Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Ferrari accepts its “car concept” may have to change after another heavy defeat

2019 Spanish Grand Prix

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Ferrari will consider whether it has made a mistake with the concept behind its 2019 Formula 1 car after its latest defeat in the Spanish Grand Prix.

The team’s cars finished fourth and fifth at the Circuit de Catalunya, behind both Mercedes and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. They had fallen half a minute behind Mercedes before the Safety Car was deployed, which closed the field up.

Team principal Mattia Binotto praised the performance of his rivals, who have now finished first and second in all of the opening five races.

“Before [judging] e our performance I think compliments to Mercedes. They have been really very strong so far in the season so merit to them, they work very well and very hard so that’s not a surprise.

“But on our side I think we can work very hard and very well as well, the season is still, we will never give up, I think that’s our approach. So [there’s] much to learn from here.

“Certainly we are disappointed for the race, we are disappointed for the performance in the weekend. Our hope was to deliver more. I think we brought here some upgrades – aero, engine – and we were expecting somehow to be in the fight but it has not been the case.

“The upgrades work well. I think power-wise, straight-line speed we are good enough but certainly we have some weaknesses in the car that were highlighted this weekend. [It’s] up to us to try to understand, to work, to assess, to improve in the future. It can only make us stronger in the future, that’s the final story of this weekend.”

The SF90s were consistently the quickest cars in the speed trap. But Binotto said their comparatively poor cornering performance could not be solved by simply adding more downforce to the car, suggesting they may need to change the philosophy behind its design.

“We are losing a lot in each corner, not only in the last sector, I think each single corner we are slow, quite a lot of understeer. It’s not only downforce, it’s more than that, it’s something which we need really to analyses and understand.

“Any early conclusion today will be a wrong conclusion. it will take some days to really have a proper analysis and try to understand. It’s a matter of balance, a matter of downforce, it’s a matter of maybe even car concept. I think [while] we do not have the answer, I would like not to go through it.”

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49 comments on “Ferrari accepts its “car concept” may have to change after another heavy defeat”

  1. So, yet another year that was going to be when Ferrari grab the title down the drain.

    I really think they are spoilt for too much money and their belief that they deserve to win to really put in the concentrated effort to get there. At this cadence, McLaren or Renault are more likely to score a championship “soon” than the red team.


    1. @bascb

      To be honest.. Ferrari have eliminated Red Bull and Mclaren as competition in the hybrid era. The rules just won’t allow customers or not factory outfits to win. This is a championship between 2 teams, and so far Ferrari have failed miserably season after season, that it is kind of embarrassing. When Ferrari do get it right, like last season, then Vettel fails. Either ways, as a team they can’t fire on all cylinders like Mercedes does.

      If the 2021 rules get Red Bull and Mclaren back in the game, then I can only see Ferrari moving backwards. Realistically, Ferrari’s strong chance to win the title is between 2014 to 2020, where the only goal is beating Mercedes in one season out of seven. By the looks of it, they’e going to fail 6 seasons in a row. 2020 is their last chance. In 2021, they could be as low at 3rd or 4th fastest car on the grid.

      1. I am afraid I have to agree with you there @todfod.

        Mercedes have been able to hone their team to the level it is at now, and has the advantage of building upon that.

        Even with full factory support from Honda, it is highly unlikely that Red Bull and Honda have the chance to be a real challenge for that in the next 2 years, if ever (so far Honda hasn’t shown they have the formula working much better than Renault has, even if they are willing to poor boatloads of money into it currently). I can see McLaren building themselves up by sometime 2021 so that Ferrari fall back to where they were when I started watching – a team with an interesting heritage, a lot of “colour” and drivers that could pull out exciting drives at times for the odd podium or an outside chance of a win once a year.

      2. Slightly off topic, but your comment somehow confirms that RIC going to Renault made some sense.

  2. Expect a statement from Ferrari in Canada regarding a wrong direction in development and upgrades brought but that they will work hard to correct it.

    History repeats itself and it’s in line with the reaction speed of Ferrari lately when it takes 5 laps to take a decision…

  3. As a Ferrari fan, I would prefer they started focusing on 2021 asap! We must conceed Mercedes ruled/will rule this hybrid era

    1. They’ve been shifting their focus to next season or the next regulations era since 2011.

      1. Yep, agree @todfod, I think this time, with still two thirds of the season to go, it would be good if they just focussed on trying to get things to where they can win races on merit, at least then they have a solid basis for starting well next year.

        In the last quarter, when the championships are done, and it’s between them, Red Bull and Mercedes who wins the races, the race team can practice taking chances with perfectly executed races, while the technical group can focus on improving what they got rather than another wholesale change that then has unknown flaws.

  4. In-season test has come at a good time for Ferrari and Redbull. I think last year at Singapore, Mercedes made a very big step forward in how their car handles the slow corners. Last year W09 was the third best car in tight twisty Monaco and this year W10 looks like the favorite to win in Monaco after dominating Barcelona track’s third sector.
    So clearly Mercedes is doing something clever especially with their rear suspension as rumors suggest.

  5. Does Binotto still lead the technical departments at Ferrari? When he was announced at the TP back in Jan, the article mentioned:

    “With immediate effect, Mattia Binotto will take over as Scuderia Ferrari’s team principal. All technical areas will continue to report directly to Mattia.”

    Is this still the case? In my opinion and experience, there has to be a separation of management and technical responsibilities, or else both will suffer.

    The last two years it seemed a case of Vettel failing the cars, this year the car isn’t hounding Merc as much.

    1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      13th May 2019, 8:45

      > In my opinion and experience, there has to be a separation of management and technical responsibilities, or else both will suffer.

      @phylyp this is one of the many problems in Maranello. Along with a new upper management (let’s not forget that this deep crisis started with the death of Sergio Marchionne) and a new competitive driver to manage. And we’re not even mentioning the technical stuff. If we want to see the glass half-full, we can say that Ferrari is still competing for the second place despite all these changes (likewise, Red Bull is still competing for the second place as well despite their changes in terms of engine and drivers lineup).

    2. Funny enough, most people on here, believed that Binotto’s technical experience was what Ferrari needed to take the fight to the silver arrows. And others pointed out that, Toto is doing a fine job without having the technical background. Either way, Ferrari as a whole is lacking professionalism.

      1. @lums – A manager with a technical background is a definite asset, provided they can maintain objective distance from the tech stuff while managing (and using their tech experience to better talk to and understand the engineers). I’m just concerned that Binotto might be wearing two distinct responsibilities which are often in conflict with one another.

        1. My biggest issue is with this quote:

          I think we brought here some upgrades – aero, engine – and we were expecting somehow to be in the fight but it has not been the case.

          He thinks they brought some upgrades?!?

          I really hope that’s a mistranslation, or Ferrari are in worse shape than I thought.

          1. He thinks they were expecting etc. It’s a badly placed subclause within the dashes, probably sounded fine as speech but isn’t so good written.

  6. If only Ferrari believed in its concepts and not panicking under media pressure everytime there’s a disappointment.
    There obviously are some weak spots in the design compromising the handling in corners. Just concentrate on solving these problems. Like Mercedes and red bull solve the weak spots instead of panicking and changing your concept again. That certainly is a road to disaster.

    1. Sounds like exactly what Binotto said…..

  7. Certainly we are disappointed for the race, we are disappointed for the performance in the weekend. Our hope was to deliver more.

    I’m sorry, but I’m tired of listening to excuses from Ferrari. I think they can take the fight to Mercedes, but that doesn’t seem important … at least to themselves anyway. They are the most highly paid F1 team, yet they perform poorly for their level of expertise. Their strategy suggested their aim was for Sebastian to beat Charles! As soon as they fitted hard tyres to Charles car it was obvious they didn’t want to maximise their WCC points, instead they wanted “points” with Sebastian. So “No”, this race wasn’t a disappointment, it panned out perfectly.

    1. @drycrust, I saw the decision to put Leclerc onto the hard tyres differently, and actually as a fairly logical decision to make in the circumstances.

      If both Leclerc and Vettel copied Verstappen’s strategy, then ultimately both drivers were going to finish behind Verstappen and the outcome is predictable enough for Red Bull to easily counter it. By splitting the strategies and putting Leclerc onto a single stop strategy to give him track position over Verstappen, with Vettel then shadowing Verstappen on a two stop strategy, you force Red Bull to have to split their attention two ways.

      By at least trying to do something different to Verstappen, rather than just copying him, they were at least giving themselves a chance of beating Verstappen by enabling Leclerc to gain track position over Verstappen. Otherwise, how do you believe that they might have otherwise improved on their position?

      1. Very sorry, I had written a reply but for some reason it wouldn’t post.

  8. Ferrari’s problem is that “Stick to the family-italian made car” attitude. Don’t know if it comes from older espionage scandals but they are stuck on that and don’t see other possibilities.

    With current design team Ferrari wont progress. They need a “Newey’s caliber” designer.

  9. Ferrari’s problem seems to be in multiple areas.

    1. The car is not as good as everyone thought and they don’t seem to be able to react to that all that well.

    2. They can’t make strategy decisions to save themselves and when they do eventually the call is way to late. Twice yesterday and in the previous race they’ve failed to make a call to let either driver though as soon as it became apparent that it was needed. By dithering around (not to protect Vettel as some think but just dithering and not making the decision) they throw any chances they may have had away.

    3. They panic. As soon as things aren’t working the way they want, they start making mass changes instead of methodically solving the issues.

    4. They just don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word teamwork.

    I suspect Binotto will get the boot pretty soon, and someone else will get thrown into the mess.

    2019 is gone for them. They simply aren’t in the same league as Mercedes or Reb Bull when it comes to working as a slick team unit.

  10. Aside from operational issues there has been previous talks about that front wing philosophy Sauber and Ferrari have adopted. It has been said that Sauber was struggling to improve and that it could be linked to that front wing. I wonder if it is actually the case with Ferrari too.

  11. :) It is very hard to blame Ferrari. They are 0.5s off pace, that is 0.5s away from best team in F1 history.

    I think that half a second will be very hard to come by. Ferrari might have a good engine now, where do they go from here? Was their front wing design and philosophy poor? Do they need more rake?

    Mercedes seems to still have a lot of airflow by the sides, they are very prone to running poorly in dirty air. This is where Ferrari fails I believe. They made the car in spirit of the current regulations, they did it well.

    Mercedes however did it better, the only trouble is Ferrari appeared as favorites from preseason testing and how they do their Fridays. Mercedes either have their car slow on friday, engines turned down, or some major step they bring to quali and race.

    Maybe they are able to fine tune their car overnight, running simulator laps, dialing in those tires to minute details etc.

    Also suspension, Red Bull have a trick multi-link setup in the front. What tech do Ferrari have? There is no telling what tricks they run to keep these excuses for tires in the window.

    I feel Ferrari just struggle on tires. Their car has power, has decent downforce, but how that downforce is delivered to the contact patch is less developed.

    1. Jureo
      Surely every team does this. With only 3 power units all season, no team is going to run their units at full power in free practice sessions. I also can’t help feeling this is just making excuses for the best funded team in F1 year after year.

      ” Mercedes either have their car slow on friday, engines turned down, or some major step they bring to quali and race.”

  12. @f1osaurus – You were saying?

    1. @hobo Before the upgrades ….

      1. @f1osaurus – Denial is a hell of a drug.

        1. @hobo Yes you seem rather high on it.

          Still, Ferrari keeps proving my point. Yet again they get beaten by a car that’s a few tenths slower than theirs. Driver errors (spinning, flat spotting and crashing), strategy blunders (wrong tyres) and dumb executions of team orders keep losing them places.

          The point is that Ferrari needs to be at least 5 tenths faster. In practice they were only a few tenths faster than Mercedes and now Red Bull and then they lose.

          Thank you for watching yet another race that proved my point. But of course you will deny it since indeed that does seem to be your drug.

          1. @f1osaurus – To be fair, I shouldn’t have opened this Pandora’s box, but you are just talking rubbish now.

            Ferrari has made mistakes, yes. But that is not why they are losing races. That is not why they are losing seconds here and seconds there. They didn’t lose 14 seconds in Baku, or 8 seconds in China, or a minute in Australia because of a bad decision or a spin.

            They chased a bad strategy in Australia because they were behind and wanted to try to catch others out. They sacrificed Leclerc in Baku because they had to try to use him to slow down the Mercedes for Vettel to catch up. And why did Vettel spin at Bahrain? Because Hamilton passed him and Vettel pushed too hard. Ferrari’s bad decisions have often been attempts to catch up to Merc because they couldn’t do it on track. Because they have always had a slower car.

            Leclerc was outstanding in Bahrain. Seriously amazing. But 1 pole and one good race performance (before reliability hit) does not make the Ferrari faster. Merc has 4 poles and 4 dominant races—along with picking up all the points when Ferrari fell on their faces in Bahrain—but somehow the reason for all that is some bad strategy calls and moments of poor driving? Come on.

            You’re not a fool for disagreeing with me or for having a different point of view. You’re being foolish by looking at the facts and making up others to fit your own narrative. Even the team now say they need to develop the car in a new way, and that isn’t enough? Before you relied on “…team principals say they know Ferrari is fastest…” but now this admission by the team itself isn’t enough to admit that the car wasn’t the best of the field.

            Best of luck in all your endeavors. I tried.

          2. @hobo Lol, you are such a hoot.

            Whatever excuses you want to make for it. Ferrari was beaten by a slower car. Again!

            Ferrari WAS the fastest car. Most clearly in Bahrain and also in other races. Like Baku.

            On the other hand, the last weekend was also a huge display of Ferrari underperforming again. Just look at how poorly they performed compared to Spain last year. While all the other teams have made massive gains, Ferrari is just a slow here as the were last year.

            So if they dropped the ball even more or other team s progresed by half a second more than Ferrari did. They are clearly so far down that they just can;t get anything right anymore.

            Thanks for trying though. Next time try some realism instead of you fantasies.

    2. @hobo, Though I would like to reiterate the same point. Ferrari clearly had the faster car compared to Red Bull, but …. they managed to finish both cars behind Verstappen.

      Or are you also claiming now that Red Bull has the better car than Ferrari? Red Bull finished ahead so they must have the better car right?

      1. @f1osaurus – I am saying the same thing I have for weeks now. Ferrari do not have a better or faster car than Mercedes. It is not an issue of underperforming, it is an issue of a worse car. It does not help that the drivers are having various issues as well but the fundamental issue is the car. I actually hate to see it because it means this year will likely be more boring, but those are the facts.

        I haven’t claimed that RBR are faster or better, you can try to move the goalposts to pin that argument on me but my comments speak for themselves. I have only ever been comparing Mercedes and Ferrari.

        However, the only reason RBR are not a constructors’ championship (2nd place) threat right now is because of Gasly. Ferrari need to get on the development horse if they plan to beat Verstappen. I’m not a Max fan, but he’s driving really well so far this year.

      2. f1osaurus – And, to be clear, it was not as if Mercedes was quicker just once and I made the unsubstantiated leap that their car was better. Merc have dominated every quali and race with the exception of Bahrain. And even in Bahrain, only Leclerc proved to be faster. Vettel and Hamilton were even on quali and Vettel got passed during the race.

        Ever heard, “the exception that proves the rule”? This is a textbook case.

      3. @hobo Well they clearly are no longer faster now no. Brilliant insight. They clearly did have the faster car before though. Not in all races, but overall they were faster.

        Still, Ferrari keep proving my point in that they again were under performing and losing to a team with a car that is slower than theirs. Not an exception mind you, as they did it before. Over and over and over

  13. Filandro Leone
    13th May 2019, 12:41

    Downforce is always important, but at the slowest point of the turn, the Ferrari gets to its worst, which means that suspension geometry and the rake of the car are fundamental design blockers. This is why ‘more downforce won’t work’ comments come from Mattia. Typically, straightline power would allow you to run more cheap downforce – the kind no brains are needed to deliver (more ‘wing’ so to speak). Add downforce at cost of straight speed, but there is no gain in the turns for Ferrari in this typical scenario. When that happens (boost no-brain downforce but get no time improvement in turns) you are left feeling helpless, as are Ferrari. When that happens, you are at a wall. That wall is pure mechanical grip delivered by tires and suspension geometry (suspension geometry that lacks adjustment ranges and geometry to work tires so that you achieve gains in X corner at loss in Y corner for a net gain with the ‘balance’. Ferrari cannot do that. Merc and RBR left Spain in winter, analyzed data, changed set up in suspension and added some aero tweaks and came back stronger. Ferrari cannot adjust suspension or overall chassis balance to make the same step.

  14. Neil (@neilosjames)
    13th May 2019, 12:53

    Wonder where we’d be if the Mercedes team and drivers were running the Ferrari car, and the Ferrari team and drivers were running the Mercedes car.

    I suspect the gap wouldn’t be 94 points.

  15. Melchior (@)
    13th May 2019, 13:25

    Personally i think that Mercedes were sandbagging all through pre season testing and what with Toto continually banging on about them being underdogs to Ferrari,Ferrari swallowed the line hook line and sinker.
    Also,I have always believed that there should a bit of a moratorium to rule changes from one year to the next which would possibly help teams catch the pace setters.
    Added bonus there being that teams with smaller budgets might possibly become more competitive as well.

    1. Jenson Button said that when Brawn turned up to pre season testing and realised their pace, they immediately started to sandbag too, I think its par for the course that they are all trying to obscure their true pace

      1. Brawn is a rare case where a team might have been actually sandbagging. What happened with testing this year was an extra helping of media hype: the only people who learn anything from testing are the teams, so the people pretending that testing times tell us anything were simply making it up.

    2. @Melchior

      Personally i think that Mercedes were sandbagging all through pre season testing…

      This is what Mercedes have done at least since the hybrid era started. They show up to preseason testing, they put on the middle tire/tyre (soft) and they put in more mileage than anyone else. They are almost never after fast laps and rarely use different tires. That isn’t sandbagging. That is testing. You control as many variables as possible so that you know what the effect of Wing B is vs Wing A, etc. They do this every year.

      The fact that nearly everyone seemed to think Ferrari had found some edge on Mercedes because they had faster lap times in testing was not Mercedes fault.

      1. Hobo
        Well said. It amazes me how many people fall into the conspiracy mode where Mercedes are concerned. Why can’t we just accept ( painful as it must be for a Ferrari fan) this is a well oiled out fit addicted to winning and is working at the peak of its abilities with all the tools at its disposal. It is for others, especially Ferrari to raise their game. After all what are they in F1 for if not a quest for perfection. Right now Mercedes have it, once Red Bull had, and before that Ferrari.

    3. @melchior Yes and in Bahrain, Mercedes were also sandbagging during the race. That was just masterful. Mercedes knew Ferrari would throw the race anyway, so they could just hang back and get the 1-2 in the end.

      1. F1oSaurus
        That was brutally honest and funny.

  16. While I acknowledge this was a very difficult and disappointing race for Ferrari, I also see some signs of hope.

    If the problem is primarily with the front wing (something several of you are suggesting, and has merit), that is something that can be improved relatively easily. Further, redesigning the front wing to operate better tends also to help with answering how the parts further back can help.

    Force India was in a similar situation in 2009. They started the season fairly well adrift of anyone else, and despite having what turned out to be the correct approach to the “when is a hole not a hole” floor that was the other deciding factor of 2009 for non-KERS teams in Bahrain (3rd round), their situation didn’t improve… …until they returned to Europe, to the 5th race of the season, 6 weeks after the first race of the season, with a substantially improved front wing. It took a couple of iterations to get the rest of the car in tune with it (because Force India had the worst facilities on the grid, a problem Ferrari didn’t face then, let alone now), but between Spain and Valencia (the 5th and 11th races of the season respectively), they improved relative to the polesitters by 0.7 seconds. Essentially, that front wing improvement led a fairly rapid change from backmarkers to midfield contenders, becoming the baseline for all the successes the team now known as Racing Point has had since. Note that I have chosen that time bracket on purpose to ignore the anomalous Spa race (otherwise the improvement to the polesitters would have been 1.3 seconds and would explain the difference between last and pole…)

    Don’t expect a sudden turnaround in Canada (I’m ignoring Monaco because that race is so anomalous that a Ferrari getting to the first corner first possibly could win the race without any changes to the design). But we are on race 5 of the season. If we assume it takes 6 weeks to bring the new concept through, and that Ferrari’s better facilities mean they need only 2 attempts (counting from next race onwards) rather than 3 to make the developments optimise the chassis, it’s plausible that the technical jump equivalent to Force India’s Spain-to-Valencia jump could be completed by Spa… …and we all know how much Ferrari engines like Monza.

    While the strategy calls in Spain were frustrating and more helpful to Verstappen than either Ferrari driver, I found them an improvement over previous races in that they were correct. They were just really slow. It’s easier to improve the speed a correct decision is made than to get people habitually making wrong calls to start making right ones. If this is not an anomaly, then Ferrari has done the difficult bit and will speed up strategy calls as the team (which is a relatively new combination) gels together. I would not be surprised if this is working properly by my predicted ETA of the technical element of the solution (just after the summer break).

    There are other signs that key parts of the team are new and not yet gelled together (those right rear tyre changes, for example) and again, time and practise will clear those.

    I would be extremely surprised if Ferrari becomes a 2019 constructor’s contender, and somewhat so if either driver makes it into the drivers’ title fight. This will be a difficult summer for anyone hoping for other than Mercedes domination. However, there are still successes worth having, wins to be taken and substantial progress to be made this year. It’s too early for Ferrari to throw everything into 2020. Nil desperandum.

    1. @alianora-la-canta

      If the problem is primarily with the front wing (something several of you are suggesting, and has merit), that is something that can be improved relatively easily. Further, redesigning the front wing to operate better tends also to help with answering how the parts further back can help.

      I think the problem is that it is not an easy change. Mercedes previously said that changing to a Ferrari aero philosophy would take months, so I think it would be fair to conclude the same would be true for Ferrari to switch to Mercedes-style aero.

      They’ve already lost about 25% of the season, they would then lose another couple of months changing over, and likely another race or two to fine tune, that’s easily half the season gone. Meanwhile, Mercedes would be developing all this time and advancing.

      I don’t know if it would be more beneficial to start developing for next year and testing on track, or to develop for next year and keep it hidden until next year. But whichever is more beneficial for 2020, Ferrari should start that now. This season is over as far as the titles are concerned.

    2. Alianora La Canta
      I don’t and it’s not because I am a Mercedes fan. Changing the front wing of these cars is not a design choice to be taken lightly as you suggest. The front wing is the 1st part of the car in contact with the air, and as such is the most critical part and guides the design of the rest of the aero of the car. I think we can assume 2 months at a minimum to get it right ( if it is wrong) and remember Red Bull & Mercedes are not going to stand still either.

  17. Binotto seems to be in line with the Secret Aerodynamicist: Ferrari have got the front wing concept fundamentally wrong in that it doesn’t provide downforce efficiently at the level where it needs to balance the larger rear wing. If they add turns on the front wing to balance the car, they get grip but lose aero efficiency; if they take down the rear wing, they lose overall grip. And it may be that going with an in-wash front wing design has tied their hands design wise such is the importance of the vortices generated at the front. They may need to start now on a “B” car with a different aero concept.

  18. Finaly some progress. Ferrari had the best car for the first for races in 2017, a first in the hybrid era, since then it’s been mercedes regardless of what journos want to believe.

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