Fred Vasseur is convinced that having taken the fight to Red Bull in qualifying, Ferrari’s problem in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix was the “set-up” and not a fundamental flaw with the car.
Although the Ferrari team-mates lined up third and fourth on the Sakhir grid, there was the potential for more to come from Charles Leclerc given Ferrari opted not to send him out for a second run to save a set of tyres.
That proved to be inspired, at least at the start of the grand prix, with the Monégasque driver surging ahead of Sergio Perez to run second.
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
But struggling for race-pace compared to the Red Bull RB19s, Leclerc soon found himself back in third place. That’s where he was when he retired, his SF-23 suffering a power unit problem.
His team-mate Carlos Sainz completed the grand prix but off the podium in fourth place as he lost out to the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.
It was a day in which Red Bull romped to the 1-2, the reigning World Champion’s race-pace far superior to the chasing pack including the Ferraris.
Vasseur isn’t overly concerned.
Asked if the SF-23 could be upgraded to take the fight to Red Bull in grands prix, he replied to media including PlanetF1.com: “I’m completely convinced about this.
“I never saw a car that was able to match the pace of another one in qualy and not be able to in the race. Then, it is a matter of set-up and some choices on the car.
“But this is not a matter of concept at all. I don’t think that we have to go in this direction.”
The new Ferrari driver does, however, admit there’s a lot of work still to be done with PU reliability on that list.
“We have to be fully realistic,” he added. “If we want to improve, we have to have a clear picture of the situation and the reliability is not at the level that we need.”
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The complete driver and teams’ standings after the Bahrain Grand Prix
As for Leclerc, the five-time grand prix winner was disappointed to not only begin his season with a DNF but also with the deficit to Red Bull in race trim.
“It’s not good enough,” he said. “We are far from Red Bull, so we need to push and understand what did they find during this break because they are on another planet on race pace.
“I mean, for now, we don’t know. We are fast in qualifying, but we are not fast in the race, and it’s not by a little. So I think Red Bull found something big somewhere, and we need to find that.
“It is very difficult to understand because obviously, the car from quali to race is not changing at all.
“But for some reason on one lap we are very close to them, and in the race we are a second away in some parts of the race. It’s crazy, the difference, so we need to look into it.”
And while he revealed Ferrari have made gains in straight-lines speed, he added “but we are lacking in corners now.”