Behind the dominant factors Mercedes and Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and McLaren battled for the position of ‘best of the rest’. The two historic formations proved very evenly matched, until the Scuderia started a decisive final sprint and took off in third place. Thanks in part to an improved hybrid system of the power unit, Ferrari finished 47.5 points ahead of its rival from Woking.
Already during the season, the Maranello racing stable announced that it was fully focusing on 2022, when the new technical regulations come into effect. An ideal opportunity to close the gap with the top teams, or so it was thought in Italy. And despite the fierce battle with McLaren, Ferrari has stuck to that plan. “The answer is no”, confirms Ferrari’s sporting director Laurent Mekies when asked to what extent the development of the SF21 has continued for longer. “We made it clear very early on that we would shift the focus to 2022. At that point, early in the season, we hoped we could eventually compete for third place. However, we have chosen not to compromise with a view to 2022. So that’s the clearest answer I can give. We’ve had this question 25 times already. So absolutely not: the only development we made in the second half of the season was the hybrid system. And that’s something we’re going to use next year.”
Motor upgrade makes small difference
The improved hybrid component was introduced at the Russian Grand Prix. Although it is the achievements of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc improved somewhat, it was not a game changer, according to Mekies: “But the differences are so small. We’ve looked back on it many times and said, “Well, if we didn’t have that upgrade, we’d be X places further back.” Because the field was so close together, we felt that the effect was more significant. It helped a little bit, but it also helped us make better use of the car’s potential in some areas.”