Acknowledging Ferrari’s new engine still has a deficit to the Mercedes PU, Mattia Binotto feels it is “not so dramatic” anymore.
Ahead of next year’s engine freeze, Ferrari concluded their updates for the power unit last month.
Charles Leclerc debuted it at the Russian Grand Prix with Carlos Sainz given the upgrade in Turkey, and both Ferraris were fitted with it for the first time at the United States Grand Prix.
Ferrari outscored McLaren in two of those three races, only falling short in Russia where the late-race rain caught out Leclerc and kept the Monégasque driver from scoring any points.
At the US Grand Prix, each of the two Ferraris finished ahead of a McLaren, with Leclerc beating Daniel Ricciardo and Sainz ahead of Lando Norris.
With their deficit to McLaren down to 3.5 points with five races remaining, Binotto says Ferrari’s upgraded hybrid system is a “big step” forwards.
He told the official F1 website: “The power is always available with the straight line, so you get the benefit at the start of the straight line and as well at the end.
“I think the way we can quantify, if we look at this weekend we were running max downforce but we somehow matched the speed of others, or almost matched the speed of the others.
“If you consider last year, it’s a really big step forwards. We still know there is a gap to the best engine today but we believe that gap is not so dramatic… ”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) October 25, 2021
The Italian team’s boss was delighted with Ferrari’s double points haul at the Circuit of The Americas, a track with characteristics that do not suit their car.
“On paper it [COTA] was not a circuit that was suiting obviously our car, so that’s why I am pleased with progress we have seen in the last races, certainly helped by the power unit in qualy and the race and that gives me confidence as well for the next races,” said Binotto.
“If you look generally-speaking this season, McLaren have been always very competitive in medium to high-speed corners and again it was the case in Austin,” he continued.
“But I think if I look at the overall performance at the weekend we were ahead of them.
“This was [evident] in qualy and Charles…finished 35 seconds ahead of Ricciardo.
“Generally speaking in the overall balance of the lap, we were clearly fastest this weekend.
“That is why I think it’s a shame with Carlos not having been ahead at the end of the race with Charles.”
Ferrari vs McLaren is back
It has felt like we have had to wait a long time for it, but the battle between F1's most tenured teams is finally back.