Bahrain Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel says that although the SF90 has taken a step forwards since Australia, the car is still not as good as it was in pre-season testing.
While the SF90 was the undisputed Champion of winter testing in Spain, the SF90 was a muted challenger on the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne two weeks ago. Neither car finished on the podium, leading the team to withdraw to their base in Maranello to figure out what went wrong.
Bahrain practice suggested that their efforts have been rewarded: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished first and second in both practice session on Friday. Their pace advantage was almost a second in FP1, coming down to around half a second on the Soft tyre runs during the FP2 qualifying simulations. With Mercedes forced to watch Ferrari take the headline positions, Vettel says the car has taken a clear step forward: “The car is not yet where it was in Barcelona. Certainly, it’s better today than in Australia.”
“It was a better day overall, but we still need to pick up the pace for tomorrow. I am not entirely happy. It has been quite a tricky day because the track was very slippery and it was difficult to always extract the best from the tyres. We were on a different strategy compared to other drivers and teams, that’s why for tomorrow we still need to improve. I think we have some more potential in the car that we have to unleash for qualifying”.
Much of the supposed found pace has been attributed to Ferrari turning back up their power units. Having been slow in the speed traps in Australia, the fearsome straight line speed of the 2018 Ferrari was apparent again through the Bahrain speed traps. Ferrari and their engine customers encountered numerous issues during the second week of pre-season testing, mostly centred around the exhaust and overheating, suggesting that they may have approached Australia with caution.
Team boss Mattia Binotto said that Friday was a day spent evaluating the changes they had made since Melbourne: “We concentrated mainly on the problems we had in Australia, running a programme aimed at checking if the measures we introduced had fixed them.”
“That’s why I think it’s difficult to compare our performance to our competitors today. I think we are in better shape than in Australia. However, I still think our rivals are very strong and that the performance levels in qualifying and the race will be very close.”