French Grand Prix – Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says he believes his team have closed the gap to Mercedes, with Charles Leclerc finishing right on the tail of Valtteri Bottas.
Despite Mercedes claiming another 1-2 finish on Sunday in France, Valtteri Bottas was under serious pressure from Charles Leclerc at the chequered flag. Having had a few seconds in hand over Leclerc, the Monegasque driver closed down the Finn very quickly in the closing laps, particularly after the short Virtual Safety Car period when a bollard was knocked over onto the track.
Having brought further updates to France, including a new floor, front and rear wings and brake duct venting, some of these updates were more positive than others. In particular, the new floor didn’t appear to be a success, with both drivers running the older spec floor after Friday practice.
Finishing less than a second behind Bottas is indication of Ferrari’s progress, believes Binotto: “The developments we have introduced since the Spanish GP have allowed us to close the gap and we have shown that we are on the right path. Some of these updates have proved to be very useful, others unfortunately less so, but we know that we have potential to improve significantly. At this point, we are confident, aware that there is still a lot to do, but that we have the ability to develop the car and to be competitive on all tracks.”
Ferrari were even behind Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix, a circuit with similar characteristics to Paul Ricard, adding weight to Binotto’s statement.
Finishing in P3 with Leclerc and P5 with Vettel after the German driver needed to recover from a poor qualifying session on Saturday, Binotto explained that overcoming Max Verstappen for P4 was a mountain too big to climb:
“It was rather a straightforward race, the end result being that Charles maintained his start position all the way to the end. Sebastian managed to shake off the McLarens as we had hoped and then ran a strong race, keeping a consistent pace, on a par with those ahead of him. When Verstappen pitted, we kept Seb out for a few more laps, given that the tyres were difficult to manage and were likely to suffer with significant degradation in the closing stages, as we saw on the Mercedes. Therefore every extra lap we stayed out would mean having fresher tyres towards the end and that could have been important in terms of giving us a chance to beat Max.
In terms of performance, we are not yet where we want to be. We knew this circuit would be tough for us and to finish with Charles right behind Bottas is encouraging.