Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa believes the team has title-worthy drivers in their ranks now with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Ferrari have not tasted title glory since Massa drove for them, 2008 proved to be a harrowing season for him as his title dreams were suddenly dashed at home, but that was also the hardest year recently in which Ferrari won a championship in the form of the Constructors’ title.
2022 was a case of what could have been, the F1-75 getting off to a flying start as the flagship car before problems with reliability and strategy, complete with a sprinkling of driver error, derailed Ferrari’s title bids.
Leclerc was the one to lead Ferrari’s charge into early 2022, and with Ferrari set to unleash an SF-23 perhaps up to a second faster than its predecessor for 2023, the Scuderia should be back in the mix. to finally wrap up the title draft.
And Massa, who is a big fan of the Leclerc-Carlos Sainz driver pairing, believes both drivers could mount a title challenge, stressing that Leclerc can get the job done in the right car having won three races in 2022.
“I really like them. Leclerc and Sainz are title contenders,” Massa told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Ferrari’s problem is certainly not the drivers. Charles has shown that he knows how to win with the car up to the buoy.
“Last year he paid for it, like the whole team, after a start to the championship that saw him lead the standings and then they lost all the advantage in a few races”.
But, while the pairing of drivers remains the same, there has been a change at the top of Ferrari, with Fred Vasseur swapping the role of Alfa Romeo team boss for the principal position at Ferrari, replacing Mattia Binotto who has stepped down. with effect from the end of 2022.
Massa says Vasseur needs to build the right connections within Ferrari but doesn’t expect the Frenchman to have the luxury of time on his side.
“It will be important [for Fred] build good relationships with all areas of the team and with top management,” said Massa.
“What plays against him is time, because the team from Maranello hasn’t won the title for many years and there’s enormous pressure on them.
“Everyone who has worked with him speaks highly of him, he has been very successful in motorsport and has a wealth of experience in team management. But being behind the wheel of Ferrari is completely different, in this sense it’s a big change for Fred as well.”
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There has rarely been any doubt as to the speed Leclerc possesses, but even considering the sheer amount of bad luck he has endured in 2022, there were still signs that he may not yet be lucid enough to win his maiden title if the competition is fierce.
Although Ferrari had already done their drivers few favours, the 2022 French GP was seen as a major turning point in the title picture, Leclerc spun off with an unforced error, Verstappen then grabbed a crucial victory as he ultimately walked back-to-back titles.
Now, very few drivers are immune to mistakes, we even saw Verstappen spin the RB18 in Hungary that year, but Leclerc has yet to prove he can stand tough in the face of opponents in a title battle that will drag on into the last rounds of the season.
But, undoubtedly strengthened and motivated by last season’s experiences, all eyes are now on F1 2023 to find out if Leclerc can finally put an end to the spell of Baron Ferrari.