WHY FERRARI IS SURE IT CAN CATCH MERC
Ferrari bosses are now full of optimism after Canadian showing
Sebastian Vettel has hit out at Ferrari’s critics, insisting the team showed in Canada that it is closer than ever to unseating Mercedes in the F1 pecking order.
Vettel could have won the Canadian Grand Prix, having led the early stages after vaulting past both Mercedes off the start, but dropped back when the team opted to move him on to a two-stop strategy as opposed to Lewis Hamilton’s one-stop.
That call cost Vettel track position and the chance of victory, but the four-time world champion refused to criticise his team after the race and instead insisted the race proves how far the Scuderia has come in its quest to eat into Mercedes’ pace advantage.
Vettel told reporters in Montreal: “I hope you write exactly this tomorrow; that we are closer than ever [to Mercedes]. I think sometimes it’s a bit surreal. We are an Italian team. I think Ferrari stands for great passion and a lot of values in Italy and sometimes it seems like the Italian press is our biggest opponent.
“Perhaps you could write something nice, which would be a nice message for all the people in Maranello that are really working their arses off day in, day out to make the Ferrari a strong car.
“I’ve never had a doubt. I know this car is a big step up and I think we had a mixed-up start to the season which was difficult because we were never really in the position to show what the car can deliver. Especially because Saturdays [qualifying] here and there weren’t great, so I think this weekend was actually normal as we had a good Saturday and great pace today. Just look at the opening laps, I was pulling away and the car has felt great all weekend.
“I’m really happy with the progress this team is making. I just ask you to be patient, a bit more patient. This team is on a great path, things are improving and I think we’re seeing results quicker than anyone else so far in the history of F1. We are on the right track, it’s a great team and we’re enjoying this a lot.”
Vettel flatly refused to point the finger at the pit wall for the loss of a shot at victory in Canada, adding that he stood by the strategy call.
During the race, teams experienced less tyre degradation than expected, opening the door for alternate strategies. With Vettel leading, Ferrari opted to pit him and swap from ultra soft to super soft tyres when the race was neutralised after Jenson Button’s Mclaren failed. It consigned Vettel to a two-stop race as each car had to run the mandated soft compound in the race.
The chasing Hamilton changed directly to the soft at his stop, vaulting ahead of Vettel when he made his second stop.
Ferrari team head Maurizio Arrivabene accepted the strategy was wrong, saying: “We overestimated the degradation of the tyres, that’s why we called Sebastian in. We tried to take advantage of the virtual safety car period, which lasted way less than expected.
“It was the wrong decision. We don’t have to make the story bigger
than it is, today we made a mistake, but everybody makes mistakes. But today Sebastian showed that this car has muscles.”
Vettel added: “We committed early to the strategy and I think it was probably the right thing to do in terms of getting to the chequered flag the quickest way. But obviously we lost track position and didn’t expect the soft tyre to last as long.
“We maybe lost the race because the degradation wasn’t as high as expected. But I’m not a big fan of blaming anyone and I think overall this has just been a really good weekend for Ferrari. Strategy-wise I think we are a very strong team. The guys are usually on the money, very strong, reacting well and if here and there we don’t do the optimum then that’s part of the job.
“I enjoyed the race a lot. The last 30 laps I was just flat-out, and that’s how racing should be.”
Arrivabene also said he was glad to see the team has battled past the mysterious tyre problems that plagued its performance in qualifying at both Spain and Monaco. “The team reacted very well and we start to understand clearly how to find the right balance with the car,” Arrivabene said. “The gap that we have from Mercedes is now short, but we need to work more to be able to win.”
Ferrari brought a raft of upgrades to Montreal in its efforts to close down Mercedes.
Development tokens were spent on a new turbocharger design and the SF16-H boasted a reworked aero kit with new front and rear wing changes and new brake ducts.
The package paid dividends, with Vettel qualifying just a tenth behind the two Silver Arrows.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said he was keeping an eye on how Ferrari was developing. “Ferrari was strong in both qualifying and the race, whereas Red Bull’s performance was better in qualifying,” said Wolff.
“If you see the long-term development slope of Ferrari they are getting better every race and they have had some bad luck at the beginning of the season, but this weekend again you could see that their car is capable of winning races.
“We are coming back to normality. We have been in the lucky situation for two years being the dominant team, now we are seeing the gaps between the top three or four teams is shrinking. That’s why we’re all here, for competition.”