(Image via @ScuderiaFerrari)
At the end of the seventy-one laps that completed the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, Charles Leclerc reigned supreme over the field as he took home his fifth win of his career and his third in the 2022 season.
It's no secret that the Scuderia Ferrari team hasn't had anything to write home about since the Australian Grand Prix and for good reason. Poor strategy calls took a potential one-two finish at Monaco away from them. Leclerc had to retire twice in the span of three races at Barcelona and Azerbaijan. For Carlos Sainz, it hasn't been much better as he has failed to finish in four out of the eleven races so far this season. The results of these blunders have made Ferrari go from atop the Formula One Drivers/Constructors championship standings since the season opening race in Bahrain to now treading water just to survive in the span of eleven races.
But Collin you say, Leclerc is only 38 points behind Verstappen in the standings and Ferrari as a team is only behind by 56 points for the constructors' standings. There is no need to panic just yet is there?
While yes, Ferrari shouldn't be in full on panic mode as there are still ten races to go until the season finale race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. But let's talk about Red Bull Racing and how they can play into this as well.
Before the season began in 2022, Red Bull Racing had a lot of questions on how they can compete to defend a world title. Most of those questions have been in the Red Bull powertrain department because Honda has left them as an engine supplier. Meaning Red Bull joins Ferrari and Mercedes as a team that has to research and develop a engine for the season. History reminds us on how, in Formula One engines are pushed to the absolute limit and we see more retirements due to car failure in Formula One than IndyCar and the NASCAR Cup Series on a weekly basis.
So let's look at the reliability of Red Bull right now. Starting in Bahrain, both drivers failed to finish over the last two laps of the race, but since they completed 90% of the event they were not given DNFs in the history books. For Max Verstappen, his only issue came with a failure of the MGU- H in Australia which forced him to retire, but after eleven races so far he has won seven of them which has given him a commanding lead in the driver's standings. For Sergio Perez, he has only had one retirement due to an engine and another from contact from Geroge Russell on Sunday in Austria. Pair that with consistent podium finishes and a win in Monaco set them up as the team to beat in 2022
My point is that from a reliability viewpoint it seems the Ferrari has more things that can go wrong to cost them a championship then Red Bull. It's a shame, really. Even though Verstappen was strong during the event, Leclerc was able to keep pace with Verstappen just on pure speed alone. Remember, Austria has long straights and out of the ten corners that make up the circuit, I would only classify two of them as slow. Those being the hairpin up the hill in Turn Three and the downhill, off-camber Turn Four.
Both the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen seemed very even on the straights as both of them could match speed with what seems like Ferrari would maybe gain a tenth or two on the straights as Verstappen would pull away through the middle sector which sets out as a tug-of-war throughout the lap.
This happened all the way until lap twelve as Leclerc outbroke Verstappen into turn five and made the pass for the lead. Verstappen would pit for a fresh set of the medium compound as he dropped from second to eighth on lap fourteen. In a very welcome sight to see, both cars that make up the Haas F1 Team made their way up to fourth and fifth respectfully.
By lap 27, the Ferrari's made there first stop of the day as both drivers switched from mediums to hards as Verstappen retook the lead with Hamilton in tow. Ten laps later, Leclerc took the lead as Verstappen made his second stop of the day for a new set of hard tires.
The battle continued on lap 53 as Leclerc passed Verstappen in Turn Three and set sail in route to victory in Austria. Verstappen claimed unusual tire degradation for the lack of pace as the broadcast highlighted some cording for Verstappen which led him to a second-place finish. Lewis Hamilton rounded out the podium in third which was aided by the retirement of Carlos Sainz with engine trouble.
For Mercedes, it was a roller coaster weekend as both drivers crashed out in the third round of qualifying. Russell again got back on track as Mr. Consistency as he finished inside the top five again for the tenth time in eleven races. For Lewis Hamilton, things have been going well for him. Since Montreal, he has not finished outside the podium and Mercedes for the first time this year outscored Red Bull and Ferrari to chip away from the huge lead the teams have in the constructors standings.
The team who surprised everyone is Haas F1. After Mick Schumacher scored his first ever points finish in Silverstone the race before, the American team had both drivers finish inside the points for the first time this season. With the great results in Austria, Haas has jumped AlphaTauri in the constructors standings as they sit in seventh place. As we all know this team has rebounded quite well from seasons where they sat with Williams in the basement. Mick Schumacher also scored Driver of the Day honors from the fans. Americans also scored big in Formula 2 and Formula 3. Dalton Sargeant took his second straight win in Formula 2 and Jak Crawford had his first win in Formula 3.
Formula One takes a week off as teams prepare to head to Le Castellet, France for the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 24th.
Listen to our podcast "Early Apex" for more Formula One content this Thursday on Spotify.