Formula 1: what Ferrari and McLaren must achieve in much needed summer break
Formula 1 teams have time to reset and refresh ahead of Belgian Grand Prix
Formula 1 is currently enjoying a well-needed summer break after the 13th round of the 2022 schedule concluded at the end of July.
There is no track action for a month as the teams and drivers take a necessary step away from the drama-fuelled circuits.
This season began with fans revelling in the return of Ferrari as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz achieved the Italian horses first one two finish since 2019.
With the pair then demoted to two and three as 2021 reigning Champion Max Verstappen came crashing into first, fans believed themselves to be set in for a year of alternation between the two 24-year-olds.
However, as the season progressed, it became clear Ferrari were much further behind than had previously been imagined and the idea of a competitive season between Red Bull and the most successful team in Formula 1 has been quickly crashing away.
Other teams, however, have flourished as the season progressed with Mercedes beginning to find their feet once more while Alpine recently pipped McLaren into fourth place in the constructor’s championship.
So what are teams allowed to do during their summer break and what should they be doing?
What are the summer-break rules?
So important is the summer break in F1 that it is written into the sporting regulations with penalties for teams who do not follow the rules.
For teams who do not have any races or official test to attend or prepare for until the end of the summer break, there is a mandatory team factory shutdown.
Work is heavily restricted so that only the basic functions are in operation. Article 21.8 of the FIA F1 regulations: “All competitors must observe a shutdown period of fourteen consecutive days during the months of July and/or August.”
While essential work such as servicing and maintenance is allowed, teams are not permitted to work on car design, development or parts production including planning or holding meetings.
What should F1 teams be doing this month?
Well, as soon as that 14-day period is completed, it’s clear Ferrari have the biggest workload facing them.
It is not completely apparent who is at fault for the continuous mess that pervades the Ferrari garage, but what is apparent is that something drastically has to change.
Leclerc and Sainz have made a few faults of their own and been subjected to other drivers’ faults on track, however the main issue that has affected their performance is the bizarre decisions their strategists have made, particularly regarding pit stops.
When meetings can resume for the Italian horses, Leclerc and Sainz must hope that the 14-day period has given their strategists and team a chance to reflect on how they are quite happily letting the championship slip away from their grip.
McLaren have a different issue on their hands. They had been hoping to be more competitive when it came to race wins yet they find themselves struggling in the midfield and, not only are they not at the top of that field, but Alpine are currently four points ahead of their closest rival in fourth.
Two years ago, McLaren ended the season in third. Now we see them grappling to stay afloat at the top of the middle order.
They are also experiencing a huge rift within their team as team principal Zak Brown is making it clearer he hopes to remove eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo in favour of F2 champion Oscar Piastri.
Reports have emerged that although Ricciardo will demand around £12million from McLaren if they are to cut his contract short a year earlier than what is currently in writing.
Fans of the Papaya team must hope that this summer break has not just given strategists and engineers a well-needed break if they are to come back all guns blazing for the remainder of the season, but it has also offered a necessary ‘cooling’ period for the growing tensions between driver and boss.
Ricciardo has been far from perfect this season and it’s hard to pin-point exactly why. However it is hard to forget that he gave McLaren their first race win since 2012 and their first 1-2 finish since 2010.
In a time when a complete break is not only necessary but literally required, for some teams this could not come at a worse time.
With the Belgian Grand Prix now only two weekends away, Ferrari and McLaren will find themselves with a mountain of questions to answer as they hope to rise up through the standings.