The same stretch that saw them arrive at Singapore expecting that advantage to vanish due to the track layout, but still emerged victors.
The Spanish elephant in the room
Ferrari has a new driver called Carlos Sainz. He also happens to be a driver that has raced for Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren. Some say that this constant switching of teams isn’t good for a driver pursuing a championship and that stability is key.
However, it seems to have left Sainz with a tremendous ability to quickly adapt to a new car and team. At least his 2021 performance thus far wouldn’t disagree.
Never-the-less, this doesn’t necessarily make him a championship favorite if the Ferrari package ascends to the top of the pecking order next year. Good drivers get race wins, but it takes a great driver to get a championship.
So here’s why I think Carlos Sainz could be a major contender if all the other relevant factors fall in line.
You know that Netflix series called Drive to Survive? Yes! The one that many F1 purist fans despise for over-dramatizing F1 in-season storylines and producing edits that insinuate driver beefs.
I happen to be one of those who actually enjoy their cinematography and sound effects, but more importantly, I believe they get to see things the rest of us don’t see while following the season on TV and the internet.
The show has an episode titled “Dog Fight”, which focuses on a minor rivalry between Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo during the 2020 season. I’m not going to dive deep into a comparison between both drivers’ 2020 performances, especially since they were in two different cars.
Instead, I’d like to bring forward a point that this episode highlighted, and that is Sainz’s fighter mentality.
Even if you think that the drivers wear personas for the cameras, one thing remains clear. Sainz hates losing. His radio messages and press conference appearances also make it clear that he’s never content with anything other than the best possible result in a given set of circumstances.
If a yellow or red flag messes up his final Q3 lap, you’ll hear him seething.
If some eventualities like time penalties and safety cars put him in contention for the win that was initially a lofty ambition, he’ll be very angry if he doesn’t win. He’ll make you feel like saying, “come on, you were lucky to be there, that result is really good if you consider your odds, cheer up.”
But we know by now that this mentality only gets you so far. It’s good for damage control, but it’s not the best for seeking big results.
Many F1 driver, both past and present agree that you have to believe that you’re one of the best and can take the top prize. If you don’t, you might as well find something else because F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and at any one point, you’re racing with some of the best drivers out there.
Sainz understands that in sport of thin margins, the slightest swing of odds in your favor is an opportunity you can’t afford to squander. This is a quality that will definitely come in handy for him once the championship is within reach.
So what about Leclerc?
In 2022, Charles Leclerc will be in his forth season for the Scuderia and needless to say, well settled into the team. He has also consistently showed that he can outdrive a lackluster car and trudge through adversity such as the loss of multiple people close to him, mechanical failures, and more.
Lerclerc also takes note of how his challengers approach him and quickly learns how to counter. Case in point? The Austria to Silverstone battle between him and Max Verstappen.
And when the stakes are at their highest, he’s a completely different beast. If you’re in doubt, just look up his battle with Hamilton in 2019 at Monza and how he irked the champion with an elbows-out defence that neglected the rulebook.
And yes! The Tifosi ate it up. So what happens when these teammates are both in contention for the championship? Will it be a repeat of the 2019 circus? I can bet Ferrari’s seemingly great shift in team management philosophy won’t be enough.
This is a longstanding prestigious team where fierce competition always festers. I predict these two will clash, but maybe not with the 2019-style crashes.
Aijuka Duncan Ngabirano is a motorsport junkie with a passion for storytelling through various media, and hodling crypto.