The bar at Ferrari continues to float around at dubious levels as team principal Mattia Binotto concludes that his team have made progress in all areas despite an underwhelming opening weekend to their season in Bahrain.
After showing signs of improvements, compared to a dismal 2020, the reality is that Ferrari and their two drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had at Sakhir.
Apart from a brief moment of Q2 happiness when the Red cars topped the timing screens, they never had a sniff of the front ever again.
In Q3, when maximum firepower was released it took a gargantuan Leclerc effort to haul the SF21 into fourth place in qualifying, Sainz was a further six tenths down, which was probably more indicative of the pace.
In the race on Sunday, onboards with Leclerc clearly show the difference between the Ferrari and the Red Bull/Mercedes pace-setters. They are still far behind and their final takings on the night – 6th (Leclerc) a minute behind the winner and 8th (Sainz) a further seven seconds adrift – were meagre for the sport’s most successful team.
But a “relieved” Binotto saw the bright side of the race for his team, and told Spanish outlet AS: “The engine has improved and we are happy to reaffirm it, but progress has also been made in all the areas.
“The aerodynamics are better and we’ve done a good job of correlation as well. The whole package improved, I will not divide it by areas, in general everything is better.
“Yes, I am relieved, there is no doubt because we are in a more acceptable position and it is healthier for the team to work in the best conditions and to stay calm. We are positive from the progress we see.”
Clearly, the bar is not set very high at Maranello for the season ahead. As for the significant shortcomings of the SF21 which were apparent from day one during Bahrain testing last month, the team boss explained: “We don’t have all the details yet, we will analyze it, but I think we lose in all areas.
“We still lack with the engine, less than before, but we are still behind and I hope we get even closer next year with another new engine to be a reference. Although the differences are getting smaller and smaller and we are also working in the right direction and with the right tools.”
How that “direction” and those “tools” will be implemented and for how much longer is questionable, as Binotto went on to add: “We know that we will not work much on the development of this car, we are focused on 2022 and I imagine the same will happen with our competitors.
“But from the feedback, we will correct the limitations of the car by listening to our drivers, we will extract the real potential from the first three or four races.”
F1 heads to Ferrari’s backyard, to the legendary Imola circuit where there will be nowhere to hide for the Scuderia while mediocrity appears to be acceptable in this Binotto-era at Enzo’s once-mighty team. Misery at Imola, hallowed-ground, will be hard to swallow for Tifosi.
In a separate interview with the same publication, the team’s new driver, Sainz saw the positives too: “I see potential fin the car, especially in the race I felt very comfortable and if you look at the lap times, in the second and third stint and with clean air, I think I was one of the fastest.
“You have to be positive and keep learning, there will be time to go back on the attack because that has never been a problem for me. I have to know the car, how it behaves in races and so on in order to be more attack-minded,” explained Sainz, echoing his boss Binotto.