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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

Ferrari: We can take the fight to Red Bull in Bahrain GP

Ferrari Formula 1 team engineer Jock Clear is adamant the Maranello outfit can fight Red Bull in the Bahrain Grand Prix, having made gains on tyre management and engine power.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, leads Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, and Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Red Bull swept the front row at Sakhir with Max Verstappen on pole and his team-mate Sergio Perez alongside.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are behind in third and fourth, but rather than focusing on consolidating those positions and defending from Aston Martin and Mercedes that line up behind, Clear is adamant Ferrari is looking ahead.

Crucially Leclerc saved a set of new soft tyres for the start by sacrificing his final run in Q3, a decision made in the briefing before qualifying which the team stuck to.

Clear, whose official job title is driving coach for Leclerc, believes Ferrari is more competitive than many have assumed.

“We do believe that around here at the moment, Red Bull really have a bit of a margin from the rest of the pack,” said Clear. “I think had Charles run again yesterday, maybe he could have sniffed it. But I think we were comfortable with our decision. So we're maybe closer to them than people think.

“I think today we're quite happy to take the race to them, I don't think we're looking over our shoulder and just trying to stay in third place.

“We're going to be having a go at Perez, and if we can take on Perez in the first stint, then I think we can hound Max for the rest of the race. I think we can make a race of it.

“So where have they got an advantage on us? Well, they've got a tenth and a half in qualifying. That's all we know at the moment, but in the race, I think we can take the race to them.”

Top three Qualifiers Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Top three Qualifiers Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Tyre degradation was a Ferrari weakness last year, and the team has worked hard on addressing it, although Clear suggested it was exacerbated by the fact that Leclerc and Sainz had to push so hard to keep up with the improving Red Bull.

“We worked a lot last year on our tyre management,” he explained. “Certainly at the end of the year, I think we'd made some very good progress. We've worked again on that over the winter, and in the three days of testing last week.

“So hopefully we can manifest that today with actually challenging Red Bull over the race distance. We've seen yesterday that they've probably got a little bit of a margin on us on a qualifying lap.

“But I really believe this afternoon, when Charles gets a sniff for those Red Bulls, I think he and Carlos can take the fight to them.

“We're not going into today thinking Red Bull are uncatchable.

“I think a week ago some of the media was suggesting maybe that it's all over. I think as you've seen, we don't believe it is at the moment. We'd like to show that this afternoon.”

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Clear also said Ferrari has improved its straightline speed, which will be a vital tool in a fight with Red Bull.

“Early days, but we're comfortable with the development we had on our engine side, I think we've done a good job,” he said.

“That probably contributes some of it. We cleaned up the car from a drag point of view, because that looked like last year something that they [Red Bull] were on top of. So we've tried to eat into that as well.

“Obviously you never know exactly where people's straightline speed comes from, whether it comes from running more engine power, or running more drag, or less drag.

“We don't want to be going into races feeling that the car behind us has got 6kph advantage, as we saw sometimes last year. So definitely a step forward.”

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