Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is not sure who has the quicker car between the Scuderia and Mercedes but is confident his team can outdevelop the defending champions.
Mercedes has started the 2019 season with three consecutive one-two finishes, with only fastest laps for Charles Leclerc in Bahrain and Pierre Gasly in China preventing the team taking maximum points. Ferrari looked strong in pre-season and locked out the front row in Bahrain but suffered reliability issues, and Binotto says the picture is still not clear who is quickest out of the two.
“I think it’s too early for us — we need to look at all the data and process our performance relative to them,” Binotto said. “I think that the competition is very tough, and there are races where you are maybe in front a few hundredths or tenths, and races where you are behind.
“More important is to keep up the development of the car, because it will be a very long race — 18 races to go. So how we compare to where we thought we’d be, I do not have the answer yet.”
Binotto believes the struggle Ferrari faced in Australia — where the team could only manage fourth and fifth, over a minute behind Mercedes — has overshadowed how close it has been to the defending champions during the rest of the season so far, with Sebastian Vettel finishing 13 seconds adrift of race winner Lewis Hamilton in China.
“I think it’s difficult to say if it’s up and down…. Australia has been certainly an exception in that respect, where the difference was very, very high and very big — even not explained maybe today. Otherwise I think between Barcelona, Bahrain, China, the difference was a few tenths — very little.
“That’s what you may expect with two cars that are very strong and very similar in some respects. So certainly we know the limits of our car, and these limits may be emphasized at some circuits compared to others. I think the key will be to develop the car such that we make it even stronger in the future.”