No panic, says Ferrari as it battles F1 reliability storm ahead of Canadian GP


Ferrari finds itself trailing in the F1 championship after the disastrous Azerbaijan GP, with engine penalties looking inevitable for Leclerc. 'We will fix it', says Mattia Binotto... 'but we're not there yet'

Carlos Sainz struggles with an umbrella in the rain ahead of the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix

Sainz battles the Montral weather

Clive Rose/Getty Images

There’s no question that the Azerbaijan GP was a disaster for Scuderia Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz succumbing to different mechanical failures.

At the time he stopped, Leclerc was leading the race, and while we’ll never know how his strategy would have unfolded relative to that of the chasing Red Bull drivers, he was still in with a shout of victory.

Leclerc’s retirement was even more painful as it occurred just two races after he dropped out of the lead with a PU issue in Spain. In between came his home race in Monaco, where he somehow converted pole and an early lead into fourth place at the flag as Ferrari got its strategy calls slightly wrong.

It’s obvious that in a tight championship fight driver and team cannot afford many slip-ups. After winning in Baku, and despite two mechanical DNFs of his own, Max Verstappen took over the world championship lead – and his team mate Sergio Perez moved into second.

Even if Leclerc has a clean run with reliability for the rest of the season, it’s clear that he’s going to have to take painful grid penalties probably on a couple of occasions before the end of the year.

Smoke pours from the rear of Charles Leclerc Ferrari at the 2022 Azerbaijan GP

Expired engine in Baku means that penalties are inevitable for Leclerc

Clive Rose/Getty Images

The way the momentum has slipped away from Ferrari its top people could be forgiven for worrying that RBR may now be hard to stop, but team principal Mattia Binotto insists that there is no panic yet in Maranello.

“It’s not something we are looking at honestly,” he said after the flag in Baku. “I think we are focused on ourselves, focused on trying to get the most out of our race weekends, trying always to improve ourselves. We know that to get to the top there is still a gap, I think we proved that we had some problems in the last events.

“And we are simply focusing on trying to improve ourselves race by race. I think it’s only at the end of the season that we can do the sum and see where we are. My only concern today is what are we lacking to be alright on all 360 degrees, and we had reliability issues.

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“The start of Charles was not perfect, we had an issue at the pit stop, we had different issues at the last event. So there is still much I think to progress, without looking at the others.

“I’m pretty sure that the others as well have problems, or have not always made the right or the best choices, but that’s not what we are caring about. So we’re really caring to ourselves, focus on ourselves, and that’s it.”

While Sainz had a hydraulic issue that hadn’t cropped up before, Leclerc’s failure was the latest in a series in different areas of the PU that has blighted not just the works cars but also customers Alfa Romeo and Haas.

To be fair Ferrari has made a big step with the PU this year, as is evidenced by Leclerc’s string of six poles in eight races, as well as the solid form of the customers in the midfield battle.

Given the development freeze at the start of this year, and which runs to 2025, all manufacturers had to take risks and put everything they had into this year’s engines. Honda for example certainly hasn’t been immune to failures, although fortunately for Red Bull most of the PU problems have fallen on AlphaTauri.

Ferrari of Charles Leclerc at Barcelona

Power unit advances have given Ferrari the pace to challenge for this year’s championship

To its credit, Ferrari has clearly made a big step with its PU, as well as creating a very competitive chassis in the F1-75. The jump from just outrunning McLaren for third last year to fighting RBR for the title is a huge one, and Binotto thinks some issues were inevitable.

“I’m not surprised, and certainly concerned and somehow disappointed,” he said. “Because I think it’s something that we need to try to fix, and we didn’t yet. But I cannot blame the team, because I know what has been the effort they have put in order to address the performance from the past. I know it’s a long journey.

“We didn’t get enthusiastic at the start of the season, I think we will not be the last today. As I said it’s a journey which we are on, and there are still another step which is required right now. I think as a team again we will stay united, work hard.

“Is it down to quality, reliability, whatever else, usage? I don’t know yet”

“We have been capable of doing a proper job so far, we know that the job is not finished, but we will do it. I would rather prefer to have good performance and try to fix reliability rather than vice versa.”

Earlier in the Baku weekend he’d noted: “I know that our team is very strong as well in trying to ensure the reliability for the next races, cope with it, try to make sure that in terms of usage we are more protected and for the medium long term, try to address it.

“The components are very similar in terms of electrical motors to the ones of last year. We introduced an evolution by the end of last season, increasing the voltage and certainly, let me say the overall experience we’ve got so far on those electrical motors is reduced compared to what we had before, so still some things to learn, to improve.”

Worryingly for the team as of Sunday night it didn’t know what had happened to Leclerc’s engine. It only arrived back in Maranello for inspection on Wednesday, giving the team little time to absorb any conclusions before Canada.

“Is it something which is down to quality, reliability, whatever else, usage?” said Binotto. “I don’t know yet. But I think it’s no doubt that when you’ve got so many reliability problems, there is a concern.

“I know that in terms of performance effort, the redesign of the full power unit, we made a fantastic job. But that means as well that overall, in terms of product, there is still very little experience, and certainly I think in terms of reliability, still there is progress which is required.

“Sometimes the problems you may have are not a short fix. So I don’t know what will be the strategy we need to adopt, if it’s simply shorter mileage, or a different type of usage, or a short fix, because whatever has happened is really a short fix solution. So something that I think we’ll understand in the next days, and hopefully we’ll have a clearer answer by the time we’re in Canada.”

Ferrari of Charles Leclerc going past the fortress in Baku

Uphill struggle for Ferrari as it looks to get on top of its engine problems for the Canadian GP


Indeed the team has since reported that a quick fix was indeed found for the Sainz hydraulic issue and will be implemented this weekend while a longer term solution is found.

On the plus side in Baku Ferrari put the Monaco frustration behind and appeared to get the strategy calls right, even if we didn’t see how it would have played out. Calling both drivers in for a tyre change at the first sign of a virtual safety car was a good move, and it propelled the Monegasque driver back into the lead after he lost it with to Verstappen with a poor getaway.

“I think that the team has been very reactive at the time of the VSC, we called Charles in, because he was very close to the pit entry. We have been very, very sharp. I think that the drivers reacted very well. And we had somehow I think an advantage at the stage.

“Indeed it was still a very long race, we needed to manage the tyres to the end. The tyre degradation on the hard what we saw was very little. So if we could have made the hard survive, it would have been the right call, but obviously, we do not have the answer to that.

“We will get the numbers and I’m pretty sure everybody will have a look at it to have a forecast of how the race would have finished. But we felt very strong, certainly in the lead with a strong tyre. And Charles very happy with the car behaviour.”

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Another plus was that a new low drag upper rear wing flap gave the team useful straightline performance, certainly with the DRS open in qualifying. Any advantage was less obvious in the actual race, where admittedly the top speeds table favours those who had good tows and DRS activation, but Binotto seemed happy.

“On that type of level of downforce I don’t think we’ve got such a big disadvantage to Red Bull, the speeds were very similar. Both with DRS on, in the quali we saw it yesterday, and the DRS off today, that was good enough at least to be in the fight, keep Max behind on the straight and defending.

“So overall I think yes that rear wing is working as expected. It’s working similarly to the one of the Red Bull on similar downforce, and that gives me confidence that whenever we need to use it we can use it without any big issues.”

That wing is likely to see use in Canada this weekend. Five races have now passed since Leclerc won in Melbourne, and at four of them he’s been on pole, and not able to convert it.  Is it thus now essential that Ferrari bounces back with victory this weekend?

“I don’t think that it is a must win at all,” says Binotto. “Again we will be focused race-by-race, try to optimise our potential on the weekends. Today certainly something went wrong, and as I said it’s not only the reliability, we need to look at all the details.

“But when back at the factory I think as usual, it’s lesson learned, try to understand, move forward and try to do it as soon as possible.

“And making sure that whatever we are doing is making the product stronger, because reliability is a key element of the overall performance. To finish first, first you need to finish, and I think that we are not yet there.”