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F1 2022

Red Bull vs Ferrari: Which team have the fastest car after four races?

Red Bull and Ferrari have traded blows during the opening four rounds of the new F1 season, but who has been gifted with the fastest car of 2022: Charles Leclerc or Max Verstappen?

Leclerc Verstappen Imola
To news overview © XPB

After a back-and-forth start to the 2022 season that has seen four action-packed race weekends, fans are still asking themselves which team has built the faster car: Red Bull or Ferrari?

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have kicked off the campaign by wrestling for superiority, with neither able to secure back-to-back wins (yet).

For now, it is Ferrari and Leclerc who lead the way in the standings, with Red Bull still counting the cost of their early-season reliability problems.

But were it not for those retirements in Bahrain and Australia, it would be Verstappen and his team at the top of the pile.

How has the season unfolded so far?

The season started with Leclerc and Ferrari standing on the top step in Bahrain, with Red Bull's fate sealed by their reliability gremlins.

At the second round in Saudi Arabia, Red Bull reigned supreme by taking pole position (through Sergio Perez) before fighting back late in the race to claim victory (through Verstappen).

Australia told a different story, however, with Leclerc building a commanding lead on race day before Verstappen, heading for second, was again by car trouble and forced to retire.

The win in Melbourne suggested that Ferrari were beginning to steal a march over their rivals, but Red Bull's Imola upgrades saw them secure a near-perfect weekend, leaving the Scuderia's home soil with 58 points out of a possible 59.

			© XPB
	© XPB

Who has had the edge in terms of pace?

When it comes to the battle to see who is quickest, an average of each team's fastest lap time (both during qualifying and on race day) paints a basic picture.

In qualifying, Red Bull have made week-by-week gains on Ferrari, with their 0.178-second deficit in Bahrain having slowly built into a 0.441-second advantage by the time the teams arrived in Australia (albeit slightly skewed by Carlos Sainz's compromised session).

On race day, however, the pendulum has swung back and forth, with tyres, weather, strategy and Safety Cars all playing their part.

At round four - and for the first time this season - Red Bull ended the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a faster average lap time on race day than their rivals, a sign that their upgrades may have altered the course of the title fight.

Average fastest lap time of Red Bull car (gap to Ferrari)

Event Qualifying Race
Bahrain 1:30.801 (+0.178) 1:35.776 (+0.608)
Saudi Arabia 1:28.330 (-0.016) 1:31.907 (+0.135)
Australia 1:18.197 (-0.441) 1:21.380 (+1.120)
Emilia Romagna Rain 1:18.697 (-0.152)

Watson: You can't take the car in isolation

But there is more to how well a car runs on race day than simply the potential of the machine, says five-time race winner John Watson, speaking exclusively to RacingNews365.com.

During a season in which building data, growing an understanding of the car and acting upon that learning will have a huge impact, being in the right team may prove more crucial than being in the right car.

"You can't take the car in isolation. You've got to take the car, the team and everything that is around that," he said, when asked if he would rather drive the Red Bull or Ferrari after the opening four races.

"I suspect that the Ferrari, ultimately, is the more compliant or driver-friendly car than the Red Bull.

"The Red Bull is probably operating in a narrower window, but a very effective window, whereas the Ferrari maybe operates over a broader window that enables Leclerc and Sainz to be pretty effective in the car."

Binotto and Horner say: 2022 will twist to-and-fro

"It's so early in the championship, and there's going to be swings and roundabouts," said Christian Horner, speaking to members of the media, including RacingNews365.com.

The Red Bull boss may have seen his team prove dominant at Imola but, with F1 now heading for Miami, he is well aware that the balance could shift once again.

Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto agreed, and has remained calm since seeing Red Bull claim their comfortable win in front of the Tifosi.

"In Australia, we saw we had the best car. [At Imola] it is the opposite," he commented.

"It will be race-by-race, the balance may change a bit. But again, I think we have a good package overall."

Ferrari the car to beat right now, but Watson would rather be at Red Bull

In Watson's eyes, Ferrari head to Miami boasting the better car, but only by the barest of margins.

There are likely to be yet more upgrades spotted as the cars take to the track under the shadow of the Hard Rock Stadium and, with 19 races still to go, the debate over who has been gifted the best car of 2022 looks set to rage on for many months to come.

"For sure, right now, one would say the consensus is that the Ferrari is the marginally better car, based on what we've seen in the first four Grands Prix," said Watson.

"But in terms of what is going to be better over the long haul of 23 races, my view would be that Red Bull would maybe be the place to be.

"Over the duration of a season, taking both the car and the team [into account], my feeling is that we're still more likely to see a Red Bull World Champion than a Ferrari World Champion."

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Are Red Bull now favourites and has Hamilton hit a new low?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Red Bull triumphed, Ferrari hit trouble and Mercedes struggled.

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