It was another calamity for Ferrari at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, which means another round of verbal punishment for the Scuderia by Italian media.
Charles Leclerc, leading the race, was inexplicably called in for a set of Hards in Budapest after Max Verstappen had pitted for Mediums.
In truth, Verstappen was barely on Ferrari’s radar at the time, so there did not appear to be any need for them to respond to the Dutchman’s second stop of the race.
The Italian side will have to figure out whether the decision was a result of sheer panic by strategist Inaki Rueda, or whether he truly believed Verstappen was going to be a threat.
In the end though, Ferrari made sure the reigning champion was a threat by changing Leclerc’s strategy from one that might have won him the race, to one that saw him finish sixth.
Instead of extending Leclerc’s stint on Mediums – which were much younger than a lot of the other front-runners’ – they left him high and dry as he was passed by Verstappen and George Russell, before ending P6 behind Sergio Perez after making another stop for Softs.
Carlos Sainz was put on the more sensible strategy, but he was unable to pass George Russell, allowing Sir Lewis Hamilton to clear him on his way to a second-placed finish.
Verstappen had started the race down in 10th after engine troubles in qualifying, so his victory was labelled a “masterpiece” by Corriere dello Sport.
Conversely, Quotidiano Nazionale affirmed that Leclerc “deserves more” from his team right now having been comfortably leading in Budapest.
Writer for the publication, Fluvio Solms, gave a stinging review of Ferrari’s handling of a race that they seemingly had in the bag, and suggested that Verstappen has all but wrapped up the title.
“The wave of enthusiasm on which the entire Ferrari team was surfing, dreaming of an irresistible end of the season, has been completely shattered,” he wrote.
“It should never have happened at the Hungaroring, but it did. Right there, on the friendly circuit that requires a key quality of Ferrari – aerodynamic downforce.
“The Dutchman secured his second title with nine races to go.”
Verstappen leads Leclerc by 80 points in the Drivers’ Standings after 13 rounds of the season, leaving the Monegasque with a mountain to climb in the second part of the season.