Leclerc only seventh, Vettel out in Q2; Are Ferrari fifth-fastest team at start of F1 2020 season?
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 04/07/20 4:32pm
Ferrari’s fears heading in to the new Formula 1 season were laid bare in Austrian GP qualifying as Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel both suffered, finishing only seventh and 11th on a disappointing Saturday.
The Scuderia, F1’s most successful team and Mercedes’ main challengers in recent seasons, have been playing down expectations throughout the week-end as they await major upgrades on their car, which was not updated since a problematic pre-season testing back in February.
But even Vettel admitted he was “surprised” by the lack of Ferrari pace after failing to even make it to Q3 in the first qualifying of F1 2020.
It may be the first time the German, that will be leaving the team at the end of the season, has exited Q2 on pace alone throughout his Ferrari career.
And one or more driver from Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Racing Point out-qualified Leclerc in the lead Ferrari.
Leclerc, who had been audibly frustrated on team radio, was almost another slower than Austria pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas.
Why are Ferrari so slow?
While Mercedes and Red Bull have brought plenty of upgrades to the cars, Ferrari’s is the same one which struggled at Barcelona testing.
But why’s that?
Having centered on straight-line speed last season, Ferrari – following a controversial engine settlement with the FIA – opted for another approach for F1 2020 and debuted a much-changed car straight back at testing.
However, Ferrari felt they were well off the pace when compared with Mercedes and Red Bull in Barcelona.
With the coronavirus crisis resulting in F1 pushing back their radical rule changes for 2021 – meaning you will have few changes to the current cars for two seasons – Ferrari decided to alter their strategy again.
They confirmed prior to the Austrian GP they were focusing on a “significant change of direction” in development for their SF1000, although their upgrades defintely won’t be ready before the Hungarian GP, the third race of the summer season in two weeks’ time.
So that means their Barcelona spec is now their Austria spec.
And the two races in Spielberg will be very hard judging by their qualifying performance.
Ferrari struggle in Spielberg: What drivers said
Sebastian Vettel: “Of course it is a surprise, we thought we’d a little bit more in hand nonetheless it seems others were probably running a tiny bit more fuel or were more conservative in practice.
“I wasn’t so happy with the vehicle, more oversteer in entry than I would really like.
“But we will see, I think tomorrow is a different picture. It’s a long race, I think in race trim we are always better and we will try to make some good ground and score some good points.”
Charles Leclerc: “It’s not an easy qualifying for all of us. Unfortunately this is where we are at this time.
“We need to stay positive in these moments that are very difficult to find any positives. I do believe this is the way forward to work precisely and to attempt to get out of these hard times.
“Yes it’s difficult, but we need to work as a team and hopefully be as strong as possible tomorrow to try and cheer everyone up.”
More to follow…
The new Formula 1 season is underway Sky Sports F1 with the Austrian GP. Sunday’s race starts at 2.10pm. Find out more & subscribe.