The Scuderia have had their eyes on 2022 for a long time, and Mercedes and Red Bull expect a big improvement
Ferrari have endured a couple of painful years in the midfield but took significant strides forward in 2021, rising from sixth in the constructors’ standings to third. In Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc they have a pair of fast, young drivers who delivered impressive performances this season on the few occasions their machinery allowed them to compete with the leaders.
Under the stewardship of Mattia Binotti, the Italian squad has been focusing its car development on the 2022 for a considerable time. Next season sees the F1 regulations change significantly, meaning teams are creating brand new car designs that will look significantly different from this year’s entries. The breadth of the changes means that a shake-up in the grid order is possible, and the dominance of Mercedes and Red Bull could be challenged from elsewhere.
Red Bull in particular focused on developing their 2021 until the very end in an effort to secure the drivers’ title for Max Verstappen, and succeeded, and Horner discussed his team’s focus in comparison with Ferrari’s with select media at a Christmas press event.
“When Ferrari turn up with the fastest car and smash us out of the park at the first race then you’ll have to say that it probably did [compromise us],” he said. “But I think that we’ve all known that big regulation changes are coming for 2022 and we’ve applied our resource accordingly.
“[The cars] look different, they’re going to feel different, they’re going to drive differently. Who’s got it right, who’s got it wrong? It all starts again.”
The changes are designed to decrease the amount of downforce cars able to generate, making them more skittish and difficult to control, while allowing drivers to follow one another more closely and race more competitively.
Wolff said he expects a much bigger threat from teams currently lagging behind in the midfield but who possess sizeable budgets for development. Teams are allowed a weighted number of aerodynamic runs in the wind tunnel over the winter break, with the teams who finished lower down the order in 2021 being allocated significantly more time than the front-runners, in an effort to close the gap.
“It’s pretty much possible that teams who hadn’t competed for the world championship this year, whether it’s Ferrari, McLaren or Aston Martin or Alpine, are capable of coming up with the intelligent concepts based on much more runs than everybody else and just doing it very right,” Wolff was quoted as saying by Autosport.
“I think we need to expect much closer fighting for championships and races than we had before, and that’s exciting.”