The Slow Ferraris

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The Ferrari entries of Charles Leclerc (16) and Sebastian Vettel (5) are much slower than their Formula One rivals this year. (Ferrari Photo)
The Ferrari entries of Charles Leclerc (16) and Sebastian Vettel (5) are much slower than their Formula One rivals this year. (Ferrari Photo)

The Ferraris are slow. That has been apparent from preseason testing and through the first races of the F-1 season.

The fact that Charles Leclerc managed to wrestle the car to second place in Austria and third place in Britain was due to circumstances and his skill rather than the car.

“I think we saw in preseason testing that we’re not fast enough, but we were not expecting such a difficult situation,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, special rules have been introduced this year that limit the amount of development that the teams can do on their cars and engines. Those restrictions will make progress difficult for Ferrari.

“Certainly not having any full freedom will make it more difficult,” Binotto admitted. “But we can only understand how much we can close the gap when we have fully understood the reason why we’re so slow. We’re focusing on trying to understand the car and where we can progress soon.”

Ferrari is rushing to bring upgrades – those permitted by the rules – to the car.

“I think the updates we brought in Austria proved correlation, and at the moment, at least we have addressed that.” Binotto said. “But the deficit in terms of performance is still there. We are lacking speed on the straights, lacking speed in cornering. Overall, the car has to be improved in all the areas. It’s as simple as that.”

How long will it take for Ferrari to improve?

“It will take a long time,” Binotto said. “I think patience will be required. We need to improve all the areas, it’s not something that a simple trick will address it, or with a simple solution or package. It will take time. How long? I don’t have the answer yet.”

The team has restructured its technical department to render it more effective and assure a more holistic emphasis on performance development. It has also established a new performance development department headed up by Enrico Cardile. The other main areas are unchanged with Enrico Gualtieri in charge of the power unit, Laurent Mekies as sporting director and in charge of trackside activities, and Simone Resta continuing to lead the chassis engineering department.

Furthermore, Binotto is no longer team principal and technical director, as the latter duties are now handled by other people in the team.

The elephant in the room, of course, came during the offseason when the FIA clamped down on the engine rules, thus literally cutting the power to Ferrari and its customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo.