‘We are not speaking half a second’ – Ferrari reveal tight margins with one standout in F1 2024

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz of Ferrari in a McLaren sandwich

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari in a McLaren sandwich

Racing for the podium positions behind Max Verstappen, Ferrari are ahead of McLaren in that tally but Fred Vasseur reckons it’s a battle separated by “half a tenth” on the track.

This year’s championship is shaping up for a ‘best of the rest’ tussle between Ferrari and McLaren to see who finishes second to Red Bull, with the ultimate prize being race wins.

Ferrari ‘think it’s a matter of a tenth or half a tenth’

Ferrari have already bagged one of those as Carlos Sainz capitalised on Verstappen’s brake failure to win the Australian Grand Prix in a Ferrari 1-2, the Scuderia team-mates joined by Lando Norris on the podium.

That was the story of the season in the opening four races with Ferrari beating McLaren but that changed in China where Norris was second, splitting the Red Bulls, while Charles Leclerc on the same one-stop strategy finished in fourth place.

It was the first Grand Prix this season that Ferrari did not feature on the podium.

Vasseur reckons that was just the beginning of the back-and-forth between his team and McLaren as they fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.

“I think it’s a matter of a tenth or half a tenth,” he said of the Ferrari/McLaren tussle.

“In Melbourne for example, after 60 laps we finished the race eight seconds in front. It’s more a matter of extracting the best of what we have.

“And honestly, we are speaking about development. First, as a team, we have to get the best of what we have, and we didn’t do the job [in China] on this. It’s not that the situation is changing massively from one weekend to the other one.

“It can be a bit track-related, tarmac-related. I think it was very difficult to understand the tarmac [in China], also due to the format because we did a stint with soft on Friday morning and then we went to the race with medium and we didn’t do the medium before, we did one lap in qualifying.

“It means that this kind of understanding of the situation, let’s say or approach of the situation can make a difference at the end because we are speaking about one-tenth, we are not speaking half a second.”

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The F1 2024 Drivers’ Championship standings without Max Verstappen

‘Perhaps Max Verstappen sometimes is a bit faster’

But in a season in which Ferrari and McLaren are fighting for the podium scraps, maybe even a Grand Prix win, reigning World Champion Verstappen has four wins in five races.

It has Vasseur declaring the Dutchman is “perhaps” a little ahead of the fight for second place.

“There is no normal weekend. It’s the beginning of the season, so we have the window that the whole is very, very tight,” he added.

“Perhaps Max sometimes is a bit faster. But we have a pack with six or seven cars in one-tenth. That means that for details you can move from hero to zero.

“And when you start from P9 the race is much more difficult because you have dirty air on the first laps, even if you are faster, but basically even if you are faster you struggle to overtake because if you don’t have the big gap, you damage the tyre for the first 10 laps and then you are dead.

“I think it’s really a matter of putting everything together. We didn’t have a clean weekend on our side, but we made collectively too many mistakes.

“And we know that in this group, if you don’t do the perfect job you won’t be in front.”

Red Bull lead the championship on 195 points, 44 ahead of Ferrari with McLaren a further 55 off the pace.

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