Ralf Schumacher rules out Ferrari title challenge: ‘It will take too long’ to close the gap

Michelle Foster
Ferrari front wing slot gap separators. Bahrain February 2023

Ferrari front wing up close with the five slot gap separators. Bahrain February 2023

Ralf Schumacher fears even if Ferrari are able to close the gap to Red Bull this season, the reigning World Champion would have already checked out in the championship fight.

Red Bull’s title defence got off to the perfect start at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Max Verstappen leading home Sergio Perez in a 1-2, the reigning World Champion 12s up the road from his team-mate.

More telling, though, was that Perez in turn was 26s ahead of third-placed Fernando Alonso, the new Aston Martin signing beating Carlos Sainz to the final place on the podium.

Sainz came close to also losing fourth place to Lewis Hamilton, who despite Mercedes’ concerns about their W14, was two seconds further back. As for the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, he retired when his SF-23 shut down in a cry of “no, no, no”.

Even if he had finished the grand prix, the Monégasque driver concedes third would have been the best he could have hoped for with the Red Bulls a “second” a lap quicker on the night.

It has Schumacher predicting a second successive double is on the cards for Red Bull.

“I don’t think so,” the former F1 driver told Formel1’s YouTube channel when asked if Ferrari could challenge for the titles.

“I think it will take too long [to close the gap] and that Red Bull will time is already out of the picture unless, of course, there is technical bad luck.

“I would like it, but I fear that this will be a relatively boring season. It will revolve around two fighting team-mates.”

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The former F1 driver turned pundit also ruled out Aston Martin making a play for the titles.

Although Alonso was third at the Sakhir circuit with Christian Horner saying they are the “second strongest team”, Schumacher believes they still have a lot to learn and a lot of experience to gain before becoming potential title protagonists.

“I’m sure there will be races where they can’t get all the potential out of the tyres,” he said of Aston Martin. “We must not forget that it is still a relatively young team.

“In addition, even Alonso cannot do everything with that car. They have to compete against an experienced Red Bull.

“That team has grown due to the battle with Mercedes . That process is ahead for Aston Martin.

“What I noticed was that Alonso was very strong at the end of the race with less fuel. The potential is there.”

One race into this season and Ferrari already trail Red Bull by 31 points in the Constructors’ Championship.