Ferrari: No cause for alarm over Red Bull’s impressive F1 test pace

Red Bull emerged from F1’s pre-season test at Sakhir widely regarded as the team to beat, with the RB19 appearing to be very reliable and quick on both short and long runs. 

But while the pace of the Red Bull appeared to be bad news for Ferrari, which is targeting a fight for world championship glory this year, Vasseur seems far from alarmed about what he has seen in running so far. 

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He is adamant that Ferrari’s focus on the test was not on chasing headline times, as it instead concentrated much of its time on set-up evaluation. 

Furthermore, Vasseur believes testing times can be especially deceptive in Bahrain as the later running of the race weekend compared to testing makes the competitive order likely very different when competition gets underway. 

“Overall, I think that we can be happy with the test that we did,” Vasseur told selected media, including Autosport, about his summary of the test. 

“I think overall the car looks okay performance wise, but we don’t know about the level of fuel of the others. 

“The most important was to scan every kind of setting on the car, because you know that the feature of today [at the test] is completely different to the picture of next week.  

“I don’t remember who did the fastest lap time last year in Bahrain, but he was not on pole position for the race. And that was the same two years ago.” 

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Asked if the Red Bull pace had worried Ferrari, Vasseur said: “What is true is that on one lap pace, you are not able to judge because you don’t know if they are running with 20/30/50 kilos, and they don’t know if we are at 20/30/50kg. It means that it’s very difficult to do any kind of comparison.  

“The only thing that you can judge is when you are doing a race simulation. Because you know that, if you don’t stop the car and you do 55 laps, it means that you started with 110kg. It’s the only one [where you know]. 

“On our side we did different attempts, with different levels of fuel. Some solutions were working, some other a bit less. We have to get the best from this and to do a proper analysis.  

“But again, the race next week, even between the start of the race and the end of the race, it will be a different story.  

“Bahrain, at the end of the race, the track [temperature] is very, very low in terms of track and the picture will be completely different to this one [at the test].” 

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While some of Ferrari’s race run attempts did not look competitive, Vasseur has said that there were times the squad tried different setups that clearly were not correct. 

He remains steadfast in his belief that Ferrari did what it wanted from the test, and that any obsession over what Red Bull was doing would only serve to damage its own chances. 

“It was not the mindset of the test,” he said. “If you start the test just to have a look on the level of performance of the team, you are dead, because then you will react and function based on the timesheet. 

“The most important is to tick the boxes that you have to tick, and honestly, on this, we did a good job. 

“You have only three days to scan all the options for the settings of the car and items of development. And when we are putting everything together, the best looks okay.” 

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Driver reaction 

As well as Ferrari’s lap times appearing to be slightly adrift of Red Bull, its drivers did not offer too much high praise about the new SF-23.

Charles Leclerc reckoned that efforts to improve aerodynamic efficiency had paid off in improving straightline speed, but sensed there had been consequences with the car not being so strong in the corners. 

While that outwardly appeared to suggest progress had not been as great as hoped, Vasseur said that it was important to understand the mentality of drivers who always want more. 

“If they were happy, it could be a professional mistake,” he explained. “The DNA of my business is always to try to get more and do more.  

“If they are completely happy with the balance, except in quali when you have a classification, it means that in testing they are not pushing enough.  

“For sure they are demanding more, they are demanding more grip overall. But this is the mindset of the business.  

“At the end and what we covered, we went through a very large spectrum of items. And when, at the end of the three days, when you’re putting everything together, I see that the performance is there.  

“But again, you don’t know about the others; about the engine mode, about the fuel level and so on. It’s quite difficult to have a clear picture.” 

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