Gene: Ferrari have ‘a very high mountain to climb’

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Red Bull's Sergio Perez leads on Lap 1 of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Results

Ferrari’s Marc Gene believes there is no reason why the team cannot pull back their deficit in both championships.

Ferrari brand ambassador and former long-term test driver Gene says optimism remains high within the Scuderia that the team can bounce back from their run of bad results after a double retirement for Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in Azerbaijan.

Sainz retired from fourth place on lap nine with a hydraulic issue on his F1-75, while Leclerc retired from the lead on lap 20 – his second such retirement in three races.

As a result, Leclerc has slipped to 34 points behind Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship, with Ferrari now 80 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’.

Gene revealed there is plenty of pain going on at Ferrari in the wake of another disappointment.

“Every time we’ve had a DNF with Charles, he’s been leading the race,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast.

“That is even more painful today [as] we did the right strategy call. But then you don’t see it in the result.

“So whenever we make a wrong strategy call, we are also leading. Every time we make a mistake, reliability or strategy, we lose 25 points and when we don’t make that mistake, [it’s] not always we win. So [it’s] very painful.”

The Spaniard believes Leclerc could have won the race had his engine held up, despite having made a questionably early stop for hard tyres during the Virtual Safety Car period for Sainz’s stoppage.

“Of course there are positives,” said Gene. “The main one is that was a very high-speed track where you would have thought maybe Red Bull were stronger, and I think Charles would have won the race.

“The hard tyres, they made it to the end with [Daniel] Ricciardo and [Pierre] Gasly – they did many laps. So we have the pace, that’s the main thing. You want to have the pace and then, from that, you have the reliability.

“But we were more aggressive than Red Bull. I’m sure it was the right strategy call, so that shows the team is not so influenced about such a difficult week we had after Monaco.

“But if you think about the championship, and you look now at the classification, it’s a very high mountain to climb. You can do it with a car as fast as ours. But today is something worrying because [it was] not only [us] – two other cars had other issues.”

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc leads the the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Given Red Bull and Verstappen turned around a large deficit after their early-season retirements in Bahrain and Australia, Gene believes there is no reason why Ferrari cannot emulate that accomplishment given the inherent speed of the F1-75.

“It’s incredible how Red Bull have got back so many points,” he said.

“We can do that the same way and with the car we have, for sure we can do that. Now we have to see [what] the reliability issue is. You know, if it’s a one-off thing or it’s something when you have an engine problem, sometimes you have to redesign and produce and it’s not something you do from one week to another.

“But the good thing is the car is fast on all types of tracks. We went from Monaco to Baku and we got pole and we were the quickest car in the race. So why not get back these 50 points?”

Given Ferrari started the season with metronomic reliability, Gene was asked whether any changes had been made on the power unit front that had triggered the recent incidents. While an engine freeze is in place as of March 1, the only updates that can be made to a power unit are those targeting reliability improvements. With Ferrari’s incidents occurring on the second power unit, Gene said there is no difference between the specifications.

“Nothing’s changed,” he said. “I remember after winter testing, I said even openly that reliability is one of the strong points of Ferrari. And we are talking about three months ago.

“So no, nothing has changed. Today, I can tell you, in the telemetry room, nobody was expecting that – it was really an unexpected failure.

“So now we are gonna analyse it, at least know where it’s coming from. It’s the second engine unit but it’s exactly the same spec as the first one. So it’s not that we brought any reliability updates –  the engine is exactly the same.”

Torquing Point: Are Ferrari harming their Charles Leclerc relationship?

Oliver Harden discusses another DNF for Charles Leclerc in Baku, that has cracked his short-term relationship with Ferrari.