The outcome of this year’s Formula 1 season effectively may be decided before the sport’s mid-year break if Ferrari does not dominate this weekend in Hungary.
With 10 races left in the season, it may feel premature to declare the drivers’ championship to Max Verstappen — and the constructors’ title to Red Bull — but the fallout of last weekend’s French Grand Prix could have lasting consequences in 2022.
In the sizzling heat in southern France, Ferrari buckled under pressure while Red Bull remained cool and calm as they continued to stretch their lead in both championships.
Ferrari’s 2022 campaign has been a catalogue of missed opportunities with the famed Italian team throwing away points.
Three times in the 12 races this season Charles Leclerc has retired from the lead of the race.
Twice was due to car failure while the French Grand Prix was an unnecessary error from the Monegasque driver, which sent him crashing into the wall.
Couple this with a botched strategy call from his team while he was odds-on to win the Monaco Grand Prix, and you have four occasions this season when Leclerc should have been victorious but was instead not even on the podium.
Carlos Sainz Jr has also surrendered points this year, with crashes in the opening stages of races and an engine failure robbing him of second in Austria, being stark examples.
It is these constant hiccups that have allowed Verstappen to build a 63-point lead over Leclerc in the drivers’ championship and Red Bull leading Ferrari in the constructors’ by 82.
This season has seen momentum swing between the two teams multiple times, but this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix feels like a must-win for Ferrari.
The Ferrari is a superior car through corners, while the Red Bull has much faster straight-line speed.
The slow, tight and twisting circuit of the Hungaroring looks to be a track tailor-made for the 2022 Ferrari.
Red Bull’s straight-line pace advantage will not be effective in Hungary, meaning this is a prime opportunity for the Scuderia to claw back the deficit in both championships.
Ferrari believes this weekend is a must-win, with team principal Mattia Binotto stating his team needed to take first and second place.
“We need to turn the page and look to Hungary and do a one-two there,” he told F1.com.
There is plenty of pressure still to bear with 10 races left in the season, but it is a situation Ferrari has put themselves in.
If Red Bull can break even with Ferrari, or even snatch a victory from them, there will be a sense the title races could be over.