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This has to be the year Ferrari starts firing on all of its cylinders



At the beginning of the 2022 season, they were in the title fight. In 2023, Ferrari’s title credentials were obsolete. Is 2024 make or break for Frederic Vasseur and the Scuderia?

For a while, it looked like Ferrari would never lose. Michael Schumacher ensured dominance was normality at Maranello in the early 2000s. Once he retired, it took just two years for Kimi Raikkonen to return to the F1 Championship to northern Italy. The team could be forgiven for letting complacency slip in.

It’s a classic case of the hot hand fallacy; expecting present success to continue in the future, regardless of anything. For the best part of 15 years, the team relied on pure excellence behind the wheel from Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, and Carlos Sainz Jr. to keep them within touching distance of titles, which remained elusive.

Drivers win races, teams win championships. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are two of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history but even they’d admit they wouldn’t share nine of the last 10 titles if it weren’t for the impressive teams behind them. The fact the only man to steal a title of this pair in the last decade is Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s former teammate at Mercedes, further ratifies this point.

With this in mind, the Scuderia enters 2024 needing a big year to return reputation and status to its former glory. The Italian outfit boasts two of the sport’s most talented drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr, yet for the best part of 18 months the team around them hasn’t been functioning to a championship level.

Ferrari, Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz Jr. comes off contract at the end of 2024, could his future lie away from Maranello?

Strategy and reliability have plagued the team since their early 2022 title sniff. For every outfit, these issues are glaring. For Ferrari, they’re make or break. In the correct machinery, Leclerc is viewed by many motorsport minds as talented enough to challenge Max Verstappen. He’s yet to get that machinery.

Since Leclerc’s last race win, at Austria in mid-2022, it’s not uncontroversial to suggest the Italian outfit has regressed, their mechanical or strategic shortcomings conspiring to prevent them realising their title dreams.

With both Leclerc and Sainz off contract at the end of this year, a case could be made this season is the most significant at Maranello in some time.

Why Ferrari needs a massive 2024

Yes, they may have been the only team not named Red Bull to win a race when Carlos Sainz crossed the line first in Singapore, but that doesn’t overshadow the fact the team aren’t where everyone expected them to be after their showing in the opening half of the 2022 season.

In this context of regression and failure to match potential, Ferrari enters 2024 in an interesting position. Both Sainz and Leclerc are off contract at the end of the year, with reports suggesting the team is prioritising negotiations with their Monégasque star.

While securing new deals for the drivers is of paramount importance, the lack of race seats at teams equal to or better than Ferrari means neither of the two have any plausible moves to make.

Yes, Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat might need filling come seasons end but that job likely goes to Daniel Ricciardo. Aston Martin’s driver duo, Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, also come off contract at the end of 2024. Alonso’s spot is the only one up for grabs, and even that seems unlikely at this stage.

For Ferrari, 2024’s importance cannot be understated. The team must rescue their pride and reputation, with have taken significant hits in the last 18 months, and prove not only to themselves, but the rest of the paddock that they remain one of F1’s leading teams, and a title challenger at their peak.

The team must also prove they are capable of producing a car that is first and foremost capable of challenging at the top of the grid on raceday. Far too often in 2023, the car blitzed qualifying but was unable to transfer that pace into the race.

Machinery is half the battle of Formula 1. Nail your car and you’re positioning yourself strongly as a team. McLaren in the back half of 2023 showed what happens when you give two promising drivers improved machinery. Ferrari will need to follow their lead, and then some, in 2024.

Should the regression continue this year and the team continues sliding further from title-winning status, some long, hard looks in the mirror will need to be had.

It should be noted Ferrari finished third in last season’s constructors championship, not bad for a lean year. But, McLaren only came good halfway through the year, and Fernando Alonso finished equal on points with Leclerc in the drivers standings, with Stroll’s mediocre tally dragging Aston Martin down the standings.

In 2024, Red Bull will continue doing Red Bull things, Mercedes and Aston Martin will improve, and McLaren will maintain their end of season momentum for the entire calendar. In this climate, Ferrari needs drastic improvements.

There is no shame in being unable to leapfrog this iteration of Red Bull who, like Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, Schumacher’s Ferrari, and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull before them, appear dominantly insurmountable.

In Max Verstappen, the Austrian outfit boasts arguably the third-greatest driver of all time and a car that is the mechanical equivalent of a cheetah in a prairie. With this in mind, Ferrari not winning the title in any of the last few years isn’t a major blight. Sport has more losers than winners.

But, it’s the manner in which they’ve performed in the previous 18 months that should be majorly concerning for the whole team.

Ferrari went from being 200 points shy of the Austrian’s in the 2022 Constructors Championship, and Leclerc closer to beating Max to the title than anyone not named Lewis Hamilton, to regressing out of the title fight for good in 2023.

There performances have been especially damning when considering more often than not its been a failure of machinery and strategy that’s crushed their slim victory, and title, hopes before they could even form.

In parting with Mattia Binotto at the end of 2022, the Scuderia showed a ruthless desire to return to their best. By all reports, Frederic Vasseur is steadying the ship. Now, he needs to get it back on course for wins and championships.

Leclerc affirmed his loyalty to, and intentions with, the team in an interview The Guardian, stating he’s ‘the first one who wants to be in a title fight.’

‘I am even more motivated to change that, to bring Ferrari back to where it deserves to be, which is consistently on top. Once we get there I am sure it will be a very, very special moment.’

Leclerc Hero
Despite coming off contract at the end of 2024, Charles Leclerc has confirmed his commitment to Ferrari

It’s very clear Leclerc’s allegiances lie with the historic Italian outfit. Whether that’s the case for Sainz is unclear, with the team reportedly looking at replacing the Spaniard with Williams’ Alex Albon or young star, Oliver Bearman.

However, if this year goes the way of 2022 and 2023 and regression and uncompetitiveness become normality for Ferrari, one can only begin to question how that would impact both drivers, who view winning as important as breath.

This season is massive for the Scuderia proving their competitive competency. They may not win the title, or even fight for it, but if they can position themselves as even just half the team they were to begin the 2022 campaign, that’ll be a good year.

Not least to appease their drivers, but also the widespread, fervent fanbase. As Formula One’s most iconic and historic team there is a reverence and expectation that can be hard to tame. A team like Ferrari cannot afford one slack season, let alone two.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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