Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Binotto “relieved” by Ferrari’s progress at start of season

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted he was relieved to see confirmation of the progress the team have made in the first race of the 2021 F1 season.

Having slumped to sixth in the championship last year, Ferrari qualified third-quickest in Bahrain and left the season-opening round fourth in the points standings.

The team’s power unit was thought to be one of its most significant weaknesses last year. Ferrari and their two customer teams were at a significant disadvantage on high-speed tracks.

Binotto said this is one of several areas Ferrari have made gains this year.

“Certainly the power unit has improved and we’re happy to see that as well for Sauber and Haas,” he said. “[But] I think on our side, we progressed in all the areas that was possible.

“The aero is certainly better in terms of behaviour [and] correlations. But the power unit, the car overall, we were aware it was possible to make improvements and tried to do them.

“And I think it’s an entire package. So I will not really speak in areas, it’s the entire package which now is better.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Leclerc started fourth and briefly ran ahead of Bottas’s Mercedes
Ferrari has made a series of changes to the structure of its technical department since its poor start to last season. Binotto is encouraged by the improvements he sees within the team.

“I feel relieved certainly because we may work in better positions and that’s healthy for the team. It’s important that the team that work in healthy conditions, staying calm and positive.

“Coming here, seeing the car that has progressed with the team in a serenity, let me say, where we can work in an even better manner, that was important.”

At the beginning of last season the FIA announced its investigation into Ferrari’s power unit had concluded with a private settlement between it and the team. That coincided both with new regulations being introduced to police the operation of engines and Ferrari’s abrupt downturn in form.

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That added to speculation over what had changed on Ferrari’s power unit had changed last year. But Binotto stressed the team’s improvement in 2021 is not solely down to the new engine it has produced for this season.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Sainz also scored points on his first start for the team
“[It’s] not only from the engine, I think again engine, chassis, aero, tools, correlations – that was all important for us and I think in the end that was key.

“How much it’s coming from the power unit, the improvement? I think it is difficult to say, because it’s all relative to the competitors, it’s not an absolute value, and I don’t know what the progress is of the others. At the end, you need always to judge the entire package.”

Despite their encouraging start to the season, Binotto cautioned against raising expectations. He said the team cannot expect to challenge for podium finishes in the near future, particularly as they are channelling more resources into their new car for the 2022 F1 season, when the technical regulations will change significantly.

“I think the gap that we are missing compared to the top competitors, today in the race still was big,” said Binotto. “So it’s still a long way, but it will depend as well track to track.

“We know that we will not work much on the development of that car because we are already focused on the 2022 [car] in terms of design and development back at Maranello. I’m pretty sure it’s the same with the other cars and the other competitors.

“But still, I think that if we look at our race today, we’ve got feedback now from drivers, they are starting learning the car. They start knowing what are the limitations of the car and eventually we may address them, or we may improve it.

“So I think the next three, four races will first indicate the true performance and potential of our car compared to the others. We wait for them before having a judgement.”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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11 comments on “Binotto “relieved” by Ferrari’s progress at start of season”

  1. Cristiano Ferreira
    30th March 2021, 9:01

    In my opinion, a smarter move for Ferrari was to aim to be as low as possible in the WCC standings just to get more wind tunnel time for their 2022 car.

  2. Hitting rock bottom has the upside that improvement is inevitable. After the 1992-1993 slump ferrari got back to winning days in 1994, so I think an unlikely victory this year which will only come through exceptional circumstances and lots of good fortune will boost the morale. Of course the 1994 car had a trick up its sleeve that immensely powerful V12.

    1. As powerful as it was, it was far too heavy compared to the Renault V10, which is partly the reason why Ferrari weren’t competitive apart from Hockenheim, Spa & Monza.
      Kind of like 2019: fast on the straights, but slow in the corners

      1. @srga91
        Exactly, the Tipo 043 was powerful but it was too heavy and especially very thirsty on fuel. Ferrari were already planning to switch to a V10 architecture and the 1995 Tipo 044 engine with a reduced capacity of 3000cc was destined to be their final V12 engine.
        I think the main reason why these engines are getting more credit than they should get despite their inefficiency, unreliability, overweight… is the legendary sound that they produce which was unique even compared to the V10s.

      2. Sure it was inefficient but at the same time exhilarating to see a car that was 2″ slower than Williams in Jerez to be 0,5″ faster in Monza. Also I remember Schumacher to be stuck in Berger’s gearbox for lap after lap in the 1600m straight in sector 1 in the old hockenheim and couldn’t even attempt

  3. It’s definitely a step forward and it seems the PU is now more powerful than the Renault, but still not on the same level as Honda & Mercedes.
    Ferrari seems to have halved the gap to Mercedes in terms of power output, but still some 20-25 bhp down. Their car is also less draggy, but not enough IMO, considering Norris passed Leclerc easily into T1 and Sainz was having difficulties to pass Stroll until the tyres wore off on the Aston Martin.

    Leclerc’s race pace wasn’t that great tbh, especially his final stint on the hards was far from impressive, as he lost 10 sec. to Norris in the final 20 laps alone. Sainz, on the other hand, had pretty decent pace once he was in clear air. He was constantly 0.5-0.7 per lap quicker than his teammate in the final stint, until he got stuck in Danny Ric’s dirty air. That means there’s even more pace in the car than Leclerc was able to show.

    The next couple of races will be very interesting to watch. Who will come out on top of the midfield? McLaren, Ferrari or Alpha Tauri?
    I’d expect Ferrari to be stronger in the next rounds (especially Portimao), but time will tell.

    1. The last stint may not be representative as Leclerc would have most likely turned down his car. In the 2nd stint he was barely able to make any inroads into Lando and only needed to be faster than Ricciardo.

      Although, Perez did pass him with fair bit of ease in the last stint. So may be, there was no more performance left. You may be right.

      1. It’s not just Sainz’s final stint, his laptimes in the second stint were also faster than Leclerc’s once he was in clean air (albeit with slightly fresher tyres). Sainz also showed better pace on Friday’s long runs than Leclerc.
        Apart from qualifying, Sainz was the faster Ferrari driver last weekend, which is pretty impressive considering he’s the new guy at the team.

    2. @srga91
      I think what’s encouraging is that they have made a big step forward in one year. The new Ferrari PU was completely redesigned for this season and that was probably due to the settlement with the FIA because apparently they needed to make architectural changes to comply with the rules. The PU design and development lifecycle is long and it takes more than one year to develop a new PU.
      Ferrari are relieved to find that the direction they have chosen with the PU is right but since they were caught the target to return to their pre-2020 performance levels was 2022.

  4. At least now they don’t have Vettel dragging the whole endeavour down week after week (yeah I’ve really soured on the guy, that Ocon crash and his bleetings on the radio afterwards have just focused that viewpoint), hopefully Ferrari go on to have a great season. My god do they need one.

  5. Ferrari were in a fine form in Bahrain. Bad season once in 40 years can happen to any team. Mercedes vs. Red Bull and Ferrari vs. McLaren – superbly appetizing 2021 season!

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