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The Missing Piece That Might Give Ferrari a Chance at a Comeback in 2022
After the 2022 sprint race in Austria, Red Bull were clear favorites. Not only did Max win the sprint race, starting from pole, but he had won four out of the last six races on the. With the odds stacked against them, Ferrari prevailed in Austria with a superior aero package and suspension setup.

The Missing Piece That Might Give Ferrari a Chance at a Comeback in 2022

Ferrari SuspensionFerrari SuspensionFerrari AeroFerrari SuspensionFerrari AeroFerrari Aero
The key to the victory claimed by the Scuderia seems to have been their tire degradation advantage comparted to Red Bull. This seems to have been to the excellent traction of the Ferrari cars. The 2022 tires are stiff and prevent tire deformation. Due to the fact that this season’s cars use ground effects, this causes a vertical thrust in the rear tires, causing them to no longer be parallel to the ground, compromising traction and causing excess wear. However, Ferrari’s suspension geometry is designed in a way that helps them recover some of that camber, keeping the tires parallel to the ground and compensating for any rolling that happens in the corners.

Cornering also causes lateral acceleration, which in turn causes sliding and oversteer in traction zones, degrading the tires even faster. Again, Ferrari’s suspension plays a role in mitigating both of these factors. Their suspension settings helped lighten the load on the thread, helping the Ferraris run for 24 laps on the mediums they started on, while Verstappen only managed 12 laps on a similar set of fresh mediums. Not only did the Ferraris go a long stint on the mediums, but the rate at which Verstappen was cutting down the gap to Leclerc on fresh hard compound tires, was only 0.59 seconds per lap, which is even more impressive considering how old Leclerc’s mediums were.

To put this into comparison, Leclerc pitted on lap 24 for a set of hard compound tires. During the next 12 laps until Max’s second pit stop, he managed to lap an average of 1.34 seconds faster than the Dutch driver. This is an astounding difference in Formula 1 and it showcases exactly why Charles was able to win the race. The medium was clearly the faster tire for the day, but Max just could not stay on that tire for long enough, and Leclerc being able to extend the first stint for so long, gave him a dominant advantage.

What is more interesting is that wear is accompanied by thermal degradation, and the balance between those two seemed to change between Saturday and Sunday. Thermal degradation is when the tire heats up to the point where the structure of the tire simply cannot support the full loads put through it by the car. Not suffering so much from thermal degradation proved to be Red Bull's advantage in the sprint race, but things changed the next day. In the main race, with lower outside temperatures and less rubber built up on the track, wear became the more important of the two degradation mechanisms and it is possible that Ferrari’s car was able to better cope with it.

What is certain is that in Austria, Ferrari had an astonishingly fast car, helped by tremendous grip in the traction zones induced by the rear suspension. The rear tires being held at the right angle to maximize grip, kept the car absolutely planted through the high-speed corners.

The aero was also refined in the wind tunnel and balanced the car prior to coming to the Red Bull Ring. The tweaks aimed to maximize driving precision, providing great control on the front end, but also making sure the rear end had the right load in order to reduce the tire degradation even further.

We could notice that in the live footage of the race, where the corner entries of both Sainz and Leclerc were remarkably sharp and the traction out of the corners was immensely good. Although Ferrari might have made some blunders throughout this season, it seems that Ferrari has finally gotten both their strategy and development under control and are now being decisive and deliberate with their actions.

Mika Häkkinen took note of how decisive Ferrari were in Austria and emphasized that this is the direction they should follow if they want to stay in the title fight. And they have a real chance considering how unpredictable F1 is and a DNF or non-point finish for Verstappen will immediately reduce the point gap to within striking distance for Leclerc.

The decision to extend the stint, following the same two stop strategy that Red Bull chose, only with fresher tires, seems to have been an excellent one, highlighting the fact that Ferrari is heading on the right track. It is by no means a guarantee that Ferrari will step up and put Max under real pressure for the title, but it surely gives hope to the Tifosi.


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