Ferrari’s progress from the first race to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is being overlooked due to problems on the hard compound tire, according to team principal Fred Vasseur.
Red Bull set the pace once again in Jeddah but the circuit was expected to suit Ferrari’s car and appeared to do so in qualifying where Charles Leclerc was within 0.2s of pole position, albeit without Max Verstappen in the session. In the race, Leclerc recovered ground early on after a grid penalty but then both cars struggled on the hard compound, and Vasseur (pictured middle, above) says the final result of sixth and seventh doesn’t reflect the car’s potential.
“It’s an early stage to have a clear picture for the season, but so far I think the pace was decent (in qualifying) because we made a step forward and we opened the gap to Mercedes and Aston in qualifying,” Vasseur said. “With Charles we were at least three or four tenths faster than Aston and Mercedes.
“The first stint went pretty well also — Charles had a good comeback but he was on softs and nobody knows about the different compounds, but Carlos (Sainz) was showing decent pace in the first stint on the medium compared to the others and we lost the ground completely with the hard.
“That’s where we have to understand the main issue and if we have some improving to do, it’s clearly with the management of the different compounds over the weekend.”
Vasseur admits he finds it tough to understand why there is such a pace difference at certain times for Ferrari compared to Red Bull and its rivals, but not at others.
“I can’t imagine that the car is able to be quick on one lap with the C4 and be nowhere with the long stint,” he told SpeedCity Broadcasting. “Yeah (Red Bull) was much, much, much quicker than everybody with the hard. We have to understand exactly what’s happened because I can’t imagine that a car can perform on one lap and then have such a huge difference on the long stints.
“I think we are not far away in terms of potential, we are just not able to extract the best out of the car at some stages in the weekend.”