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Ferrari: From 'rock bottom' to a title-contending 2022, the story behind a remarkable F1 turnaround

Ferrari are leading both championships ahead of their return home to Imola, and Mark Hughes explains the turnaround and how team has grown in adversity; Watch the Emilia Romagna GP live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend

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Ferrari ambassador Marc Gene gives his views on the challenges the Imola track will bring ahead of the Emilia-Romagna GP this Sunday.

Ferrari have gone from their worst season in four decades in 2020 to frontrunners in 2022. How? And can they keep up their championship momentum? Sky Sports F1 expert Mark Hughes provides his insight...

Ferrari have hit the ground running in 2022 in a way that hasn't been seen since 2018.

Back then, Sebastian Vettel won the opening two races amid very stiff competition from Mercedes. This time the competition is coming from Red Bull but the performance advantage looks, if anything, to be with Ferrari even more than was the case four years ago.

Back then, Mercedes - having got used to winning as a routine for the previous four years - always looked the stronger, more sure-footed team in their operations even on those days when their car wasn't quite as fast as the Ferrari.

Ferrari's start to the 2022 season vs others

First three rounds of 2020 First three rounds of 2021 First three rounds of 2022
Best qualifying 5th (Vettel, Hungarian GP) 4th (Leclerc, Emilia Romagna GP) 1st (Leclerc, Bahrain GP and Australian GP)
Best race 6th (Vettel, Hungarian GP) 4th (Leclerc, Emilia Romagna GP) 1st (Leclerc, Bahrain GP and Australian GP)
Combined points 27 42 104
Championship position 4th 4th 1st

This time around Ferrari appear to be built on more secure foundations. Operationally they have looked much slicker in the last season or so than during the Vettel era. They have a more settled, less schizophrenic ambience with Mattia Binotto providing a calmer leadership than Maurizio Arrivabene back then.

Ferrari have followed a very individualistic technical path with this car - which they had done also in 2017 and '18 - and have had the perfect preparation in that they did not need to worry about compromising the 2021 season in order to fully prepare for this year. The '21 car was not in any way a title contender and the emphasis since the beginning of 2020 has always been upon maximising the new regulations (originally set for '21, later postponed to '22).

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Naomi Schiff and Matt Baker discuss contrasting fortunes for Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen at the Australian Grand Prix.

Rock bottom was 2020, when Ferrari's previous interpretation of the fuel flow regulations was specifically outlawed, leaving the team with a serious power shortfall and a badly flawed car. It was almost as if being taken out of the competitive fight at the front allowed the team to regroup and plan for the future. The technical vision of both the aero and power unit groups was given a fuller chance to establish itself and some real breakthroughs were made, all of which are embodied in the F1-75 in which Charles Leclerc has won two of the opening three races.

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Image: Charles Leclerc is spearheading Ferrari's charge alongside Carlos Sainz

The power unit has been completely reconfigured from that used in the previous few years and has been based around a new understanding of rapid combustion under these regulations. Aerodynamically, the team has responded to the new regulations in a very distinctive way especially regarding the sidepod layout and geometry. It seems particularly well-suited to the new set of demands at just the time that the previously dominant Mercedes have encountered difficulties in this area.

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Charles Leclerc was surprised by Ferrari's dominance over the Red Bull at the Australian GP and wants to keep the momentum for the home race at Imola.

The F1-75 seemingly has a wider range of corner types on which it works than the rival Red Bull, and GPS analysis suggests its power unit is the best of all, something reflected in the relatively strong form of the Ferrari-engined customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas.

As such, Leclerc has made himself very much the championship favourite even so early in the season. Carlos Sainz struggled a little for pace in comparison in the first two races and then had his Melbourne weekend ruined by a series of technical glitches, so giving Leclerc the clear initiative in the points table.

The Leclerc-Binotto relationship is a more serene one than Vettel-Arrivabene which was quite troubled beneath the surface, with two diametrically opposed temperaments and philosophies.

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Sky F1's Karun Chandhok analyses how Carlos Sainz suffered a terrible race at the Australian Grand Prix.

All round, Ferrari just appear to be a more robust force than the last time they enjoyed a competitive car. With the tough times of the last two years having forced them to strip away and reassess, the team has grown in adversity and in the background their always super-strong facilities and collection of individual talents have been harnessed under a common cause.

There are sure to be many tough tests to come - of the team's unity, of the advances made elsewhere and of managing what is sure to be an element of internal competition between the two drivers. But those are nice challenges to have. The Scuderia arrive at Imola as heavy favourites for the first time since the Schumacher era.

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