Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes Ferrari confirmed some of its recent performance gains during practice at the Russian Grand Prix despite not setting the fastest time.
Charles Leclerc was quickest in FP1 before ending up second behind Max Verstappen in FP2, although the Red Bull driver will take a five-place grid penalty in qualifying. After showing better pace than Mercedes over a single lap and in race simulations, Binotto says it is significant that Ferrari appears to remain competitive on a different type of circuit to Singapore.
“I don’t think we have been the fastest today, but certainly we were competitive and that was important for us,” Binotto said. “Yes, it is true we did a fantastic qualifying in Singapore with the new aero package, but I think it was important to confirm how good was the package coming here on a different type of track and different type of set-up.
“Today the car behaves well, we’ve been fast, we’ve been competitive as well on the high-fuel runs. Generally speaking, quite happy – at least for today.”
The regulations remain stable for 2020, which Binotto said bodes well for Ferrari next season, but he cautioned that it also highlight the importance of pushing the current car’s development as much as possible.
“Maybe this is where upgrades from next year have been transposed on the current car,” he said. “But I think whatever you’re doing on the current car, with the regulations being the same for next year, will be certainly of interest. And I think whatever you are building on this season in terms of overall understanding will be key for next year as well.
“So that’s why we’re still focusing, or putting effort on 2019, not only because we are seeking victories, but [because] we know that a good overall understanding of [the car] this season will [help with the] understanding of next season.”
Binotto said the upgrade introduced in Singapore should not be credited with the recent performance step, as it was simply the most recent development to consolidates the team’s broader work.
“Since Spain certainly, at first our performance was very poor on maximum downforce circuits and low-speed cornering,” he said. “We put in a lot of effort internally to try and understand what were the weakness of the car, the behavior of the tires, and set the direction for development.
“The direction for the development has been continuous development, I have to say, as it’s not only Singapore we brought new parts, we brought some earlier in other races, and what we have achieved in Singapore has been the sum of everything.
“It’s not only aero. Certainly with the aero we have addressed one of the weaknesses we had, but I think [what] has been coming through as well [is] a good understanding of the car, finding the right compromise on the balance and the set-up, and I think altogether it’s car understanding and set-up and aero that [moved the car] forward.”