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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

Ferrari: Set-up, not car concept, behind F1 deficit to Red Bull

Ferrari is adamant its current Formula 1 car concept is good enough to take the fight to Red Bull, despite a disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

The Italian squad had hoped to be able to lead the challenge against Red Bull in F1’s season opener last weekend. 

But despite pushing its rival hard in qualifying, worse tyre degradation in the race left it well adrift before Charles Leclerc suffered an engine problem while running third.

PLUS: The critical Red Bull tyre tactic Ferrari couldn't copy in Bahrain GP

That left the door open for a hard-charging Fernando Alonso to swoop his Aston Martin past Carlos Sainz late on in the race and grab the final podium finish. 

With Mercedes, which finished just behind Sainz, already admitting it must change direction with its car philosophy if it is to get back to the front of F1, there is already some debate about whether or not Ferrari needs to consider the same thing. 

It has pursued an in-wash aero philosophy while the benefits of the downwash solution pioneered by Red Bull are clear to see – especially as Aston Martin’s copying of it has delivered such good results. 

When asked if Ferrari still had belief its concept could beat Red Bull, team principal Fred Vasseur said: “I'm completely convinced about this.  

“I never saw a car to match the pace of another one in quali and not to able to race. [So] then it's a matter of set-up and some choices on the car. It's not a matter of concept at all. So, we don't have to go into this direction.” 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Vasseur thinks Ferrari only needs to improve small details to get itself into a position to put Red Bull under pressure. 

“To summarise the situation, I would say on quali pace, we are there, we are matching Red Bull, at least in Bahrain. It was a positive point,” he said. 

“But now we have to be fully realistic. If we want to improve, we need to have a clear picture of the situation, and reliability is not at the level that we need.  

“If we want to win races, we need to have clean sheet on the weekend and not small details there and there.”

While Red Bull’s dominance in Bahrain has prompted suggestions the championship battle is all but over, Vasseur insists nothing is lost yet. 

“It's never good to start with a DNF, and I would have preferred to finish for sure, but I want to stay consistent in my position,” he said. 

“I told the team before the test in Bahrain two weeks ago that the championship won't be over in Bahrain, and it doesn't matter the result in any case. 

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“It was true for the winter test, and it's true for today. The team experienced a different situation in the past and the most important thing now is to be able to have a clear picture of the situation, see where we are failing and to do a proper analysis on this and to conduct a stronger response.” 

Engine investigation 

Ferrari has launched an investigation into what went wrong with the power unit in Leclerc’s car, after it shut down while he was running third. 

Vasseur said the problem had come out of the blue, as there had been no hint of an issue during winter dyno running nor pre-season testing. 

“We never expected to have something like this,” he said. “It is the first time that we had it. We didn't face the same issue at all during the 6000-7000km that we did with the engine in the last week with the three teams [Ferrari and its two customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas], and we didn't develop the same issue on the dyno.” 

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