2019 has so far seen three own-goals for Ferrari, the Scuderia unable to make the most of its oh-so-promising SF90 – resulting in three-straight one-two results for its rival Mercedes.
…a situation that has skewed the formbook, with Williams the last team to take three one-two results to start a season in 1992, in altogether different circumstances. The FW14B an active, V10-powered monster.
And while the W10 is certainly a quick car, its strongest point has been its reliable performance, something that impressed 5-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton from its initial shakedown at Silverstone.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
5-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“To see how smooth today has gone - of course, there’s things we can continue to work on. But so many people worked tirelessly to pull this car together and to see it come to the test, just go out and get through our programme, what we need to, and get the filming done and all those things of things, it’s great.”
The Scuderia, though, has absolutely failed to exploit what could be a dominant car – on show in pre-season testing and again in Bahrain, where Charles Leclerc was in control up front…
… before a short circuit with an injection system control unit brought his race undone, dropping him from first to third.
China, though, saw the Prancing Horse a distant second to the downforce-strong Silver Arrows.
Sebastian Vettel simply unable to get close after team orders got him past Leclerc, a contentious move with the 4-time F1 World Champion unable to build a gap soon after.
“Happy to be on the podium,” said Vettel. “But tough, because we tried to stick with them, but we just couldn’t. They were too quick, right from the start.”
The Prancing Horse’s dramatic pace change across the first three races has been the talk of the F1 paddock, and beyond…
… with fuel mentioned, Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner stating Shell’s homologated-for-2019 brew smells like grapefruit juice – hinting its potency may have been boosted.
But, the roller coaster results are likely due to a wafer thin set-up window – one compounded by Ferrari’s lower-drag car and Pirelli’s narrow-gauge rubber, which is harder to get into the working range…
And an alleged need to protect its hybrid power systems with extra cooling, holding back vital performance…
… thought to be worth at least half a second on-track, making it essential for the squad to unlock if it’s to take on Mercedes.
In Mattia Binotto, Ferrari has a team principal and a technical director with an intimate knowledge of the turbo V6 power unit…
…one who can focus on creative solutions without the culture of fear that once characterised the Prancing Horse under its former leaders Maurizio Arrivabene and the late-Sergio Marchionne.
SOUNDBITE (English) MATTIA BINOTTO,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, FERRARI:
“Our team is very, very unique. I think it’s very well integrated and empowered. Each single individual, each single person knows exactly what he has to do. And I think if I look at the last three, four years, each single year we’ve done a step forward. And I fully trust them. We are on the right way.”
It’s a big challenge for the Scuderia as the European season approaches, one it must get on top of before Mercedes gets too far ahead.
… but with a 57-point gap, it may already be a bridge too far.