Double Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi has suggested that Ferrari may well hold an edge over Mercedes and Red Bull at the beginning of the 2022 season.
Sweeping technical regulations have come into force this year, as a ground effect-led aerodynamic concept is embraced.
Furthermore, the tyres will be increased to 18 inches, and the engines are expected to developer 20 fewer horsepower less than they did in 2021.
Ferrari installed a new specification of engine into their car for the final eight rounds of the 2021 season, and it helped Carlos Sainz to two of his four podiums with the Scuderia during his impressive maiden campaign in red.
As such, while Mercedes and Red Bull were battling for supremacy out front, Fittipaldi reckons Ferrari spent more time than the leading two developing their 2022 machine, and therefore theorises that they may even be quicker than last season’s championship protagonists.
“They can be faster at the start,” he told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.
“A team like Ferrari has been working on the new season for much longer.
“You don’t know, there can be many surprises.”
The budget cap has been reduced by $5 million to $140 million for this year, but the Brazilian is of the opinion that richer teams such as Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have a perennial advantage over the rest of the pack despite equal spending.
“The bigger teams always have an advantage. But other teams can be closer this year. I think it will be more balanced,” he explained.
“In any case, I’m happy with the new rules. I mainly hope the cars can follow each other a lot better. Hopefully that will give us more fun races to watch.”
The 75-year-old is rubbing his hands at the prospect of what shocks and surprises the new regulations might toss up, and reiterates the importance of nailing the new car specification.
“I think the new regulations will cause a lot of surprises. Whoever tackles the new rules the best has a real advantage,” he added.
A “shakedown” in Barcelona precedes a pre-season test in Bahrain before the 2022 campaign gets underway at the Sakhir International Circuit, and the former McLaren driver opines that we will not get to see anyone’s true performance until the opening round of 2022.
“But you don’t know for sure until the first qualifying of the year because in the tests, you don’t know if they are driving full tanks and the track conditions also have a lot of influence,” he said.
Williams driver Alex Albon, who tested for Red Bull last season having lost his seat at the end of 2020, previously stated that the Milton Keynes outfit had taken their eye off 2022 in order to focus on Max Verstappen’s title success last campaign.
Advisor Dr Helmut Marko later refuted this, insisting that his team are “very well positioned” to go for glory again this year.