Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari will eventually find a way of getting the most out of its 2019 car and will be a major threat to Mercedes once it does.
Ferrari looked strong throughout pre-season testing but then struggled in Australia, and was similarly unable to match Mercedes in China. Of the other two races, a front row lock-out in Bahrain failed to yield a victory as Charles Leclerc hit reliability issues, and Vettel started behind the two Mercedes drivers in Baku, keeping them honest but having to settle for third place.
“We need stronger pace, simple as that,” Vettel said. “We need to be faster. I’m convinced we’ve been, partly (in Baku), looking very strong but overall not strong enough. So, it seems that for us it’s more of a conscious effort to get the car in the right window, whereas maybe for them it seems to click a little bit easier.
“Especially a place like (Azerbaijan), you need the confidence in the car. I’m not yet there. I can feel that I’m not driving at my best because simply the car does not answer or does not respond the way I like. And then I think it’s unnatural.
“I think everybody’s been there. I think all drivers know that sort of feeling: when it’s not there, then your judgment is normally right, to not go (to the limit) because you end up losing the car. So I seem to be more sensitive at the first races than at the test. The test was really good but that’s a long time ago now. We need to look forward and improve the way we handle things — the way we work to just get faster.”
While Vettel says Ferrari needs to be faster, he insists the key is in extracting the mechanical grip from the tires rather than the car itself having any aerodynamic deficit to Mercedes.
“Absolutely, I think it was a step forward with our car, but I think more of a dominating factor is just the way we seem to be able to get on top of or into these tires. I think there’s a lot of performance in that. The struggle we had (in Baku) in those low-speed corners is less of an aero problem, more of a mechanical grip issue.
“So a lot of homework for us, obviously, in the last couple of weeks, but I’m sure that once we get everything together the car is strong, and then we will be much more in the fight. Obviously, averaging the first four races we were just not quick enough.”