Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says fourth and fifth in the Australian Grand Prix does not reflect the potential of its 2019 car.
Sebastian Vettel qualified third but was beaten to the podium by Max Verstappen in Melbourne, while Charles Leclerc closed up on a struggling Vettel late on but was told to hold position. With Ferrari being tipped as favorites ahead of the opening race, Binotto admits his own team had been predicting it would be far more competitive than it was able to show.
“You are right, it’s not what we were expecting,” Binotto said. “I think winter testing was certainly different. Since Friday FP1, we never found the right balance on the car, and we struggled with the tires.
“We tried a different setup approach during the weekend, but I have to say that we never had the right balance — unhappy in qualifying yesterday, and then obviously after you are in parc ferme and that is what you’ve got. I think the performance of today is simply reflecting what we had yesterday in qualifying as well.
“Generally speaking, we didn’t find the right balance through the weekend, and we were lacking grip. Did we understand that yet? Probably not. That’s something we need to go back and analyze all the data and try to assess really what happened.”
While Binotto acknowledges a new venue compared to pre-season testing could have an impact on Ferrari’s competitiveness, he says the way the team struggled with the SF90’s handling suggests a wider problem than the Melbourne track layout.
“Conditions here are certainly different to Barcelona — it’s more bumpy and quite a lot windier as well, different temperature and weather conditions. So there are certainly external factors that may have influenced the performance of your car.
“But we didn’t find the right window or the right balance on the car. As I said, it’s not fully understood yet — something that we need to try and understand. One thing that we are certain of today and this weekend is that it is not the real potential of our car. We are pretty sure that the potential is certainly bigger, and we have not been able to exploit it through the weekend.”
After catching Vettel, Leclerc asked if he should stay behind his teammate and was told he should drop back, with Binotto explaining the team saw no benefit in allowing the positions to change.
“When Seb pitted and put on the medium tires, he didn’t start on the new tires with the grip that he was expecting, and he was attacked by Verstappen, we decided to hold his position on the track.
“We decided to bring the car home. He was managing the tires until the end, and I think 10 laps to the end, we decided not to take any risks and hold positions, and bring the cars home scoring points.”