The 2022 Azerbaijan GP saw a disastrous race for Ferrari. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Tifosi, but a perfect result for Red Bull and their fans. Ferrari faced a double-DNF with both drivers retiring from the race. Red Bull achieved a 1-2 finish, with Verstappen winning ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez. Perez got the fastest lap, making it maximum points for Red Bull.
The worst part for Ferrari as the team is that mechanical failures forced both drivers out of the race. It’s putting the same shame on Ferrari’s name that Red Bull faced in the early races of the year. Red Bull was being mocked and criticised in the early races for making a fast but unreliable car. I remember George Rusell saying “It doesn’t matter how fast your car is if it doesn’t make it to the end.” I must say that I fully agree with him.
Russell himself proved that point to Ferrari in Azerbaijan, even though that was originally directed at RB. With both Ferraris retiring, in Baku, Russell finished the race in P3. All he had to do to get to the podium was finish the race. His teammate Lewis Hamilton finished in P4. That allowed Mercedes to have scored more points in the last 5 races than Ferrari! Red Bull is now 80 points clear, showing how these reliability issues are costing Ferrari big points.
The midfield was buzzing at the 2022 Azerbaijan GP. Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel came through to finish P5 and P6 respectively. Vettel’s performance was by far the most outstanding of the 2022 Azerbaijan GP. It is a performance we will review later in the post. Firstly, we’ll look at what caused the double-DNF for Ferrari.
Ferrari’s Reliability Gremlins
Ferrari had an absolute disasterclass in Azerbaijan. They didn’t just suffer a double-DNF for their team. In total, 4 of the 6 cars running Ferrari engines retired in Azerbaijan. It’s a crushing defeat for Ferrari as a team and as a Power Unit supplier. Ferrari believes that Sainz and Leclerc’s issues were completely separate. But there is one thing that is clear – ever since Ferrari tuned their engine to its maximum strength, their reliability has taken a big hit. Ferrari made this change at the Miami GP by increasing the horsepower of the engine by 5 HP. The race after that was the Spanish GP, where Leclerc suffered a DNF because of an engine failure. And then 2 races after that, both Ferrari cars failed to finish. So we can see that the change negatively affected their reliability.
According to Carlos Sainz, “The hydraulics went, and that was it. Even more frustrated to see Charles not finishing the race and having another issue. For sure it’s a tough day for Ferrari, a tough day for all of us but we are a team, we will go through different moments in the year, and this one is probably one of the most difficult and frustrating, but we will try and make sure we recover.”
Ferrari had to investigate further to confirm the cause of Leclerc’s engine failure. They concluded that “[An] investigation confirmed Charles’ Baku PU is beyond repair. One possible cause of the failure is that it occurred as a consequence of the PU problem in Spain. We are now working on countermeasures to strengthen the package and the situation is under control.” His engine components took damage, so Ferrari had to replace them for the Canadian GP. Instead of just replacing the damaged ones, the team decided to change them all, condemning Leclerc to start the race last.
Ferrari’s Team Principal stated that “I think the one [The DNF] of Zhou is maybe not related to our supply components but again something to look at. Overall, whatever is happening there is always useful… That’s why we are supplying customer teams; not for the business – it’s not great for economics – it’s more to have technical feedback. So what’s happening is certainly useful and we’ll take as much time to analyse those components, as much as we are doing to the ones that are fitted on the red cars.” This impending issue is something that Ferrari MUST fix in time for the Canadian GP and the forthcoming races.
Sebastian Vettel’s Fantastic Performance
Sebastian Vettel truly showed that he’s still got it. In the 3 seasons before 2022, Vettel faced heavy criticism. People said he was only a good driver if he had a good car. They said that he was past his prime and was no longer talented. There were plenty of rumours and predictions saying that he would retire. But in 2022, he finally replied to his naysayers with strong performances. He’s scored points in half of the races he’s participated in so far this year – he missed the first 2 due to having COVID. His teammate has only scored points in 2 of the 8 races this year.
Vettel outperformed his car and his teammate in Imola this year to score his first points of the season. He also scored a point in Monaco, a circuit tailored to show driver skill. But his performance in Azerbaijan was superb. He started the race in P9 after a strong qualifying performance. He out-qualified his teammate by 10 positions! The Aston Martin driver overtook Tsunoda on the first lap to get into P8. Vettel then maintained a strong pace.
Surprisingly, he stayed within a second of Hamilton, who was the driver in P7. After the first round of pitstops, he fell to P10. However, he came out of the pits ahead of Hamilton. Vettel was going to gain positions through his strategy, however, he faced a setback. When he came out of the pits, he came out behind Esteban Ocon. Ocon was on worn mediums, while Vettel was on fresh hards. Vettel was seriously being held up by Ocon.
On Lap 13, he used DRS down the back straight to overtake Ocon. But down into Turn 3 at the end of the straight, Vettel broke late to secure the position. However, he broke too late and locked up as soon as he started turning into the corner. He went straight on into the runoff, but then performed a very quick and absolutely perfect flick spin, before rejoining the track. Despite the mistake, he had recovered very quickly and was back on track to score some points. He lost 2 positions to Tsunoda and Hamilton. The recovery drive after that was fantastic. Vettel used a combination of tire management and overtakes to pull off a P6 finish. he spent 43 laps on that set of hard tires. It was a champion’s drive and a wonderful display at the 2022 Azerbaijan GP.