F1 – Making predictions with so few elements to analyze may seem like a risky game. In reality, even in the presence of meager and summary data, trends begin to emerge and projections can be based on these. Which, as such, carry with them a certain rate of fallibility. Dwelling on the top area of the ranking, three rather clear dynamics emerged: Ferrari has the most effective car package; the Red Bull is fast (but not very fast) but it is fragile; Mercedes is in technical difficulty and its ranking is substantially overrepresented.
If this general trend were to stabilize, the epilogue of the championship would be more than obvious. Clearly other factors will intervene in the context outlined above: update of the cars, driving errors, imponderable episodes that can to some extent modify the trajectory described so far.
F1 is a sport (also) for men and the results of a season can depend – indeed they do – on the state of form of a single performer. In this embryonic phase of the 2022 championship, all eyes are on Charles Leclerc who is showing an almost unprecedented solidity, especially in the race. With 34 points clear of Russell (currently a “volatile” opponent considering the level of the W13) and 46 points over the more accredited Verstappen, the Monegasque is the number one favorite to grab the title.
The No. 16 is driving at a very high level and can count on a huge advantage given to him by the fastest and most reliable car of the moment.. The F1-75 is an extremely adaptive car, which works on any type of circuit. Sakhir, Jeddah and Melbourne have different bike tracks but David Sanchez’s creature has never suffered. A fast project both in qualifying and in the race that manages the tires certainly better than RB18 which in Australia went into crisis. It goes without saying that the reliability appears to be at the highest levels.
If we observe the behavior of the two protagonists we see that on the single lap the difference is not so great. Leclerc got two pole position, Red Bull one with Sergio Perez. The feeling is that Verstappen has messed up a bit in the three rounds played so far. But the gap between the two cars opens up in the race. It is on Sunday, in fact, that the F1-75 seems to be most effective.
It was in Barhain, it certainly was in Australia where it showed traits of dominance. The Red is able to extract speed more easily than the Red Bull. In Imola, if the trend were to reconfirm, it could be painful for Verstappen as there will be the mini-race on Saturday that assigns heavy points.
Clearly other elements will intervene: probably cooler temperatures and the presence of higher curbs in some points of the track. These will be new challenges for Ferrari, which is not quite right yet on the aerodynamic pumping side. But there is no fear among the men of Maranello who have identified effective setups on all the circuits faced so far, adapting to fast, slow corners, the long straights of Jeddah, the asphalts in evolution and which suddenly changed the temperature and, consequently , the level of grip.
If such a car is in the hands of a driver who borders on perfection, the championship seems to be channeled. The Monegasque did not miss a shot in qualifying. The two poles and the placement of Jeddah know the maximum achievable. In the race he lost the duel with Verstappen in Saudi Arabia also due to a particularly penalizing yellow flag which thwarted the possibility of counterattacking the Dutchman. In Australia the first, true, smudge then resumed: below safety car, between Turn 13 and Turn 14, he slightly lost grip, allowing Max to get under him at the restart. A dangerous attempt that the fruit of the Ferrari Academy has shrewdly punched out and then set sail for good.
This also tells of the state of thanks of the driver who seems to be merged with his car. A deadly symbiosis for the opponents. Charles must now make a decisive step for his career and for his ambitions to bring the drivers title back to Maranello after three decades from that obtained by Kimi Raikkonen. Leclerc has always been a damn fast driver. He demonstrated a talent in every category and with every car he drove. If we really had to identify a less strong trait it is the frequency with which, in the past, he has let himself go to some errors.
Which, in a rather mocking way, amplified the consequences. Azerbaijan 2019, Bahrain 2020 or Monaco last year come to mind when, already with the pole position in his pocket, he ruins the weekend with an accident that will cost him the transmission and the withdrawal in the home grand prix that this year, we are persuaded, it is one of the main objectives of the 24-year-old former Sauber
After the aforementioned topics, Leclerc has accustomed us to a rather heavy self-criticism made, among other things, live worldwide. A sign that shows a marked humility but also maturity and a desire to improve. A process that is gradually transforming a lightning-fast driver into a sports war machine. Because sheer speed doesn’t allow anyone to win titles. We need several virtues that the Monegasque, in this early 2022 World Cup, is showing off with some evidence.
To aspire to the title, of course, it is also necessary to set parameters for the opponents. It is from their situation that little camouflaged smiles are born in Maranello. Leclerc has five potential opponents in his title race. Two, at this juncture, seem rather ephemeral. We refer to the Mercedes copy. Although Russell is second and Hamilton is not far behind his team-mate, it is the performance that is of concern.
W13 has too many problems to be considered in the game. The planned update plan is struggling to take off. From Brackley we continue to hear a refrain that was once the prerogative of the men of the Prancing Horse: “we are analyzing the data“. While this happens the races follow one another, time passes and the opponents run away. Imola was to be the beginning of the recovery, it is feared that this will not be the case.
Sergio Perez is another stake that hovers relative with simplicity. It’s a second declared. He accepts his role as him and knows he has to support Verstappen’s rise. He can get in the way from time to time but he doesn’t have the gallons of the big booty candidate. Two more credible rivals remain. The first is Verstappen and we know why he is delayed and what he is suffering from a fragile RB18 as a rose petal. The 46 points of detachment, the intermittent reliability like a Christmas light and a handling that is not exactly exciting make, to date, the Dutchman a cannon with moistened powders.
Leclerc has the potentially most formidable opponent at home. Carlos Sainz owns the same material but still fails to use it. The Spaniard admitted that his adaptation process to the new generation cars is proceeding more slowly than he had set out to do. The race steps demonstrate this with some clarity. Sainz has never been in the fight for victory. He never undermined Charles or Verstappen. A driver who is self-lowering himself in the role of shoulder and in fact often finds himself in battle with Perez. That is, Max’s squire.
The not very brilliant performances of the Madrid-born are oxygen for Leclerc who can take off in the standings and will be able, if the trend is confirmed in the next appointments in an F1 calendar that will become very dense, to see his role as leader formalized also by the team management who wants everything except an internal feud that subtracts valuable points in favor of the competition that, sooner or later, will raise the bar on performance.
Charles Leclerc, for the aforementioned reasons, is really the main candidate for the F1 2022 title. This clearly emerges from the indications given by the trio Sakhir – Corniche Circuit – Albert Park. The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which will officially start tomorrow, also by virtue of the sprint race and a layout of the track still different from the three already faced, will bring further elements to evaluate the consistency of the Leclerc – F1-75 combination. Should the Monegasque come out strengthened after Imola then the situation would become rather interesting.