Ferrari went into Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix with hope for the race and the rest of the season to come, but left with disappointment and a sense of foreboding.
The main disappointment of course is with Charles Leclerc. The young Monegasque appeared to be on the cusp of a breakout season and early on seemed to be a potential championship winner as he racked up the wins while Red Bull struggled to get their setup right.
After a low point at Monaco - a race that is easier to win from the front than anywhere else - a pole position in Baku looked to be a surprise with their Austrian rivals quicker in FP3.
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Nevertheless, Leclerc looked primed to succeed where he had recently failed, and with no race in the history of Baku having seen the lead change hands, there were immediate problems.
Sergio Perez dashed into pole at the first corner but Leclerc persisted and at the start of lap 20, he was a credible contender for the win once again. He had a fresh set of hard tyres and held the lead, but an engine failure saw him pull off limply into the pits.
That had followed team-mate Carlos Sainz’s even earlier retirement with a hydraulics problem, with the Spaniard enduring another miserable season due to the Italian team’s failure to provide their drivers with a reliable vehicle.
If it were a one-off, that would be one thing, but Sainz has three DNFs, and Leclerc two. If that continues for the last two-thirds of the season then Sainz could miss almost 10 races and Leclerc six. That could be enough to rule them out of a drivers’ championship win even if they scored well at every other race they took part in.
This will lead to frustration. The Ferrari pair have regularly held the lead, and regularly scored pole positions, but all that is a waste if they can’t see through a task to its completion. It will also lead to nervousness. If the drivers learn that their car could fall away from them and let them down, they could start to overthink whenever they feel a bump or hear a ping. With F1 driving sometimes dependent on a hundredth of a second difference in pace, distractions must be eliminated.
If there was one consistent problem, then resources could be focused there. But through the season there have been engine problems, hydraulics failures and power unit concerns. One problem might be addressed only for another to rear its head. With the season progressing, attention should be focused on any improvements that can be introduced, instead they are fighting the last war.

Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, GP Azerbaijan, Getty Images

Image credit: Getty Images

Unfortunately for Ferrari, there are more reasons for serious concerns. Both Alfa Romeo (Ferrari’s sister team) and Haas use the Ferrari engine, and they had problems. Zhou Guanyu had to pull out mid-race, as did Haas driver Kevin Magnussen. Four problems from six cars is a dreadful showing. If it is a one-off, fair enough, but this is now a recurrent worry.
The next stop is Montreal, and the race in Canada has some of the same properties as Baku. If Ferrari are once again putting the same pressures on their cars and asking for a similar response, they are inviting another problem. But a third of the season has gone and Mercedes are becoming more reliable, if not threatening Red Bull. If they knew what the problem was then presumably Mattia Binotto, Leclerc and Sainz would cut more bullish figures, and let on a few more details. The imprecise admissions hint at a more difficult problem.
Mercedes, for example, know that they are searching for a reduction in porpoising and an increase in track speed at the same time. Ferrari's problems are widespread; they are running out of time to solve them before they become a team of also-rans once again.
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