F1: Ferrari puts reliability top of the to-do list
Reliability was not the top concern for new Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur before the start of the Formula One season but Sunday’s opening race in Bahrain sent it back up the list of priorities.
Charles Leclerc, who led a Ferrari one-two from pole at Sakhir last year, lost power and retired 17 laps from the end while Carlos Sainz finished fourth.
Ferrari had already changed the energy store on Leclerc’s car before the race, a blow with drivers having only two for the 23-race season without a grid penalty.
Until then both drivers had been more focused on whether their car could match the speed of the Red Bull, who suffered a double retirement last year but this time cruised to a one-two finish with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
“Overall I would say the picture is not the one expected before the race,” Vasseur told reporters.
“It’s the first time we had it (the problem) and we didn’t face the same issue at all during the 6,000-7,000km that we did with the engines in the last week with the three teams.
“We never had the same issue on the dyno throughout the winter,” he added.
“The most important now is to have a clear picture of the situation, where we are failing and do a proper analysis on this and to come back stronger as soon as possible.”
The Frenchman felt Ferrari was matching Red Bull in qualifying but needed to fix reliability and tyre degradation in the race.
Both Ferrari drivers suffered heavy tyre wear and while Leclerc was third before the failure, Sainz finished 48 seconds behind Verstappen.
Red Bull dominated on a soft/soft/hard tyre strategy while Ferrari had to go for soft/hard/hard.
“The fact they are able to do two soft and one hard (stints) when we have to do two hard one soft for sure is a game killer,” said Vasseur.
“We have to improve on this but I would say that the first issue for me is the reliability because we need to have zero issues.”
Vasseur was confident Ferrari was on the right track and could be a match for Red Bull, even if rivals Mercedes are already rethinking their car’s design given the gap they face.
“I never saw a car able to match the pace of another one in quali and to not be able to in the race,” said Vasseur. “Then it’s a matter of setup and some choices on the car. It’s not a matter of concept at all.”
Ferrari won two of the first three races last year before fading due to poor reliability, strategy blunders and driver mistakes.
Vasseur arrived from Swiss-based Sauber in January to replace the departed Mattia Binotto and has made some immediate changes, including a strategy shake-up.
The team sacrificed a potential pole on Saturday to give Leclerc a set of new soft tyres for the race and Sunday’s pitstops went without a hitch.