Second race, first penalty: Leclerc will start with ten penalty positions on Sunday’s grid for mounting his third control unit on the Ferrari power unit, when only two are allowed throughout the season. He confirmed it this Wednesday Fred Vasseur in a digital meeting with the media before traveling to Saudi Arabia. “We had two problems. On Sunday morning, when starting it; and in the afternoon in the race. In both cases it was the switchboard, It hadn’t happened to us before. But unfortunately we will take a penalty in Jeddah”, said the French coach. The Monegasque weekend is complicated in a circuit that could allow them to aspire to pole position and a double podium, because the SF-23 on the straights does make a difference. Sainz is left alone in that fight against Red Bull, Mercedes and also Aston Martin.
Vasseur admits that Verstappen and Pérez’s car is one step ahead: “The pace was acceptable for me in qualifying, better than we expected. In the race it was different. In the first stint we separated the two Red Bulls, but it was worse in the second stint because they put the soft and we put the hard. We are not at the level of Red Bull and there is a deficit in terms of race pace”. He does not agree with that theory that says that the problem of the Ferrari is in the concept of the car: “I do not understand why we think that it is a concept problem. It’s a performance issue. We struggled a bit with the balance of the car throughout the weekend and we know there is room for improvement.” They will have evolutions in Jeddah.
The French engineer uses several times the concept of “manageability (in English, ‘drivability’)” as the main problem of the SF-23. It can be applied to the behavior of the car depending on the setup used at the Bahrain GP. “The car was difficult to drive in some conditions and we have to fix that, because it is a matter of confidence for the drivers. Lack of downforce? It’s another story. If you have top speed and you lack charge, you just have to change the spoiler. Sometimes you make strategic decisions based on qualifying or the race, but they are elections linked to a great prize”. It is understood that at Sakhir they went for a low-load wing which should work better on Jeddah Corniche or Melbourne.
For the rest, Vasseur takes the opportunity to remove iron to the stories that arise during the week no internet racing. There is no flight of engineers (the Frenchman David Sanchez, one of the chief designers, left) or Laurent Mekies, second mate, is unhappy: “I’ve known him for 25 years, I trust him and he will be one of the pillars of the company in the future.
In any case, there is room for self-criticism: “Bahrain did not go as well as we expected and we must react. Take out the maximum and fix the problems. We have our eyes open, we have to fix problems, we have to bring improvements and we have to correct the behavior of the car or the reliability. But I am not negative, we are working on it and I hope to see the first reaction in Jeddah.” and look at Red Bull, “you have to take a step forward to catch up with them”, but not so much the rest: “Aston Martin did very well, they were competitive although I don’t know how the race would have ended if Charles had finished it. They have come a long way in a year. It’s good to see it because you know that these kinds of steps forward can be made in a matter of months. But I don’t focus on them, nor on Mercedes. We focus on ourselves.”