Why Ferrari’s return as a dominant force has benefits across the F1 grid

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uenther Steiner is one of the undoubted stars of the latest series of the Netflix documentary Drive to Survive as the maverick leader of the usual Haas wrestlers.

In Bahrain, racing fans were just as likely to stop the Italian for a selfie as any driver on the grid, such is his relatively recently acquired star status. And he smiles from ear to ear.

Haas had a terrible pre-season, losing main sponsor Dmitry Mazepin due to his close ties with Vladimir Putin and firing his son, Nikita, as a driver. That they ended up in fifth place at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix raised eyebrows.

But it also indicated where the power lies in Ferrari’s new world order for 2022. The Haas are powered by the Ferrari engine, as is Alfa Romeo, whose lead driver Valtteri Bottas finished sixth.

Steiner was understandably delighted with Ferrari’s revival, which has been a long time coming, not least for the impact on his team’s cars.

“They [Ferrari] must have taken a lot of shit from people about it,” Steiner said of Ferrari’s years of struggle. “And they just got home, did their homework, and came back with something great. I think the Ferrari engine is now the best engine.

It’s still early to make such statements, just one race in progress, but as things stand Ferrari has the fastest and most reliable engine on the grid.

Ferrari increasingly hopeful of vying for first F1 driver’s title since 2007

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The positive vibes towards Ferrari in the paddock seemed genuine as they finally climbed back onto the top step of the podium for the first time since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen quick to congratulate race winner Charles Leclerc in the media pen despite his own. Bahrain’s misery.

In 2019, Ferrari were the best of the rest behind Mercedes and finished the season with 504 points. But there had been rumors that their fuel system was not exactly up to the rules. Although details were never made public, they reached an agreement with motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, and an adjustment to the rules was put in place for the following season.

It’s no coincidence that Ferrari dropped down the pecking order to sixth place in 2020 with a measly 131 points, and effectively scored a national disgrace by an expectant public and media.

Thus began the reconstruction under Mattia Binotto, who had taken charge of the team the previous season. It was decided that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, around whom the team had been built, was now surplus and Carlos Sainz was brought in. He had an immediate impact by beating teammate Leclerc last season.

But the rebuild was done largely with 2022 in mind. While Mercedes and Red Bull battled for 2021 glory and, you might say, took their eyes slightly off the ball for this season, Ferrari was practically singularly focused on the new regulations.

The team has never lacked resources but has been guilty of extravagance in the past. Ironically, for a team that has spoken out against the budget cap, it may actually help them by ensuring that they have to be more careful with their resources.

When Binotto was asked about the reason for the resurgence, he attributed it to mentality. The pit stops confirmed this. In their lowest year, 2020, less than half of all pit stops were under three seconds; in Bahrain on Sunday, Sainz’s first pit stop was the choice of the peloton at 2.3 seconds.

Teams on the grid with Ferrari engines, including Haas, also enjoyed unexpected success in Bahrain

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And the atmosphere is clearly good within the team. On the grid before the race, the drivers said to each other how good it was to fight for something. And Leclerc was relaxed enough in the final minutes of the race to joke with his engineers that there was a problem with his engine.

In addition, the drivers do not completely control the car. Both said it was a handful, while Sainz described it as one of the worst weekends of his career, despite finishing second.

Binotto, who insists the F1-75 will go faster, has been at Ferrari long enough to see false dawns, and much depends on the development of the car for the rest of the season.

“When you have a good baseline, you have to make sure everything you bring to the car is a step forward,” he said. “And that’s more important now that we have a budget cap. We can’t be wrong.

Red Bull is breathing down its neck and will be going out to fight in Saudi Arabia this weekend. But Ferrari is back and, as Sainz said, “where Ferrari should be”.