With Ferrari’s worst Formula 1 season in 40 years behind it, 2021 was always a year focused on rebuilding and planning for the future.
With the revision of the technical regulations for 2022 and the limited vehicle development for this year, the most successful and famous Formula 1 team was able to spend much of this season focusing on the right basics.
It resulted in a season in which Ferrari made impressive progress in pretty much every metric. In the constructors’ championship, the team moved up from sixth to third place, scored 192.5 points more and took two poles and five podium places.
The drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished fifth and seventh in the drivers’ championship and secured the team a double point classification in 17 of 22 races. Ferrari’s only pointless Grand Prix was held in France when tire management issues arose during the race.
But the stats to prove Ferrari is on the way to recovery go beyond the basic scores.
Regardless of the lack of pace that hampered Ferrari until 2020, running the race was one of the weakest areas. The team even went so far as to admit last December that their pit stops were “far from the best” and had been hampered by a seasonal problem with the wheel nuts used.
In 2020, only 48% of Ferrari’s pit stops were less than three seconds (the metric used by the team to define a good, constant pit stop), making it ninth of F1 teams’ top 10.
But by 2021 that number rose to 73%, putting Ferrari in third place on the grid. The team also improved their average pit stop time from 2.72 seconds to 2.55 seconds.
“We ran a pretty big program to try and turn things around, both with the car because there are some technical elements that we drive that have brought results, and with the guys with the training and methodology that we use.” explained Ferrari sports director Laurent Mekies.
“Today we are third on the criteria, and we are not accidentally third on the points. I think it’s a good example of how background work leads to better explanations, and that goes for pit stops, that goes for tires.” Management, that applies to the racing strategy, that applies to a lot. “
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, makes a pit stop
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
While Ferrari may not be fighting for wins or the championship this year, the team treated their battle with McLaren for third place overall as their own title fight. The two teams were balanced throughout the year, but a strong end to the season brought Ferrari P3 with 47.5 points.
“It is important that in a close championship fight like this, if there are points for points, your execution must be at the highest level,” said Mekies.
“There was no excuse this year. And that’s why we fought this fight for ourselves, even if the car wasn’t as fast as we’d like it to be for the world championship.”
The need to improve race execution was something that Sainz noticed upon arriving at Ferrari from McLaren, a team that was using its recent low as a time to improve its operations without the pressure to fight for the highest stakes.
“It was a big, big deal for me,” Sainz told Motorsport.com. “When I joined the team at the beginning of the season, I really felt that we had to make progress in the way we run the race, in strategy and in tire management. The first races were very difficult.
“I’ve felt really strong progress throughout the season. The car may have been running a little better, but no more than a tenth better than it was at the beginning of the season. You can see how consistent we are now in terms of racing, and that’s something else. ” History versus a beginning. “
The improvement in racing operations was also reflected in Ferrari’s improved reliability through 2021. The team rose from six DNFs in 2020 to just one in 2021 – plus Leclerc’s DNS in Monaco after his qualifying crash – and recorded more top 10s -Places than any other team.
But the car’s raw pace is where Ferrari had to take a step forward after its disastrous 2020 season. The team not only managed to keep up with the leading midfield teams again and took third place in the overall standings, but also narrowed the gap to Mercedes.
The average qualifying gap with Mercedes fell from 1.34 seconds in 2020 to 0.64 seconds in 2021, according to Ferrari’s data. This gap was just 0.4 seconds at the beginning of the year, but gradually grew over the course of the season.
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
“We are aware that we have not closed the gap to the best and 0.6 seconds is still a big number,” said Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.
“But the goal was to try to fill the gap. We were fully aware of the situation in 2020 and I think realistically it was impossible to fill the gap.”
Ferrari’s gains in race pace were less, but still showed signs of decent progress: the average gap to Mercedes decreased from 1.1 seconds to 0.8 seconds. Binotto called it “still a significant void” but pointed out that Ferrari hadn’t developed their car much over the season as the focus shifted to 2022.
“That shows that we haven’t really developed our car while others may have,” said Binotto. “I think in terms of pure design and development through winter time, 1.3 seconds to 0.4 seconds were achieved.
“As the season progresses, the gap widened because, as Ferrari’s choice, we fully focused on the year 2022, with the exception of the engine. That correlates with these numbers. “
All of this is encouraging read for Ferrari as it prepares for the upcoming regulations in 2022. The team has proven its strength in terms of winter winnings, honed its racing operations and has one of the strongest driver lineups there.
The challenge for Ferrari now is to put everything together this winter so that it can benefit from the new rules and take on Mercedes and Red Bull again.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2nd place, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st place, Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, 3rd place, Christian Horner, team principal, Red Bull Racing, celebrate on the podium
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images