Ferrari’s progress was made clear at the United States Grand Prix as it comfortably had a quicker car than McLaren, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.
Charles Leclerc started and finished fourth, ending up just 10 seconds behind the struggling Sergio Perez and close to half a minute clear of Daniel Ricciardo. While Ricciardo managed to hold off the second Ferrari in Carlos Sainz, it needed a robust defensive drive to do so, and Binotto says the relative competitiveness is extremely encouraging for his team as both drivers used a recently-upgraded power unit.
“If you look, generally speaking, this season McLaren has been always very competitive in medium- to high-speed corners, and again it was the case in Austin,” Binotto said. “If I look at the performance of the weekend we have been ahead of them, and Charles has been half a second average faster than Ricciardo, finishing 25 seconds ahead.
“So on the balance of the lap we have been clearly faster, that’s why it’s a shame Carlos wasn’t ahead of Ricciardo. On paper it was not a circuit which was suiting our car completely so that’s why I am pleased with the progress in the last races.
“Certainly the help of the power unit was seen in qualifying and the race and that gives me some confidence for the next races. Mexico, normally you are running maximum downforce, power unit track sensitivity is less important… Now the power unit is (better) — we know there is still a gap to Mercedes … so overall I look forward to the Mexican track compared to what has been in Austin.”
Putting the power unit upgrade into context, Binotto says the extra performance allows Ferrari to run more downforce without losing speed relative to its rivals.
“Obviously the power is always available all through the straight line, so you get to benefit from it at the start if the straight line and also the end.
“The way I can quantify it is if I look at this weekend we were running maximum downforce but were matching the speed of the others — or almost matching the speed of the others — which if I consider last year how bad the situation was, this is a big step forward. We know there is a gap to the best engine but we believe that gap today is not so dramatic let’s say.”