Ferrari see “good news” in race pace despite Red Bull’s “game killer” strategy · RaceFans

Ferrari’s new team principal Frederic Vasseur saw reasons to be encouraged by their performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix compared to Red Bull, despite their rival’s emphatic win.

Red Bull scored a one-two in the season-opener, and race winner Max Verstappen finished 48 seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr who was the only Ferrari driver to finish.

Charles Leclerc retired on the 40th lap of 57 with a power unit problem. He was 24s behind Verstappen at the time.

Vasseur said he was encouraged by Leclerc’s pace in qualifying, where he lapped a tenth of a second off Verstappen in Q3 before deciding not to perform a final run, and by his showing in the opening stint of the race.

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
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“After the test I think every single team was a bit blind on the situation,” said Vasseur. “Everybody played a lot with the the level of fuel in the engine mode.

“But I think everybody including [the media] were expecting that Red Bull be a bit more far away in quali and we were there. To be able to match them the first 15 laps – I don’t know when we pitted, lap 14 or 15 – for me was good news.”

Leclerc was able to move up to second place at the start and hold it during his first stint on new soft tyres. But Red Bull were at a significant advantage due to their ability to run two stints on softs while Ferrari had to use the hard tyres for an extra stint.

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Vasseur called that a “game killer” advantage for Red Bull. “We have to improve on this,” he admitted.

“But I would say that the first issue for me is the reliability because we need to have a zero issue on the operation.”

Fernando Alonso’s pass on Sainz after Leclerc’s retirement meant Aston Martin ended the first race as the closest rivals to Red Bull. However Vasseur believes his team is likely to emerge as the true competition for the reigning champions.

“If you have a look on the first part of the race, I think we were closer to Red Bull than to Aston Martin. Again, it’s race one, and we don’t have to draw any conclusions.

“I think that Mercedes will wake up soon and we don’t know what could happen next week. Next week will be a different story in Jeddah, it means different Tarmac. Let’s see after Jeddah if we will have a better picture.”

However he stressed Ferrari’s priority must be making sure there is no repeat of Leclerc’s retirement.

“It’s never good to start with a DNF,” he said. “I would have preferred to finish like Red Bull, for sure. But now that I want to stay consistent in my position.

“I told the team before T01 Bahrain two weeks ago that the championship won’t be over in Bahrain, it doesn’t matter the results. In any case, it was true for the winter test, it was true for today that the team experienced the opposite situation in the past and the most important now is to be able to have a clear picture of the situation where we are failing and to do a proper analysis on this and to come back stronger as soon as possible.”

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Ferrari’s gap to Red Bull in the Bahrain Grand Prix

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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