Former F1 driver Pedro de la Rosa says Ferrari needs to score one or two finishes in several races if it is to snatch the 2022 Drivers’ Championship from runaway leader Max Verstappen.
With 12 rounds of the 2022 season over, Verstappen has a 63-point lead over Charles Leclerc, helped by a combination of poor reliability, questionable strategy calls and driving errors from the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.comde la Rosa said the only way for Verstappen not to win the title would be if Ferrari could string together a series of perfect races.
“Ferrari has to be aggressive from now on,” said de la Rosa, who competed in 104 Grands Prix between 1999 and 2012.
“The only way to stop Max is for Charles and Carlos to finish one-two in the next few races or the title is lost.
“It’s not just about the 63-point deficit, but also about the fact that they’re battling Verstappen and Red Bull. They have a similar package to Ferrari, but are more reliable, so it will be very difficult for Ferrari to make up for those points.”
Red Bull can play strategy safely
The Spaniard added that conversely, Red Bull and Verstappen could afford to play it safe and focus on scoring consistent points, rather than having to win every race.
De la Rosa also suggested that Red Bull’s points lead means the Milton Keynes-based team can afford to be more conservative with component use and take no chances with power units or high mileage transmission elements.
“With a 63-point lead, Red Bull can also play it safe,” de la Rosa said.
“Then there comes a point where you look at the engine and change it a race early.
“You don’t want to go to extremes. It is better to take a grid penalty and have a new engine than not to finish a race.
De la Rosa believes that the speed advantage Red Bull and Ferrari have over the field means that places lost due to a grid penalty can easily be made up in the course of a race.
“You also know that with a grid penalty you can easily finish in the top five again,” he said.
“Red Bull can only lose the title by withdrawing from racing. The gap between Red Bull, Ferrari and the rest of the field is huge in terms of speed.
“With Mercedes the gap is a bit smaller, but they can still score big points after a grid penalty.
“In addition, Red Bull also has Sergio Perez [driving the other car]. He’s a good team player who will definitely be there for them and fulfill his role perfectly.”
© RN365/Michael Potts
A title battle for the ages
De la Rosa made his F1 debut in 1999, when the championship battle between McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine ended in the final race.
While Verstappen has a sizable lead in the 2022 standings thanks to Ferrari’s various issues, the performance differential between Red Bull and Ferrari has been fairly equal, with different cars being faster at different circuits and in different conditions, and de la Rosa spoke quality. of this season’s title fight.
“I think it’s been a fantastic season in terms of on-track battles,” de la Rosa said.
“There is nothing better in F1 than having at least two teams fighting for the wins.
“That has been the case this season and there really isn’t a single Grand Prix where you can decide the winner in advance.”
De la Rosa, however, lamented that Ferrari’s struggles could end this season’s title chase quickly, with Verstappen having won seven Grands Prix to just three for Leclerc and one for Sainz.
“The fight for victory is always between these two teams and usually between two drivers, but due to various circumstances it’s almost always Verstappen who wins,” said the Spaniard.
“We are now just over halfway through the season, and the gap is very big.
“Max is dominant and it will be difficult for him to lose the title, it’s a shame because everyone wants to see the title decided again in the last race of the season.
“Ferrari and Leclerc lost a lot of points due to unreliability, strategic errors or driver errors.
“That’s been the story of this season so far: it could potentially be a great season, but the gap between Max and Charles is so big.”
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Red Bull and Verstappen – the perfect match
Unlike Ferrari’s failures, Red Bull has proven to be a fast, well-managed and reliable team, according to de la Rosa, who noted the drink-backed team has largely solved the reliability issues that had caused Verstappen to quit. retire in Bahrain and Melbourne.
“Red Bull have proven to be a very solid team in all areas. They are reliable and have learned quickly from their mistakes in the first few races,” said de la Rosa, who also reserved praise for Verstappen and the quality of his recent training.
“When have you ever seen Max lock a wheel? He used to skate in free practice when he was looking for the limit.
“But Max now drives differently than in the past. Not that he made many mistakes in the past, but he is even more mature now. Max drives like a real champion.
“He knows when to attack and his fights with Leclerc have been great.
“Max always played it safe, he didn’t take the wrong foot. With this 2021 title in his pocket, I think he was able to take a new step in his development.”