Unless you have been living under a rock over the last week or so, you must have heard of the much-hyped #F1000 which basically refers to the Formula One hosting its 1000th official race at the Shanghai Grand Prix on 14th of April 2019. While there had been many doubts regarding whether it really is the 1000th race in the history of the sport or not, there is little doubt that it is yet another race in which Ferrari has massively underperformed due to its own fault.
What is up with Ferrari this season?
We are 3 races in the 2019 season and it is Mercedes which has locked the front row of the grid for all those races. Ferrari made a dominant showcasing at the Bahrain Grand Prix, so they came into Shanghai expecting to curb the early-season Mercedes dominance.
However, thanks to poor strategy and communication gaps, they currently sit 57 points behind Mercedes in the Constructor’s Championship. In the driver’s rankings, Ferrari’s racers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc find themselves in the fourth and fifth spot respectively, separated by one point only but already trailing the leader Lewis Hamilton by a mammoth 31 points.
Team orders the cause of Ferrari’s downfall in Shanghai
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari’s boy-wonder found himself in the third spot behind Hamilton and Valterri Bottas in the early laps of the Chinese Grand Prix. It was an uphill struggle for Leclerc to hold onto Bottas, given the Mercedes was making a fine job at the steep corners of the track but the Frenchman was still in the game.
And that is when he was ordered to let teammate Vettel take the lead.
At the end of lap 10, Leclerc let Vettel take over but the former World Champion found it even harder to hold on to this unforeseen advantage. The gap between the first Ferrari and the second Mercedes grew to 4.8 seconds, and pressure from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen meant Vettel had a very hard time holding onto the third spot. Leclerc paid the price for the order though; he lost his place to Verstappen and ended a dismal fifth. That made him to claim the fifth spot in successive races, after he ended there in Bahrain as well following an engine blowout with 10 laps to go.
Where does Ferrari go from here?
As things stand now, Ferrari has made it clear, both verbally and on-the-track that they will always push Vettel in 50-50 situations as they feel that he has a better chance of winning the Championship than the rookie Leclerc. That mindset will no doubt take a toll on Leclerc as well, who has been the perfect team-player so far but might refuse to play ball if Vettel’s form does not improve in the subsequent races.
However, that strategy may backfire on them just like it did in Shanghai, as such it will be interesting to see how Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto and his men prepare for the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan in 2 weeks’ time.