Fred Vasseur says the qualifying pace shown by Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix proves his team has the raw performance to fight with Red Bull this season.
Charles Leclerc split the two Red Bulls and was just 0.1s off Max Verstappen’s time on the first run in Q3, but opted against a second attempt in order to save a set of tires for the race. That meant he started third and although he regained second place for the opening stint, Leclerc faded to a distant P3 before a power unit issue forced his retirement. Team principal Vasseur saw encouraging signs in terms of outright pace, however.
“For sure it’s a shame not to finish the first one but before we draw any conclusions, we need to understand exactly what happened,” Vasseur said. “Overall I would say that the picture is not the one expected before the race. To summarize the situation I would say on qualifying pace, we are there — we are matching Red Bull at the test in Bahrain, it was a positive point.
“But now that we have to be fully realistic, if we want to improve, we need to have a clear picture of the situation and unreliability is not a variable that we need. If we want to win races we need to have a clean sheet on the weekend and not small details there and there.”
Vasseur says there doesn’t need to be major changes to the Ferrari to be able to find a better race performance, insisting the fact that it could match Red Bull in qualifying should translate into long run pace with setup tweaks.
“Yeah, I’m completely convinced about this (car potential), to match the pace of Red Bull and to able to race, then it’s a matter of setup and some choices on the car, but it’s not a matter of concept at all. So we don’t have to go into this direction.”
Given the strong start Ferrari made in 2022 but then faded from title contention, Vasseur says he is reminding the team that the season isn’t defined by the opening race.
“It’s never good to start with a DNF and I would’ve preferred to finish for sure. But, I want to stay consistent in my position. I told the team before the test in Bahrain two weeks ago that the championship won’t be over in Bahrain. Doesn’t matter the result in any case. It was true for the winter test and it’s true for (the first race), that the team experienced a different situation in the past.
“The most important thing now is to be able to have a clear picture of the situation where we are failing and to do a proper analysis on this and to conduct a stronger response.”