Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

Vettel: Ferrari still need to “unlock” car’s true pace

2019 F1 season

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Ferrari’s car is “very strong” but the team hasn’t figured out how to “unlock” its potential yet, according to Sebastian Vettel.

The team’s performance has varied since the beginning of the season. The SF90 looked like the car to beat in pre-season testing but the team were soundly beaten by Mercedes in the season-opener. Ferrari were stronger in Bahrain, locking out the front row before hitting trouble in the race, but were not a match for Mercedes in China.

Vettel admitted he still wasn’t fully comfortable with the car in yesterday’s race.

“We have a very strong car, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I think we’re not able to yet put it in the window,” he said. “Especially for myself, here and there, I’m not entirely happy yet compared to where we started off.

“Obviously the three tracks we’ve been to now are quite different, the conditions we had are different. But I think we start to see a sort of pattern and understand what, especially throughout a grand prix distance, what we need, what I need, to really unlock this car.

“I think these couple of weeks and the next weeks will be very important for us to understand where we need to go in the next months. Clearly today we were not as fast as Mercedes. Bit of a shame we couldn’t get third and fourth but overall I think we optimised. There were stages in the race where we were strong, and stages of the race where we were weaker compared to where we wanted to be.”

Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari in China was not as great as it was in Australia, and Vettel said they had seen “nothing that shocks us” from their rivals.

“Obviously Mercedes had a good run with the first three races. I think in Australia we struggled with the conditions, and probably set-up. I think we learned our lessons for Bahrain, it was a lot better.

“Still, here and there, there are some parts of the race where we are too weak and I think it showed again this weekend.

“I think we can be very happy with where we are on the engine side. It seems to be strong. I think overall our car is working and there’s nothing wrong with it – but I think it’s just about placing it in the right window and then being able to extract the performance that the car has, which I think Charles was able to show in Bahrain more than myself.

“It seems to be there somewhere but at the moment seems to be a bit more difficult to find where it is, to be able to be a fair match to Mercedes at this point.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Vettel: Ferrari still need to “unlock” car’s true pace”

  1. For the sake of us viewers, I hope they do a better job of it this year than their mid-season development last year.

    1. When was the last time this midfield team did a good job of car development halfway through the season? I still remember in 2012 Indian GP Alonso had brought this entire team on their knees and begging not to go to press with details of lack of development to car. If anything this team needs to be stripped of special bonus and Veto powers to bring them on level field with other teams on grid.

    2. they just noticed that all the development work during the winter was taken into the wrong direction.

      Nah, I’m joking.

    3. Midfield? What year did you last actually watch F1? 2009?

      1. This was meant for @chaitanya.

  2. Looks like the tables have turned and now it is Ferrari who have a “diva” of a car. Mercedes had one as well in the past 2 years at least, the difference is they knew how to handle it better than Ferrari knows now. Maybe with time they will reach that level of understanding, but it might be too late to have a real shot at the championship.

    1. I was going to say this. The Ferrari fans were so quick to jump on that ‘diva’ comment and berate the Mercedes drivers too…

  3. That is the difference between Mercedes and Ferrari. They both deliver super fast diva car to the first race. Within 3 races Mercedes has that diva purring like a kitty. Meanwhile Ferrari have hopes of getting it under control in next few months.

  4. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
    15th April 2019, 8:54


  5. Looks like we gotta wait for them to unlock their hidden pace until the end of the season.

  6. Yeah – the potential is called Leclerc!

    1. Hakk the Rack
      15th April 2019, 12:46

      I love you. And I love the potential.

  7. Ferrari know what they have to do for the 2021 new F1 formula, hire Hamilton!

    1. What difference would that make?

      1. +1 , without a conducive work environment for engineers and a team principal(Todt/Brawn) shielding drivers from Italian Press and board Members(previously it was just President) even with Hamilton behind the wheel they wont win the title.

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        15th April 2019, 20:31

        Did you see the 2018 season? Hamilton making no mistakes and Vettel throwing away points in AZE, FRA, AUT, GER, ITA, JPN and USA. That cost Vettel a 113 points swing towards Hamilton!!!! Plus poor races like ESP, HUN, SIN and BRA where he should have really won in SIN.

        In AZE, AUT (after the merc double DNF), GER, ITA, USA and SIN Vettel did have the fastest car. Yet he still couldn’t win those races and/or beat Hamilton.

        Motorsport-total estimated that Vettel could have had a 142 point swing in his favour (less for Hamilton plus more for Vettel).

        So yes, if they had had Hamilton at Ferrari he would have easily picked up that 2018 title. Plus the 2017 title.

        1. @f1osaures But what others are saying is that if they had an environment like, for example Red Bull 2013, we would have Vettel ca. 2013 too; his mistakes do seem to be (partly) a symptom of the teams problem. Hamilton might rise above it, or end up like in 2012, great, but hampered to fight for the title.

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            16th April 2019, 17:08

            @bosyber Well in 2012 Hamilton was hampered by poor strategic calls, poor pitstops, technical DNF’s and Grossjean slamming into him. How is that even remotely the same as Vettel blundering in a third of the races?

            At best you could compare Hamilton 2012 with Red Bull now. They can go for the occasional win and that’s it.

            Vettel had the fastest car in 2018. According to Motorpsort-total’s analysis he could have won the WDC with a 54 advantage. As opposed to losing with 88 points behind.

            Vettel has just always been weak at racing other cars or dealing with pressure. Give him the fastest car, let him start from the front row, make sure no other car is able to oppose him during the race and then he’s brilliant. But then, what kind of mistakes would he even be able to make under those circumstances?

            When Vettel faces any sort of opposition in any way then it more often than not goes wrong. That was exactly the same in his Red Bull days when they didn’t have the domination on their side.

  8. Mercedes built an astonishing car, they keep telling us how bad it is
    Ferrari built an slightly worse car than what they had last year, they keep telling us its great and a step ahead

    1. My thoughts exactly. Vettel’s saying the car is strong, they just need to figure out a good setup and they’ll be good to go. Mercedes (should we say Toto?) keep trying to make us believe that their car is barely ahead of the midfield.

    2. @johnmilk – LOL, very nice observation about the irony within these two teams.

    3. Exactly this. Both of the teams are the exact opposite of each other when talking about their pace.

    4. they keep telling us how bad it is

      Expect they don’t? Even in this article Vettel is agreeing with every factual thing Toto has said (and been mocked for by the armchairs on here).

      1. jokes on you, my chair doesn’t have arms

        But really, they keep understating their abilities, “bad” might be an overstatement, but you got the picture

    5. Actually, the Mercedes is nowhere near as far out in front as it was in 2014-2016. Based on that standard, the W10 is indeed, a car requiring improvement.

      Truth is, either Ferrari had their car set up completely wrong in Melbourne, or they were artificially keeping the pace down for some reason. In Bahrain, they were definitely faster than the Mercedes, but were hampered by reliability of hardware and driver. In China, everyone expected Ferrari to be the faster car, but Mercedes did a better job of matching their car to the track.

      So far the cars seem to be roughly equal, with the distinguishing factor being the team.

      1. That’s a great way to put it; it is a bit of a reversal indeed of the start of last year, like @terro said above, now Ferrari seem to have a bit of a diva too,though @jureo has a good point which you make as well – Mercedes are (have become?) adept at working the setup in a way that Ferrari lost so far this year.

        Maybe Ferrari have to hope Kvyat loses his seat soon, and can get back into their simulator!

  9. Vettel: Ferrari still need to “unlock” car’s true pace
    Ferrari: Vettel still need to “unlock” car’s true pace

    1. yeah, you’re right. definitely that’s why 2-1 in qualis for vettel

      for god’s sake, leave vettel alone! the car is not good enough. leclerc is not go(o)d enough yet. this car is nowhere against mercedes car

      i have a new word for this: stop the boring “vetteling”, please!!!

      1. I’m on board with you against the vetteling, but i disagree in regards to Ferrari being “nowhere”. Not the terminology I would apply to a car capable of securing a front row lockout and controlling the race just 2 weeks ago.

        Ferrari definitely has problems, but it is more likely than not that they do have a competitive platform to build upon. Whether they manage to do that, it’s an entirely different question.

      2. 2-1 in qualis for vettel

        Points being awarded after Sunday, not Saturday. And it is not figure skating, so there is no points for spinning.
        Seb was fast in his best years and still can be fast occasionally, but mentally he didn’t become stronger over the years if not the opposite. Now even Max looks like a more consistent driver.

  10. Made a similar comment in the stats post for China GP. But in the past two seasons Vettel has never overcome a 31pt deficit. They need to unlock it quickly.

  11. Maybe he knows something, but my impression is that there’s not much left to unlock – 0.2sec at best. Overall, the car simply doesn’t seem to be as fast as the Mercedes, even more in race trim than Quali. Reliability is already a noticeable ”-” compared to Mercedes.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      15th April 2019, 20:34

      @mg1982 Yes, you must surely know much more than Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull can see from the telemetry.

  12. Toto and Hamilton very well knows that it is a problem for the sport if Mercedes goes on being too dominant, that’s why they try to talk their car down and that’s why they hold back. During this race Hamilton asked Bono if he should back of a bit and let the pack come closer. I have a feeling that no matter what Ferrari and RBR does, Mercedes will just turn up the performance enough to secure the two titles. The race in China was as boring as they get, only the brief duel between Verstappen and Vettel was exciting.

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      15th April 2019, 21:08

      Mercedes is not holding back. Maybe turning the engine a bit lower if they have a big enough lead and If you ask them what they want, it’s 1-2 in every race. Nobody cares if they are to dominant.

  13. It is almost like you need to take the inverse of everybody’s statements. When they say their car is bad it is actually really good and ice versa. When they say they are afraid of the opposition they know they have totally dominant car. When they complain about engine development rules they know they have the best engines and nobody can catch up. Only case when thi is different is when they say there is some kind of trouble with the car. And then things are typically even worse than the team is willing to admit publicly. See: ferrari and williams.

  14. But Leclerc looks like bicycle rider. I suspect in his dominance. Ethnicity is only bond with south Europe.
    Vettel needs one victory and he is five times world chamion f1 in 2019.

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