BusyFormula #022: Will the prancing horse manage to steal 3rd place?

BusyFormula #021: Will the return of the prancing horse end in a 3rd place

After a tumultuous 2019 season which saw the Scuderia embroiled in a fiery teammate battle, and having to settle with the FIA over investigations into an illegal engine, the Ferrari team went on to have what is arguably their worst year in F1 during the 2020 season.

And while it looked like they’d turned a new page this year and made significant gains, there was still some tough luck that spilled over into the new season, evidenced by their performance at Paul Ricard.

But for the most part, Ferrari has been improving, being the team with the largest points increase in comparison to the 2020 season so far, and currently tied on points with McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

Why Ferrari just might take third in the constructors’ championship

I know this might sound like overly wishful thinking, especially since Ferrari ended 2020 all the way down in 6th place.

However, there are a number of factors that I believe put them very much in contention, and I also believe that this weekend’s race at Spa-Francorchamps will be where they go up a notch.

For starters, they have a really solid driver pairing, who have been relentlessly pushing each other to be their best. This is in stark contrast to the situation at McLaren, where Lando Norris is at the top of his game while Daniel Ricciardo’s performance keeps fluctuating.

Additionally, Ferrari has been ready to capitalize on any mishaps or underperformance from the title contenders (Mercedes and Redbull). When Hamilton, Bottas and Perez were slipping up at Imola, Leclerc and Sainz managed to finish 4th and 5th respectively, scoring only one point less than the McLarens that had qualified better.

In Monaco, when Mercedes struggled for pace on a track layout that was unfriendly to their car, Ferrari was alert. Hamilton would suffer even more with a poor strategy while Bottas had to retire due to a machined wheel nut that left a tire stuck on his car during a pitstop.

Sainz went on to finish 2nd, while Norris finished 3rd and Ricciardo finished 12th.

So even with Leclerc not being able to start the race due to damage obtained while securing pole the previous evening, Ferrari left the race with three more points than McLaren, which had two drivers against one in the race.

In Baku, Mercedes struggled again through the low-speed corners, but Redbull had their fair share of bad luck even though they won the race.

Verstappen retired due to a tire blowout and while Hamilton seemed to have beaten the odds, he botched his restart overtake on Perez with his brake magic and finished 15th after nearly securing 1st place.

Once again, Ferrari pounced, with Leclerc and Sainz finishing in 4th and 8th place respectively, while Norris and Ricciardo finished in 5th and 9th place respectively. Ferrari left the race having scored four more points than McLaren.

When Hamilton and Verstappen tangled at Silverstone, Leclerc and Sainz finished 2nd and 6th respectively, scoring six more points than the McLarens from that race, even though the McLarens had been better placed on the grid after the sprint qualifying race.

At the Hungaroring, Leclerc and Norris both had to retire, leaving Sainz and Ricciardo to represent their respective teams, with the former ending up in 3rd place and the latter getting 11th place.

Ferrari walked away with an astounding 15 points compared to McLaren’s zero points from this race. This leaves me feeling like Ferrari is getting better than McLaren at keeping it together during chaotic situations and getting more out of them.

The team that many had come to know for being good at fumbling with race strategy during the race seems to be tightening the operational side of things.

Engine upgrades

Ferrari has been running an engine with some 2020 spec parts and is set to bring some upgrades later on in the year. As things stand now, both drivers have already used up their engine-switching chances and therefore, they will incur grid penalties soon.

If these improvements turn out to be substantial, Ferrari will definitely be much stronger seeing as there’s still a fair mix of power-demanding sections and low speed corners (in which Ferrari has fared well so far) on this year’s calendar.

And to top it all off, Sainz is currently three points ahead of Leclerc, while Ricciardo is a whole 63 points behind Norris. This undoubtedly means that the Ferrari teammate competition will be stronger than McLaren’s.

Leclerc will definitely want to go into the new regulations higher in the standings, and so will Sainz, and this is still very possible for each of them.

On the other hand, Ricciardo has doubled-down on his pragmatic approach to this season, which is even evident in his recent interviews, and will therefore be looking to do just well enough to feel more comfortable in the car.

Of course we don’t know what McLaren has in store for us in regard to car development in this 2nd half of the season, so they could still blast away.

But if the car performance gap between McLaren and Ferrari doesn’t widen any more and we have a few more chaotic races, Ferrari just might steal 3rd place if they limit errors and continue to steer clear of trouble like they’ve been doing.

Aijuka Duncan Ngabirano is a motorsport junkie with a passion for storytelling through various media, and hodling crypto.

Duncan Ngabirano Aijuka