After witnessing triumphant highs and cataclysmic lows in the last two races, Ferrari fans have joined in solidarity to share the challenges associated with supporting Formula 1’s most unpredictable frontline team — with plenty of blame falling upon the carmaker’s racing management.
Last Sunday offered a particularly nasty blow as Charles Leclerc found himself crashing into Circuit Paul Ricard’s Turn 11 on Lap 18 — screaming in frustration over the radio as he racked up his 3rd season DNF.
Leclerc, rather sportingly, took 100% of the blame for his incident during the post-race interview. “I think it’s just a mistake. Tried to take too much around the outside, put a wheel probably somewhere dirty, but it’s my fault and if I keep doing mistakes like this then I deserve not to win the championship,” he said.
“I was thinking too much and I lost the rear. It’s been a very difficult weekend for me, I struggled a lot with the balance of the car, I like oversteery cars, but when it’s warm like this it’s very difficult to be consistent and I made a mistake at the wrong moment.”
Adding insult to injury are Leclerc’s flagging championship hopes, which at one point, seemed confidently ahead of the pack during the season’s first races. Today, the Monagasque driver holds a distant second place tally — 63 points behind the man who clinched the victory, reigning champ Max Verstappen.
“Of course, the lead we have is great, but it’s probably a bit bigger than what it should have been when you look at the car performances between the two cars,” said Verstappen after the race. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell followed suit — both Brit drivers performed well with a tyre-efficient strategy that saw Hamilton cruise into a comfortable P2, while Russell fought Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for a hard-won P3.
Meanwhile, Leclerc watched from the sidelines as teammate Carlos Sainz took point for Ferrari from an unlikely position — pushing from 19th place to finish in 5th by the end of the race.
The Spaniard, who also chalked off the race’s fastest lap, seems to have proven Verstappen right if nothing else — humiliating car after car as he pushed an overtaking streak all the way to the podium, although worn tyres forced him to finish in P5 at the end of a self-described ‘very fun’ race.
Ferrari has historically been a difficult team to support — while Schumacher’s legendary 5-season streak in the early 2000s literally came to define the sport, the years since have been unkind to Ferrari. The team won once again in 2007 à la Kimi Räikkönen, and went on to fall short of championship glory for fifteen years running.
As of right now, the team has continued their trend of hyping up and simultaneously dragging down fans’ expectations — featuring a whirlwind July where both Sainz and Leclerc clinched victories, only to DNF soon after. Fans in particular were disturbed with Leclerc’s mortified scream at the end of yesterday’s race — a display of raw emotion that we’ve not seen from anyone else on the grid this year.
Some consider the scream to be Leclerc’s frustrated acknowledgement that — despite his good performances, he seems destined for yet another year without a championship chance, considering that Verstappen would need to DNF a couple times to even the odds — something quite unlikely considering Red Bull’s quick turnaround of their own early reliability issues.
The result is a largely divided fanbase — one that simultaneously enjoys having the fastest car on the grid, while suffering from poor management issues combined with driver error — all of which occurred between the French and prior Austrian Grand Prix.
Team boss Mattia Binotto — who has been the subject of thousands of memes across the season — treated his disappointed #1 driver with some measure of understanding, admitting that while Leclerc did make a ‘mistake’, he made sure to comfort and reassure Leclerc following the incident.
Sainz, meanwhile, has expressed confidence in the team. “Every time there is a tricky moment on strategy, we are discussing things but we are not a disaster like people seem to say we are. We like to discuss things, we are open about them.”
While the fans seem to disagree, there’s still plenty of races left to go. We’ll see Ferrari next at the Hungarian Grand Prix, kicking off next weekend in Budapest.
(Featured Image Credits: @ScuderiaFerrari/Twitter)