Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari’s target ahead of the French Grand Prix was to significantly close the gap to Mercedes, and therefore rates its weekend as a failure.
Ferrari brought a number of updates to Paul Ricard, and there were also suggestions that in the course of its development the team had identified an aerodynamic error that has been costing it performance all season. While team principal Mattia Binotto dismissed such a suggestion on Friday, Vettel admitted the target had been to make clear progress compared to Mercedes – a target that it missed when Lewis Hamilton claimed another comfortable victory.
“I mean we know, it’s pretty straightforward that we are fast on the straights but not fast in the corners,” Vettel said after finishing fifth. “So depending on the track layout, some weekends are better for us, some are worse. But I think this weekend the big objective was to close the gap by a significant amount, which we didn’t do. In that regard we failed, but that doesn’t mean we are giving up.
“Everybody is fired up even more. We have to understand why some of the parts didn’t work, and hopefully by next week we have some answers to try something again, and may be the track layout in Austria can come a little bit our way as well.
“It depends on a lot of things, but I think one other factor here is that it was quite hot. The tires struggled, and we’ve seen not for the first time if we struggle with the tires over one lap or consecutive laps the more grip you have the more you look after your tires. Again, that’s favoring Mercedes rather than us.”
Vettel secured the fastest lap with the final lap of the race after a late stop for soft tires, but only edged Hamilton – on much older hard tires – by less than 0.03s. However, the German says there are multiple reasons why the margin was so close, and it does not signify a daunting Mercedes advantage.
“I mean I was surprised myself, as obviously we tried to go as fast as we can,” he said. “Before that, it looked fine because the fastest lap was like 33.5, but Lewis obviously put a very strong lap in the end so I can only assume that he was only cruising for most of the race before that. The tire degradation was quite low, especially on the hards. For that he was able to put a very strong lap in the very end.
“We had a small issue with the battery. So may be not 100% ideal, but I had a quick look and compared fastest laps and it was very close the whole lap. So, discouraging? No. Not more or less discouraging than the lack of speed that we’ve seen now for some races, so obviously it’s a huge challenge for us and we’re trying everything and throwing everything at it.
“Sometimes we move a step ahead; unfortunately this weekend some bits didn’t work. But overall I think the pressure is there and the ambition is there to keep improving. If it was easy, we would do it overnight and we would’ve done it already a lot of races ago. But it’s not easy. Obviously they’re very, very strong and currently showing the limits to all the other teams, so it’s up to us to come up with solutions and make our car faster so we can put more pressure on them.”