Poor reliability, bad strategy calls, and driver errors have blighted the Ferrari team this season. Charles Leclerc was 34 points ahead of rival Max Verstappen after three races in 2022. He now trails the reigning World Champion by 63 points.
Bookmakers may make Max Verstappen 1/5 to take the title for a second year. But there are ten more races on the F1 calendar, and much can happen. And that is where the good news begins for Ferrari and their chief title hope, Charles Leclerc.
This week Red Bull’s team advisor, Helmut Marko, announced both Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez are likely to incur grid penalties before the end of the season.
Parts Mean Penalties
2022 regulations mean drivers can only use a set number of key components per season. If they use more, the punishment is a drop-down the starting grid ahead of the race the additional parts are used.
This hit Leclerc hard ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. He was forced to take a 10-place penalty due to a new control electronics element being installed in his Ferrari. He made late gains in the race to take fifth.
Last week in France it was the turn of Carlos Sainz. A heap of new parts that exceeded his quota saw him start the race from the back of the grid.
Red Bull Penalties To Come
So far neither Red Bull driver has been penalized but Marko, talking to MotorSport-Total.com, said: “That will also happen with us. We just have to choose a track where you can overtake relatively well. If you look at the next races, then you will definitely come to a track that we have chosen.”
The Austrian racing veteran later indicated upcoming races in Belgium and Italy might prove the best opportunities for the team’s drivers to take the hit and they are easier tracks to make up places.
Whilst this may not prove more than a bump in a victorious road for Verstappen, it could see his points advantage lessen as the season enters autumn. Three of the next five venues – Hungary, The Netherlands, and Singapore will very much suit the demands of the Ferrari.
High-speed Italy and Belgium may see the pendulum swing towards Red Bull but with potential grid penalties to contend with, the handicap may still see Ferrari score some fine points – if not the full quota of 25 given to race winners.
At this juncture, without a crystal ball but with the benefit of Helmut Marko’s words, Verstappen looks short at 1/5. He may never lose his championship lead but it could definitely shrink which means the sensible play at this juncture is to back Leclerc at 9/2 or bigger to trade him out a lower price during the coming weeks and months.
* Odds correct at the time of writing. Subject to changes.