Charles Leclerc, Ferrari; Monza, 2022

Ferrari encouraged by Leclerc’s “comfortable” margin over Russell at Monza

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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WhileCharles Leclerc failed to convert pole position into victory at the Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari drew encouragement from his margin over Mercedes, who were a significant threat in previous races.

Leclerc won his eighth pole of the season in qualifying at Monza, which team principal Mattia Binotto said showed that “the pure performance is still there” in the Ferrari F1-75.

But Ferrari knew preventing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from coming through from seventh on the grid to take victory in the grand prix would be difficult, and their main concern on Sunday morning was their pace advantage would be over Mercedes’ George Russell.

It took until lap 12 for Verstappen to take the lead from Leclerc, who pitted when the race was put under Virtual Safety Car conditions. The stop dropped him to third place behind Russell, but he returned to the lead once the two in front pitted.

Leclerc’s advantage grew through his second stint so when he pitted again he stayed ahead of Russell, where he remained for the rest of the race. Verstappen always looked like he had enough pace and tyre life to hold off a late Leclerc attack, as Ferrari pitted him at different times to his rivals to try to win the race on strategy.

“It’s not difficult, it’s impossible to beat the fastest car,” Binotto reflected after the race, adding that Verstappen was “impossible to beat”.

“Normally you win if you’ve got the fast car and you may only make it wrong with strategies and losing the race if you’ve got a fast car, with strategy. So I think today he [Verstappen] was faster, whatever has been the strategy he would have won. That’s the point.”

While Ferrari has attracted some criticism for its tactical decisions this year, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said their attempt to take advantage of the VSC made sense, and his team were preparing to do the same until Leclerc came in.

Binotto said the strategy gave them the hope of being able to attack Verstappen later on. “Pitting and moving on the two-stop with Charles was not the wrong decision because you never know what may happen later in the race,” he explained. “You never know how bad tyre degradation may be [for] Max on the longer stint.

“If you look back at the car behind, for example, on George, the gap that Charles had at the end of the race on George was big and comfortable. So overall, it was not a risk, but a gamble that could have turned out into a positive choice.”

Race start, Monza, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Italian Grand Prix in pictures
Leclerc had a 14.6-second lead over Russell before the Safety Car period which brought the race to an end. It looked like a step forward for Ferrari, as Leclerc had not beaten Russell in the previous four races and the gap between them in the championship had shrunk to 13 points.

Now Binotto thinks Ferrari has a better understanding of why Red Bull have pulled away and Mercedes have emerged as a greater threat to them on race days.

“On the race pace, we are suffering tyre degradation and I think that in that respect the Red Bull is a better car,” he said. “So they have been capable of developing their car for a better balance, but certainly as well for a better car in terms of tyre degradation, that we didn’t.

“The reason is something that we are looking at because we need to address it, if not for us this season, certainly for the next.”

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2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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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11 comments on “Ferrari encouraged by Leclerc’s “comfortable” margin over Russell at Monza”

  1. Considering monza is such a power track then yes monza was okay for ferrari unlike the past few races.

  2. No doubt Buzz Aldrin was encouraged by his margin over Charles Conrad, the third man on the moon. Who cares?!

    1. @bullfrog

      Was thinking the same. Ferrari has gradually dropped it’s own expectations over the past few seasons. Earlier, they went racing purely to win, now they race to look respectable. They started the year with the fastest car on the grid, and their targets went from winning a championship, to finishing in front of a struggling Mercedes, which is the 3rd fastest car on the grid.

      I mean… if this isn’t a sign on poor leadership… then I don’t know what is.

    2. Ha, good one @bullfrog.

      I guess it shows the reality that Ferrari has messed up enough that they now have to seriously worry about Mercedes taking 2nd in the constructors championship and seemingly are expecting to make more mistakes, or have more quality control issues that if Russel keeps up his consistent run of finishes he might still beat Leclerc to second in the championship!

  3. I have an opinion
    14th September 2022, 2:17

    Yes, kudos, Ferrari. Comfortably first loser.

  4. Eventually Mercedes will catch up and the comfortable margin will no longer remain.

    1. Yup. I was thinking that myself. It’s only comfortable when you’re going in the same direction. Ferrari had the fastest car at the beginning of the season (and maybe still do, because only Verstappen seems to be able to match and beat their pace), but Mercedes is closing the gap it seems. Ferrari development should be a concern, not a reassurance.

      1. I’d say early in the season Ferrari had the advantage in long and medium corners while the Red Bull had the advantage in and out of slow corners. Now Ferrari doesn’t have any advantage and while it can mix it over a single lap in qualifying it simply isn’t a match over a race distance.

  5. Where are the Lewis/Mercedes haters to complain about the Redbull being dominant? Max has a good chance to equal or even surpass Vettel’s record of 9 consecutive wins.

    1. There are several factors to blame for their absence I think.

      1. A lot of Schumacher fans who were threatened by Lewis’s success.
      2. The duration of time with which Lewis was dominating.
      3. The Red Bull RB18 isn’t really “dominant” on pace. It just looks dominant because of how much Ferrari is underperforming. Similar to what happened in 2017 and 2018. The Mercedes was not dominant on pace in those years. But Mercedes is a far better run team compared to Ferrari. And we see the same with Red Bull.

      Of course, there’s also the issue of the driver’s race, but personally I don’t think that is as much of a factor in this circumstance. I’m sure it is a factor for some number of people, but I’d say the majority of people fall under the first 2 there. Length of dominance and being fans of former drivers that Lewis has surpassed.

  6. WOOT

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