Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says he will not start thinking about any title aspirations until he has seen the first four or five races, despite a one-two in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc led home teammate Carlos Sainz after both Red Bull drivers retired from the season-opener, although Leclerc had looked set for victory and Sainz third before the late drama. Despite that, Binotto believes Red Bull’s ultimate performance level was hidden by its reliability issues and is not willing to base any title hopes on the first round alone.
“First I think the others are very very strong and proved to be strong in the qualification, it was really a matter of pace,” Binotto said. “I think [in the race] they could have been stronger, but maybe there are some reliability issues that are not perfect on their car from what we understand from the radio communications. But they would have been very fast otherwise.
“If you look at the stint of Max [Verstappen] on used tires, he was keeping up with the pace of Charles. We should not forget that they are the world champions and the favorites and what we must try to do is do our best.
“Jeddah this week could be a completely different picture and I think we need to wait, as I always said, four or five races before we can assess in full.”
Despite those words of caution, Binotto says he expects to see Ferrari get even stronger as it learns more about its new car, pointing to the development race as crucial to any hopes of success.
“It’s a good starting point, no doubt. The one-two was not what we were expecting or even what we were hoping for, but it’s what we got. I think as we said, Charles did a fantastic race and for Carlos it was a bit more of a difficult weekend for him.
“But overall we should not forget there has only been six days of testing, so three days per driver, and trying to understand and learn and adapt to the car, in that respect there is still much to learn.
“I’m pretty sure both drivers will have more opportunities after free practice, quali and the race to try to learn and understand the car we have got now because we have got plenty more data as well. I’m pretty sure at the next race we start to exploit more of the car and there is still potential in the car, certainly, and I think Carlos is a good example of there being more potential to extract.
“We need to develop the car, but when you have a good baseline and you are still developing you need to make sure somehow that whatever you are bringing to the car is bringing performance. That is even more important now that we have a budget cap, because we cannot get it wrong because we have fewer opportunities to develop the car and whatever we do we need to make sure is the proper and the right direction.”