Sorry Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, your car is pretty much only going to get less competitive as the 2021 season drags on, because Scuderia Ferrari says it’s moving “90 to 95 percent” of its focus to developing its 2022 car and the new regulations. It will not risk compromising next year’s car to try and beat McLaren to third in the championship this year.
2020 was not a good year for Ferrari, as it couldn’t do any better than sixth in the constructors’ championship. After it was forced to rein in its illegal 2019 engine, the car was significantly slower. Imagine that. For 2021, however, the Scuderia has managed to find a way to make its engine more powerful, presumably in a legal fashion this time. The SF21 isn’t as hopeless as 2020's SF1000 had been.
After the first four races of the season, Ferrari trails behind McLaren by just 5 points, and Charles Leclerc is currently in fifth position in the world drivers’ championship. Clearly the team has found the speed needed to compete at the front of the mid pack. But it wouldn’t take much improvement for Alpine or Alpha Tauri to catch them up.
Laurent Mekies, Ferrari F1 sporting director, has said he has committed to fully focusing on next year’s car. “We are pretty much already in full switch, it’s already the case for us. If you want to put a number to it, if you call it 90 percent, 95 percent, whatever you want to call it, but it’s pretty much where we are.”
“This is very clear to us, we are focused on 2022,” Mekies added. “The fact that the field is tight that you may need a few hundredths or a few tenths to switch from sixth to third will not change our strategy, the focus is on next year. We have switched the large majority of our resources to it already. It doesn’t mean that some details will not change on the car from now onwards, as we all do with what we learn at the racetrack. But the focus is on next year, even if the field is tight. For us it is a clear decision.”
Interestingly, McLaren have taken the opposite tack.
Team boss Andreas Seidl commenting at the Spanish Grand Prix, “If you look since the first test this year onwards we simply tried to continuously bring updates to the car, to make continuously steps forward with the performance We’ve also brought upgrades for example to Portimao, we’ve brought updates for the car also here in free practice. And our plan is to still bring further updates also in the coming races.”
He later added, “It’s obviously a very tight battle, especially with Ferrari, and it’s simply important to make sure we keep bringing upgrades to the car in the next races in order to keep this battle of P3 alive.”
Mekies seems to be totally fine with Ferrari sinking down to 6th in the championship again this year. It is only the third team (after Haas and Williams) to announce they had no more intention of developing the 2021 chassis. There’s no telling what other teams will do between now and then, but if I were Alpine, I’d be working on some mid-season updates right about now. Good luck with your 2022 car, Ferrari, it sounds like you’re going to need it.