Formula 1: Ferrari did their fans a huge favor to start 2023

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) /

Ferrari are known for giving their fans false hope to start Formula 1 seasons, preceding an annual letdown. They didn’t even get that far in 2023.

The start of the 2023 Formula 1 season has been a disastrous one for Ferrari. For just the second time in the last nine years, they have failed to put one of their two drivers on the podium through the first three races.

Charles Leclerc was poised for a podium finish in Bahrain before his engine gave out. Carlos Sainz Jr. was scored third after the chaotic final restart in Melbourne before the order was reverted to what it was before the restart — and yet Sainz was still penalized for a move that took place in turn one on the restart.

As a result, the team have amassed a total of only three points finishes this year. Sainz finished in fourth place in Bahrain and sixth in Jeddah. Leclerc, who was taken out on the opening lap in Melbourne, has only a seventh place finish in Jeddah to his name.

Sainz sits in a fifth place tie in the point standings, while Leclerc sits in a ninth place tie, placing him below McLaren’s Lando Norris and level with Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg. Ferrari sit in fourth in the constructor standings, well below Aston Martin and Mercedes and already almost 100 points behind Red Bull.

But Ferrari have almost done their fans a favor to start the 2023 Formula 1 season.

Ferrari have become the Dallas Cowboys of Formula 1. It’s always “their year”, until it isn’t — and every single year, it isn’t. The most successful team in the history of the sport still haven’t won the constructor title since 2008, and they haven’t had one of their drivers win the world title since 2007.

In 2017, Sebastian Vettel opened up the year with a win, and he won two of the season’s first three races. With a second place finish in the other, he found himself leading the point standings, and he held onto that lead for 12 races. But self-inflected wounds cost him in his championship fight with Lewis Hamilton, and they cost Ferrari in their championship fight with Mercedes.

In 2018, Vettel opened the year with two straight wins. But down the stretch, mistakes cost him, most notably a wreck in front of his home crowd in Germany which produced a 38-point swing in favor of Hamilton — and an even bigger swing in favor of Mercedes. Once again, the championship was Vettel’s and Ferrari’s to lose, and they lost it.

Leclerc joined Vettel in 2019, replacing Raikkonen, and was poised to win in just his second start with the team in Bahrain and take the lead of the point standings. But a late engine issue relegated him to third place and resulted in a 1-2 finish for Mercedes, which went on to win the season’s first eight races.

Not much was expected from Ferrari in 2020 or 2021. But there was still a sense of hope during the former after Leclerc managed to take advantage of the miscues of others and open up the (very much delayed) season with a second place finish in Austria. Then the following week, at the same track, the Ferrari duo took each other out on the opening lap, and things never really improved.

But 2022, amid new regulations, was the year for Ferrari. They opened up the season with a 1-2 finish in Bahrain, with Leclerc reclaiming the one that had gotten away three years prior, and he nearly held off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win in Jeddah. He then dominated in Melbourne while Verstappen was forced to retire with a fuel leak.

Through three races, Leclerc, who had long been seen as the man who was poised to bring the golden years back to the Scuderia, was the betting favorite to win his first world championship, and Ferrari were the betting favorites to win the constructor championship.

Leclerc’s 34-point lead in the standings was already a gap incapable of being made up in a single race, and he was ahead of Verstappen by 46 points, which was more than three times larger than any deficit Verstappen faced throughout his 2021 maiden championship-winning season.

Things went south for Ferrari rather quickly after that, with a litany of errors ranging from driver errors to strategy errors to mechanical errors. Leclerc won just one of the season’s remaining 19 races, and Ferrari could only scoop up one more victory with Sainz.

Verstappen, who won an all-time record 15 races in 2022, ended up with a championship-winning margin that was just nine points shy of the all-time record, and he did it after overcoming the largest deficit ever to win a title. He clinched his second straight title with four races remaining.

Yet again, it was not meant to be for Ferrari. But in 2023, at least they didn’t give their fans a false sense of hope and optimism. After their disastrous start, any wins this year will be seen as unexpected, and anything higher than a fourth place finish in the constructor standings will be viewed as a plus.

Next. All-time Formula 1 wins list. dark

Leclerc did give fans some hope by taking the pole for this coming Sunday afternoon’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit. Where will he finish? The race is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, April 30. If you haven’t yet done so, begin a free trial of FuboTV now!