The smart money suggests that it would be perilous for anyone to write Ferrari off in spite of the Italian team’s less than convincing opening Formula 1 test week at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“We focused on understanding our new car and how it behaves in all conditions,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto pointed out in conversation with Italian media on Friday.
“We ran our new SF1000 at the extremes of its aerodynamic and suspension set-up this week in an effort to better understand the correlation between the car on track and what our simulation equipment suggested back at Maranello.
“So we have not yet focused on performance — that was never in this week’s plan and we did not run anything close to an optimal set-up.”
As anticipated in the off-season, Ferrari will evaluate two configurations of SF1000 though the two test weeks, with an evolution due out in the second week, but Binotto warned, “Don’t expect a huge difference in what you see.”
“The changes are mostly under the skin. “While we have not yet worked to optimise performance, but both drivers reported that the SF1000 delivers improved aerodynamic loading and that the car is easier to set up to their particular driving styles. Sebastian and Charles are also comfortable with the car, so we are happy with the SF1000’s versatility so far.
“Looking at the others, while both Mercedes and Red Bull were are very fast, we doubt that either has yet concentrated on absolute performance — we’re sure that they have room for improvement too, so it is really difficult to understand our prospects for Australia.
“We should have a better idea by the last two test days testing next week, once we have optimised our car’s set-up and performance and carried out race simulations ahead of Melbourne.”
Moving on to Mercedes’ controversial Dual Axis Suspension, Binotto did not rule out Ferrari trying something similar this season: “This system is innovative, but we have had several less visible novelties on our car that were adopted by other teams too.
“The FIA has endorsed the device, yet it seems to be banned for 2021, but with 22 races this year, we need to understand how much performance it can bring and evaluate if it is worth putting onto our car.”
Binotto remained coy when quizzed if Ferrari can beat Mercedes this year: “I think it is too early to tell, but the Ferrari will already be different in Australia. “Mercedes and Red Bull have been very fast, but we will only be able to compare our performance relative to them next week, or in Australia.
“We have 22 grands prix to race in 2020 and while I am less optimistic than I was in 2019, maybe we were too positive last year and we have no idea how the season will start. “Remember, this is a very long campaign and we will fight hard, regardless of our pace at the first race.”
So, while there may have been some dismay at Ferrari’s pace, the team made no bones of the fact that it would not be chasing glory laps at all early on in the tests. Maranello now appears to have fulfilled its promises leaving the team, its rivals and most observers with no idea about the new SF1000’s real pace.
The second week of testing may yet provide a better clue, but as they say in the classics, do not hold your breath — the men in red seem to be playing a canny game and it may yet take a little time for its real potential to come to the fore… – Michele Lupini