Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022

“They were on another level”: Ferrari worried by Red Bull’s “strange” leap forward

2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Ferrari say championship rivals Red Bull were “on another level” of performance at Spa, and are concerned it could be the shape of things to come.

Max Verstappen won with ease despite being relegated to 14th on the grid by a series of power unit component penalties. He finished 26 seconds ahead of the closest Ferrari, driven by Carlos Sainz Jnr, who started from pole position but also fell behind the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez during the race.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who also took grid penalties and finished sixth, said it had been “a very difficult weekend” for the team. He believes Red Bull have made a significant step forwards.

“If you look at Red Bull, they were on another level,” he told media including RaceFans at Spa-Francorchamps. “They found something this weekend. That is a bit worrying for us because for now we don’t exactly understand.

“They are still extremely quick in the straights, it looks like they have no downforce, and then they get into the corner and they are as quick as us or quicker. So it’s a bit worrying.”

Leclerc has fallen 98 points behind Verstappen in the points standings and admits his championship hopes are as good as over. “It is definitely looking extremely difficult now, especially after the pace they’ve shown today,” he said.

He is hoping this weekend’s race at Zandvoort, which demands higher downforce levels than Spa, will be more positive for Ferrari.

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“I can’t wait to get there and to get back into the car and hopefully see some progress,” he said. “But before thinking about progress, we need to understand where it’s coming from.

“For now, it’s a it’s a big question mark because if you look at the midfield also the gap is more or less the same as it’s been for the first part of the season. Just Red Bull is so much quicker than everybody. So it’s strange.

Although many predicted the Spa circuit to suit Red Bull, their performance advantage exceeded expectations. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is doubtful that the margin their rivals enjoyed was largely track-specific.

“I don’t think that there is any hope in that,” he said. “I think that has been a true difference between us and the Red Bulls this weekend.

“If I look back, I think they have been slightly faster as well in Hungary, which is a different type of track, high downforce. So overall, I think that simply today the Red Bull is a faster car compared to what we’ve got in terms of overall efficiency because Spa is where you need efficiency both from the aerodynamics and the power unit.”

Red Bull also enjoy superior tyre performance, said Binotto. “We have as well today a lot of tyre degradation that we need to look into and they have been stronger as well in terms of tyre degradation. So I don’t think it has been an outlier.”

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Binotto hopes last weekend’s race at least proves to be the peak of Red Bull’s superiority. “They are faster [compared] to us,” he said. “What I’m hoping, certainly, the gap we have seen today, is not the gap we will have in the next races.

“First, I think that Spa is always amplifying the gaps because it’s a long track and whenever you’ve got a slight advantage on efficiency, normally, it’s amplified and very obviously in such a circuit. So yes, we hope to be back in the next races to be closer while I still believe that they’ve got today a slightly faster car.

“But tyre degradation has been, I think, the most as well element affecting the performance of today, which we need to understand and try to address as soon as possible because it will be important as well for the next races.”

Binotto said the new technical directive introduced this weekend to reduce porpoising is not the cause of the swing in performance between the top two teams.

“That’s certainly not the case because I don’t know what the way it has affected the other teams but in terms of Ferrari it has affected in a completely negligible way,” he said. “So it’s not there, the answer.”

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2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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35 comments on ““They were on another level”: Ferrari worried by Red Bull’s “strange” leap forward”

  1. Isn’t that Ferrari went backwards? And Red Bull still didn’t use their new lighter chasis …. that will be then case closed..

    Zandvoort looks a lot like Hungary with a slightly longer straight (and the DRS zone will be moved to the last exit so you can use DRS in the Arie Luyendijk corner (banked)

    1. @macleod Hungaroring’s S/F straight is actually longer than Zandvoort’s & not necessarily will that straight’s DRS get extended to begin before the Arie Luyendijk corner. F1 site still shows the starting point at the corner exit.
      I reckon the main difference between Zandvoort & Hungaroring is that the former has fewer slow-speed corners.

      1. @jerejj – FIA said this:

        There was uncertainty for a long time about whether or not to extend the DRS zone up to the banked Arie Luyendyk curve at Circuit Zandvoort, but with one week to go until the Dutch Grand Prix, the decision has been made. The FIA has given the green light and so the Formula 1 drivers are allowed to open their DRS before the final corner.

        Zandvoort gets longer DRS zone

        Nikolas Tombazis, head of single seaters at the FIA, has given a clarification on the issue in conversation with Viaplay. “The current idea is to have the DRS zone start before the last corner,” said Tombazis. “But we are keeping all options open and listening to the feedback from the teams. If there is any danger, we will change it after the first practice.”

        1. @macleod His quoted words seem to be from last year.

          1. @jerejj – It was posted at 27 August – 15:27 this year …. Just before the race of Spa

        2. @macleod I can imagine this decision, with most of the downforce coming from the floor and all. This makes me wonder: in the heydays of the previous groundeffect period (1982), the cars ran without front wing. Could this be the future for current cars at low downforce tracks like Monza, or is the ground effect not enough?

      2. @jerejj – Lastest news

        Apart from the logistic example, Circuit Zandvoort in 2022 is also an interesting test. This year, DRS can be opened 300 metres earlier, which means that the corner also counts as a straight. The Arie Luyendijk-corner was specially designed for this purpose and on Friday a test will be held at Zandvoort to see if it is feasible for F1 cars to drive through it with an open DRS. In case it is not possible, the race committee could revert to the activation point of 2021, at the exit of the last corner.

    2. Isn’t that Ferrari went backwards?

      Straight after a TD that might affect a team that was doing the thing that the revised testing was designed to detect and stop.

  2. Fia should stop interfering in the middle of a season with senseless directives that distort competition.
    It happened in 2013, is happening again this year.

    1. RomainGrosjeanIsGoD
      29th August 2022, 9:18

      Yeah I mean, Vers would have won the WDC anyway, but now we are faced with the prospect of him scampering away from pole with little to no opposition. Especially since his teammate is a clueless driver who really doesnt deserve to be anywhere near a top team. Atleast Bottas was capable of keeping Hamilton honest.

    2. And in 2021 (triggered by Mercedes) handing a huge step forward to Mercedes, leading to all the (much desired by Liberty) idiocy we subsequently saw. By the looks of it, Mercedes shot themselves in the foot this year trying to do a 2021.

    3. And in 2021

  3. It is very strange indeed. Before the summer break i’d say that Red Bull and Ferrari were quite on par pacewise. Some tracks Ferrari was faster, some tracks Red Bull. But this race, Verstappen was in a league of his own, a bit like Hamilton in Brazil 2021.

    Although I cheer for Verstappen, domination is never a good thing. I follow F1 for almost 30 years and half of those years it was either Hamilton or Schumacher who became champion. I don’t want to see domination happening with Verstappen again. Go on Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, pick up the pace!

    1. RomainGrosjeanIsGoD
      29th August 2022, 9:21

      I dont think that RB are honoring the cap limits. They bring huge upgrades each weekend and they know that the FIA wont snatch titles away on a technicality. There’s honestly not much point of racing regulations if teams flout rules so blatantly and innumerable TDs are brought out with the express purpose of helping a specific team-driver combo. RB and Merc are a plague on the sport.

      1. But this weekend they had no real upgrades just a circuit specific wing and frontwing……. That you can see in the FIA notes.

      2. @RomainGrosjeanIsGoD They certainly do honor because otherwise, they would’ve already got caught & the same with all other teams.

    2. @matthijs
      I agree with you completely. We were so lucky to have the two leading cars within a tenth of each other for the first half of this year. It has been Ferrari who have robbed us of an epic battle. Max will be champion but I hope to see more close racing until the end of the season. Let’s hope the rules tweak hasn’t ruined that too.

    3. Exactly. Yesterday, I turned off well before the end of the race (first time this year).

      1. Shame, you missed some pretty decent action behind the race leader.

    4. Most of F1 fans are happy now. They cried for end of Ham-Merc domination. Now they get Ver-Red Bull domination.

      1. Domination is never good tbh.

  4. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    29th August 2022, 9:43

    Well an easy explanation could be that Ferrari was using a now illegal flexi floor till summer break and Red Bull did not thus due to mid season rule change Ferrari lost performance while Red Bull did not in fact it seems Red Bull upgrades gave them even more performance.

    1. Most analyses I’ve seen so far say the pack has remained the same relative to Ferrari, but Red Bull are now well in front. That would only make sense if everyone except Red Bull had been using an illegal floor and getting rid of it cost them an identical amount of performance. It’s far more likely that Red Bull have come up with some clever alternative.

  5. Red Bull just did a better engineering like Mercedes did in the last years. Period! We could clearly see by the almost no porpoising at the beginning of the year. We see that trend every time we have a big change in the rules. I just going to repeat what everyone can see. The weekend result is just translation of each team’s design philosophy. Reb Bull wanted to be fast on straights and fast curves, while Ferrari is high downforce, so, really stick to the ground on the slow corners. On Spa, you are 80% full throttle, so……no surprises here. The Hungarian GP result, that was a surprise! 2022 Spa was like the 2021 Brazilian GP from Lewis.
    Top speed on straights also explain the good performance of the Alpines and Williams (not Latiffi hahahaha), always very fast on straight. Mercedes is the one catching up, and there will be no surprise if they end the year in 2nd on the constructors championship. Mercedes are really poop in one lap speed. It seems that the car takes forever to get the tires up to temperature, but once is reached that, it is on pair with the Ferraris, and given the right conditions (warmer days), they are even better than the Ferraris.

    1. Thinking about it, it might be an interesting battle between merc and ferrari for 2nd, this race ferrari were lucky hamilton crashed, because mercedes looked better in race trim (obviously worse in quali).

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    29th August 2022, 12:18

    The way the Red Bull overtakes is something else. It happened last year but this year it’s crazy. It’s a different category car – Formula 0 or something. It gets by so early.

    You have to tip your hat off to Newey.

    I’ve no clue how they lost the WCC last year, and most will argue the WDC.

    1. I’ve no clue how they lost the WCC last year, and most will argue the WDC

      Oh, that’s easy:

      Mercedes won the WCC because, across the entire season, the Merc was a faster car than the RB.
      Red Bull won the WDC because, across the entire season, Max was a faster driver than Hamilton.

      1. I think that’s a spot on answer, many verstappen detractors only remember abu dhabi, where admittedly hamilton deserved the win, but will forget the mistakes hamilton made early on the year, such as imola, baku or the terrible monaco weekend, while verstappen was on it every race and only really got some of the bad luck he had repaid in abu dhabi.

        Indeed, the cars were pretty even, but mercedes took off the last few races, when they kept replacing engines and ended up marginally the better car, and furthermore bottas did a better number 2 job than perez, in terms of competitiveness.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th August 2022, 13:38

        If any of you watched last season and I suspect you may not have, you will notice that Hamilton had an incredibly hard time overtaking Alpines, McLarens, Ferraris, and Red Bulls.

        The Red Bull cleared an overtake before corners and Max even believed that he had cleared Lewis at Silverstone. So much for Lewis having the fastest car. Max knew very well which car was the fastest one and he was driving it.

        As for the fastest driver, we saw what happened at Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull was quicker but it was no match for Lewis in clinic mode.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          29th August 2022, 13:48

          If he could overtake them like the Red Bulls, the championship would have ended midseason which is what is exactly what’s happening this year. It’s amazing that Mercedes got the WDC and WCC last year and a lot of it came down to Checo underperforming.

        2. you will notice that Hamilton had an incredibly hard time overtaking Alpines, McLarens, Ferraris, and Red Bulls.

          Yeah, obviously needs to learn a lot

    2. Also, “most will argue the wdc”, no way, only verstappen detractors, I have a feeling they’re under 50% on this site, since most people still voted verstappen as best driver of 2021 on here, so by definition it’s not “most”!

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th August 2022, 13:59

        @esploratore1 a fair point (claps hands)!

  7. Red Bull was quicker, obviously, but Sainz AGAIN was too slow and harsh on the tyres. He was asking for new tyres while on an only 5 lap set. He probably wouldn’t be on the podium if Hamilton hadn’t retired early even with Mercedes having one of their weakest races of the season. Would they dare to say they were slower than Mercedes had that happened?

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