2019 was meant to be the year of the Ferrari.
After letting the titles slip through their hands in 2017, and again in 2018, a strong pre-season test meant it looked like this year was going to be different.
Unfortunately for the Maranello-based team, this hasn’t materialised as it had hoped on the eve of the new season.
SOUNDBITE: (English) MATTIA BINOTTO,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, FERRARI:
“Our target for the new season, I think first is, with Ferrari being Ferrari, I think that means a lot, we are here to compete, we are here to try to win, we have strong competitors, but I think we put our maximum efforts to achieve our goal.”
Regardless of four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel being joined by an extraordinarily talented young gun in Charles Leclerc, the results have not come care of reliability issues, bad strategy, or mistakes.
Head-to-head, Monégasque Leclerc is matching Vettel in qualifying, even taking two pole positions, his maiden in Bahrain - making him the second youngest ever behind Vettel…before another in Austria.
His inaugural win is yet to occur for the 21-year old after a short circuit in an injection system control unit stole the chance in Bahrain, while a hard charging Max Verstappen took it from him in Austria.
A mistake in Monaco and in Germany saw two DNFs added - and leaves him 24 points behind Vettel.
The results board does favour the German in race trim but doesn’t speak the entire story. Strategies have helped the four-time champion to finish higher in Australia, China, Azerbaijan, Spain and Hungary.
He’s also lost credibility at times, keeping Hamilton behind him after going off-track in Canada, the time penalty costing him the win, and a crash into Verstappen at high-speed track Silverstone.
The challenge for Ferrari will be to hold onto second in the constructors’ standings and third in the drivers’ from a hard charging Red Bull… with Mercedes now looking out of reach for either title.