After Mercedes romped to victory in Melbourne, brushing aside a Ferrari team whose car looked like the beast to beat after pre-season testing, the question on everybody’s lips as the Formula 1 paddock arrived in Bahrain was how would the legendary Italian team respond this weekend…
Jetlag reared its head for many after Australia, but Bahrain delivered the kind of glorious sunshine and desert warming conditions that helps put the spring back in your step. There were smiles all round on Thursday, not least on the face of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Ordinarily, that’s par for the course for the Honey Badger – but his home race was woeful by anyone's standards. He’s oozing positivity, though, and sees this weekend as the chance to put that misery behind him. The same can be said of Ferrari, who left Australia a little puzzled.
Ferrari are very relaxed about what happened in Australia. They've been working hard at Maranello to rectify the problems, but there is no tension, no Ferrari of old
Much has been written about Ferrari’s successful pre-season. It’s why there was such surprise when they failed to take home the silverware come Sunday afternoon. They struggled pretty much everywhere, though their performance in the high speed corners did at least give them some hope.
Ultimately, they weren't able to find a good set-up, the Scuderia failing to make the big step from Friday to Saturday that became commonplace for much of last year. In failing to find that good set-up, one theory is that it had a negative impact on fuel consumption, which in turn meant Sebastian Vettel had to lift and coast towards the end of the race. That would explain his pace in the closing stages. Another theory is that their aggressive packaging solution is impacting cooling.
For Ferrari, they believe there is not one answer but rather that it was collection of areas – including the fact that Albert Park is an unusual circuit, an outlier if you will – that caused the slump. Intriguingly, there is no panic inside Ferrari. They are very relaxed about what happened in Australia. They have, of course, been working hard at Maranello to rectify the problems – but there is no tension, no Ferrari of old.
“I don't think there are any fundamental issues in the car concept, I'm pretty confident in that,” said Charles Leclerc. “It's just about fine-tuning. As I said before, I don't think it's the real performance of the car what we have shown in Australia and I think we are all quite confident that we can be better already from here in Bahrain.”
There is a belief that Ferrari know what the problems are, and that countermeasures have been put in place
Sebastian Vettel added: “The last couple of weeks have been very intense. I think we have some answers, but as always, you never get all the answers because we never get the chance to go back and repeat.
“Things move on. We’re here now in Bahrain on a different track but I think we learned some stuff about the car and ourselves that should help us to be more competitive here. We are not in a position to be making promises. The truth is we need to wait and see.
“It’s easy to quantify how slow we were in qualifying and to quantify how much slower we were in the race. There are some numbers that we can with confidence say that we should have been better or would have been better if we go back and repeat, but it’s all theory so we need to prove it on track.”
The feeling inside Ferrari is that they can prove it this weekend. There is a belief that they know what the problems are, and that countermeasures have been put in place. It’s no wonder they are so keen for Friday to swing round so they can get the car on track and – they hope – prove that Australia was just a one-off.