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Vasseur: Ferrari has clawed back 50% of its 2023 Bahrain F1 deficit

Ferrari Formula 1 boss Fred Vasseur admits to mixed feelings after the Bahrain Grand Prix but says the team has clawed back 50% of last year’s deficit to Red Bull.

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Erik Junius

Carlos Sainz finished fourth in the 2023 season-opener, 48.0 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen, while this year the Spaniard was 25.1 seconds adrift of the Dutchman in third.

Vasseur points to that smaller gap as evidence of the team being in a better position than it was 12 months ago.

He also cited Charles Leclerc overcoming brake issues to claim fourth place behind his team-mate as a positive to be taken from the weekend.

“You can say, a bit of a mixed feeling after the race for sure,” said Vasseur when asked about Ferrari’s race by Autosport.

“The positive is that we were able to do the pole position yesterday with the fastest lap of the [Q2] session.

“And perhaps that we compensated 50% of the gap with Red Bull in the race, compared to one year ago, because then we were at 50-something seconds in the race.

 

“The negative is that it's not enough, and that we had again, too many issues during the weekend. We need to fix the issue on Charles's car with the brakes.

“But I think overall he did a very good job, and then from the pitwall also, because we were able to manage the situation to save P4 in these conditions.

“Honestly, during the first stint when I saw the situation, I was not very optimistic."

Expanding on the brake issues he said: "We had a huge delta of temperature between left and right, and it was pulling on the braking, and locking, and it was very difficult to fix it.

“And at one stage it came back when he was in the slipstream of someone. The brakes switched on, and the last part of the race was OK."

Last year the team suffered with tyres losing performance over race stints, and addressing that has been one of the main targets with the SF-24. While the situation has been improved, the pace delta to Red Bull remains a concern.

PLUS: The laps that underpinned Verstappen’s crushing Bahrain GP victory

"This is also a mixed feeling,” said Vasseur. “One year ago, I think in the race we were at eight/nine tenths, perhaps today we did 50% of the gap.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But again, we are not there to be at four tenths. But if you compare with last year, and the recovery that we had during the season, the fact that we are able to fight with them in the last part, I think we have a good opportunity.

“It's also a much better base to develop this year. I think the car is much easier for them to feel the car, from where we are weak and where we can improve. Last year it was much more difficult to have a good read on the car."

Vasseur admitted that while Ferrari had the second-fastest package in Bahrain, nothing can be taken for granted, with the likes of Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin leading the chase.

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"It's very difficult to understand, because at the end of the day, for sure we are perhaps P2 today as a team, but it's also very, very tight,” he said.

“The gap between P1 and P10 was reduced by 50% compared to last year, it means for that every single issue that you will have or if the set-up is not the right one, or if the car is suited more with one track, it will change completely the classification of the top 10.

“It means that we don't have to try to draw a conclusion today. It's far too early. I'm quite happy with the points that we scored today.

“I was expecting a bit more, but due to circumstances it's a good one. And let's be focused on next week, and start from scratch."

Asked if the team can catch Red Bull over the season, Vasseur insisted that a clearer picture will emerge in the coming weeks.

Podium: Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

Podium: Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

Photo by: Erik Junius

"First I'm not focused on Red Bull, I'm focused on myself and to try to get the best from what we have,” he said.

“It was not completely a clean sheet for us this weekend, we had too many small issues in quali yesterday, in the race today.

“And also we have to consider that Jeddah will be a completely different story, it's not the same layout, and it's not the same tarmac.

“And we will have a better picture on the global situation after Melbourne probably, I would say. Before Melbourne it will be difficult to have a clear picture of the championship.”

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