At the end of the Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari took what is one of its biggest slaps of the season in terms of pure performance. If the hope of seeing a Scuderia driver cap the world crown seems to have been irretrievably extinguished after Hungary, the Italian team could at least « consol itself » by noting most often its responsibility in the fact of not having able to fulfill the promises made thanks to the F1-75.
But at Spa, a gulf suddenly separated the Red Bulls, and in particular that of Max Verstappen, from the Ferraris. And even though the Dutchman was, like Charles Leclerc, sent back to the back of the grid by engine penalties, it didn’t take long, armed with an RB18 which he himself described as « rocket » on the radio after the GP, to find the outposts and transform the second part of the race into a Sunday outing.
If Leclerc’s Sunday was quickly compromised by a tear-off, ironically abandoned by this same Verstappen, housed in a brake scoop, forcing him to go to the pits early under Safety Car, carlos sainz, who started on pole, could do absolutely nothing and was also beaten in tire management by the reigning World Champion, before being also overtaken by Sergio Pérez at the finish. The Spaniard was finally 26 seconds behind the winner at the finish.
So, are these difficulties specific to Spa or should we see the translation of a much more structural trend? For Mattia Binotto, the Scuderia director, the problem is clearly deeper: « I don’t think there’s any hope about [d’une éventuelle contre-performance spécifiquement liée à Spa]. There was a real difference between us and the Red Bulls this weekend. If I look back, I think they were slightly faster in Hungary, which was a different kind of track, with a lot of downforce. »
Max Verstappen overtakes Carlos Sainz at the 2022 Belgian GP
“So overall I think today the Red Bull is a faster car than ours in terms of overall efficiency, because Spa is where you need efficiency in terms of driving. « Aerodynamics and power unit. But more than that, we also have a lot of tire degradation that we need to look at. They were also stronger in terms of degradation. So I don’t think that’s an anomaly. Compared to us, they are faster than I would expect. »
However, Binotto believes the gap between the two machines was exaggerated at Spa and should be less in future events, starting with the Dutch GP at Zandvoort this weekend. « The gap we saw today is definitely not the gap we will have in the next races. I think Spa always amplifies the gaps because it’s a long circuit, and whenever you have a slight advantage on efficiency, normally it is amplified and very obvious on such a circuit. »
« So yes, we hope to be closer in the next races. I still believe they have a slightly faster car. But the tire degradation was, I think, the thing that affected the performance the most today. We have to understand it and try to fix it as soon as possible because it will be important in the next races. »
Leclerc is now 98 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship, while Red Bull enjoys a 118-point lead over Ferrari among the manufacturers.