RACE DEBRIEF

    Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto reckons Red Bull are still favourites for the 2022 World Championship, despite the red cars scoring an impressive 1-2 in Bahrain, and says it’ll take “four or five” races to assess whether the Italian outfit can compete for the title.

    Charles Leclerc converted pole into his third career victory at Sakhir with his team mate Carlos Sainz moving into second when Max Verstappen – who Leclerc held off brilliantly when fighting for the lead – retired.

    Leclerc heads the drivers' championship for the first time in his career, while Ferrari lead the way in the constructors' championship from Mercedes, having led every single lap for the first time since the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix.

    Yet Binotto is refusing to get carried away by the result, and advises caution.

    “I think that the others are very, very strong,” said Binotto. “They [Red Bull] have proved to be very strong in qualifying. It was really a matter of details.

    “I think [on Sunday] it could have been so good, but maybe they had some reliability issues or something that is not perfect on their car for what we may understand from the radio communications. And they would have been very fast otherwise.

    READ MORE: Sainz calls Bahrain his ‘most difficult weekend as a Ferrari driver’ despite podium finish

    FERRARI F1 GP BAHRAIN
    "They are still the favourites" says Binotto about Red Bull and Verstappen

    “And if I look at the first stint of Max, on used tyres, he was keeping the pace of Charles so I think we should not forget this was one of the world champions. They are still the favourites.

    “What we can try to do is to do our best. Jeddah… can be a completely different picture and I think we need to wait at least four or five races to assess [where we stand].”

    Leclerc and Max.jpg
    The development war is sure to rage on in 2022

    Ferrari have looked strong from the first lap in pre-season testing and while they carried that form into the first race of the season, Binotto says getting the development of the revolutionary new-for-2022 cars will be key to staying in the fight.

    READ MORE: More Ferrari success or a Red Bull resurgence? – 5 storylines we’re excited for ahead of the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

    “There is still potential in the car certainly, but we do need to develop the car,” added Binotto. “When you have a good baseline, and when you are developing, you need to make sure that whatever you're bringing to the car is a step forward.

    “And that's even more important now that we got a budget cap. We cannot make it wrong. We will have only a few opportunities of development and, whatever we will do, we need to make sure that those are the proper and the right ones.”