Scuderia Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc say that while the upgrades brought to this weekend’s Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix are a step in the right direction, the team still has work to do to catch rival Mercedes AMG Motorsport.
Mercedes topped both Free Practice sessions on Friday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, through Valtteri Bottas on both occasions.
While Vettel managed second in the morning session, with Leclerc third, the German fell behind Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc to fourth in Free Practice 2.
The qualifying simulation programmes left Ferrari with a deficit of 0.301 seconds to make up in time for Saturday afternoon’s session.
Vettel said that both the aerodynamic and engine updates brought to Spain have had somewhat of a desired effect, but Ferrari still has “quite a bit of work” to do in order to stop Mercedes from claiming a record-extending fifth successive 1-2 finish to start the 2019 season.
“As far as the aerodynamic and engine updates are concerned, I’d say we can be pleased with them, but it’s only Friday and the true order of the teams will be only be seen from tomorrow onwards,” said Vettel.
“I’d say we are not yet where we’d want to be, especially in the slowest corner and so I think we still have quite a bit of work ahead of us to be ready for qualifying and the race.”
Leclerc echoed his team-mate’s thoughts, but said that fine-tuning the performance of the new parts is a relatively simple task and believes that Ferrari can challenge Mercedes for an important pole position.
The Italian media sees the Spanish GP as a pivotal point in Ferrari’s championship challenge, having missed out on taking advantage of its superior performance over Mercedes in Azerbaijan two weeks’ ago.
“We focused on understanding our new package today and ran all of the tests we had planned,” Leclerc added.
“We have some more work to do to find the right balance, but this is normal when you put a car with new parts on track for the first time and it should be a quick fix.
“Overall, the potential is there and we are in good shape. We will push hard to challenge our competitors and have a positive qualifying result tomorrow.”