Ferrari's Emotional Nightmare In Italy Must Be Used As Brutal Lesson

Sainz crashed out on lap one, while Leclerc's gamble backfired
09:00, 25 Apr 2022

The morning after the night before, it still stings for Ferrari. This weekend was meant to be their dream homecoming after a perfect start to the season, instead it turned into a nightmare that Henry Fuseli would have been proud of. 

At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, just an hour’s drive from the home of the Prancing Horse, Mattia Binotto and his team capitulated. The wet weather may have been a factor of the weekend but by the end of the race the track had dried, and the only wetness came from the eyes of those in the stands. 

It’s remarkable just how quickly a carnival atmosphere can be silenced. On the formation lap, the stands were lit up by red flares and Ferrari flags were waved triumphantly. Even with Max Verstappen on pole, this felt like the sporting universe was hoping for, and expecting one outcome. 

In just three corners, that excitement turned to horror and audible gasps could be heard, with thousands of Italians left with their heads in their hands. Carlos Sainz’s early exit was just extremely unfortunate for both him and his team. Daniel Ricciardo got a little too giddy on the inside of turn two and lost grip as he bumped the kerb, and clipped the back of the Ferrari. 

“I went into [Turn] 1 feeling like it was all under control. Obviously it wasn’t, but for now I’ll go and see Carlos and apologise,’ the McLaren driver admitted after the race.  “It’s not fun to ruin your day but also someone else’s, so one of those days.”

As the Spaniard was left beached in the gravel, left to come to terms with his second DNF in a row, Ferrari’s hopes of a dream one-two evaporated. Worst still, Max Verstappen was careering off into the distance on his way to a handsome victory. 

But as important as Sainz is to Ferrari, he is still very much the second driver. A second-place finish for Charles Leclerc wouldn’t have been greeted with overwhelming scenes of celebration but it would have been a more than respectable take from an unpredictable weekend. 

However, in third place, with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull in between Leclerc and Verstappen, the Monégasque got greedy. In hindsight, that’s an easy conclusion to come to given what unfolded, but what Ferrari’s main man actually showed was simply a racing desire to win. He had hunted Checo down but then when he attempted to force him into a mistake, he made one of his own. 

Given Ferrari’s strength over Red Bull in the corners, Leclerc saw the Variante Alta chicane as a chance to make up ground. Instead he caught the kerb and spun off into the wall, damaging his front wing which needed replacing immediately. That one move saw him tumble down the order and although he made up a few places to finish sixth, these were valuable points dropped. 

“It was the mistake that cost me a lot and I’ll learn from it, but no, on my side there was no particular added pressure whatsoever,” he commented after the race when asked about the incident. 

If the gasps for the Sainz spin were audible, the Leclerc crash felt like a national tragedy in northern Italy. Red Bull secured a historic one-two in their rivals’ backyard while Ferrari are left to pick up the pieces of a weekend where everything that could go wrong - did. 

Home heartbreak is nothing new in sport, and it doesn’t have to be terminal. Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in a World Cup semi-final that scarred a nation. England lost the Euro 2020 final at Wembley and will try to take that hurt into this year’s World Cup, while Andy Murray turned the Wimbledon tears of 2011 into glory a year later. 

Despite the emotional connection, this is still only one race in a marathon season. This hurt won’t go away for the team for a while, but Charles Leclerc still leads the Drivers’ Championship, and we are only four races in. They’ve proven they have the race pace to compete on all fronts, now it's about learning from what happened this weekend, and making sure they maximise every possible point from here on in. 

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