Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen could be spared the prospect of a Drivers’ Championship battle with their Ferrari counterparts this year amid internal concerns over the Italian outfit’s aerodynamic package, according to reports. Verstappen will be hoping to defend last year’s title with another stunning campaign for Red Bull after pipping Hamilton to the honours in dramatic fashion at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.
Meanwhile, the latter will become the sport’s most decorated champion by winning a record-breaking eighth title over the coming months if he manages to enact revenge over his Red Bull rival.
The two drivers have been widely tipped to battle it out for individual glory once again this year with Mercedes and Red Bull having been totally dominant over the course of last season.
However, there have also been plenty of suggestions that the Ferrari pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz may be able to run them close when the action gets back underway next month.
Ferrari enjoyed something of a resurgence last season after a dismal showing in 2020, claiming an impressive third-placed finish in the Constructors’ Championship after slipping down to sixth two years ago.
They have since been put forward as potential dark horses to shake up the order with the aid of the all-new regulations in place for the upcoming season.
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However, it seems as though Ferrari may struggle to trouble the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen this year after growing concerned over the expected performance of their aerodynamic package.
Italian expert Leo Turrini has warned that although Ferrari are happy with their power unit, there are questions over whether the quality of their chassis will prevent them from competing with Mercedes and Red Bull at the front of the grid.
“As far as I know, Ferrari are 100 per cent sure they were able to catch up with the leaders in terms of engine power, even despite the transition to biofuel,” wrote Turrini in his Quotidiano blog.
“But some veiled doubts remain about certain innovative solutions in the field of aerodynamics. You have to be careful with expectations.
“It should be understood that, if at the first race of the season Ferrari are half a second behind Red Bull and Mercedes, the dream of a title race is over.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto recently admitted that they are still expecting to trail Mercedes and Red Bull in terms of performance this season but underlined his desire to close the gap over the coming years.
“It’s hard to say now, because we all started from a blank sheet of paper and we are working blind,” said Binotto when quizzed on his hopes for the upcoming campaign back in December.
“Not knowing what the others are doing, we have to look at ourselves. In my opinion, the team is working well but we also know the others are very strong.
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“If they have managed to make cars that have been stellar on track, they are inevitably very strong teams. From our side, we are putting in the maximum effort.
“On 2022 we are putting the priority because we know there is still something to catch up on. I honestly don’t feel like we are up to the top yet.
“The facts have shown they [Mercedes and Red Bull] are very strong, but the hope is to count on the continued growth of a team I see as united.”