The Scuderia Ferrari team struggled in the free practice sessions at the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. But the Italian team would not have expected to be as far behind as they found themselves in the qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was knocked out of the final qualification session (Q3) as he finished in eleventh position in the second qualification session (Q2). Charles Leclerc, the pole-sitter in Austria last year, finished in a lowly seventh position.
Sebastian Vettel after his unexpected exit after Q2 was still optimistic and said: “I didn’t feel so confident with the car towards the end of the session, but the race is tomorrow and that’s the part of the weekend we look forward to the most. So, we will see what we can learn from today to improve for tomorrow. Our car was not quick enough and the balance was not ideal. I think we were losing a bit on the straights with too much drag, but in some corners we are very competitive.
“For sure we would have liked to be faster, but P11 puts us in a good spot for the race, with a free tyre choice allowing us to do something different with the strategy, which could be important as it is meant to be much hotter tomorrow. It’s not ideal and I am not fully happy and we clearly did not have as much in hand as the others, but our race pace should be more competitive.”
Charles Leclerc accepted that Ferrari were just not fast enough and said: “Seventh place is the best we could do today. Of course it’s not where we want to be but we are just not quick enough, so we need to work hard and try to catch up. There’s still a bit of performance we can get here and there and we need to put everything together, getting the best out of the package we have, because for now it’s all we’ve got.
“The smallest detail is very important as everyone is very close now. It was a difficult day but at least now we know where we are. As a team all we can do is cheer up and find the positive in all of this, even though it’s not easy. We need to work all together in a constructive way and try to do the best job possible to improve things in the next few races. We should keep our moral up and be motivated and just work to improve.
“This is the way forward to get out of these hard times. The balance of the car is quite good but it’s the overall performance which is still not good enough. As for the race, anything can happen and having a good strategy with the right tyre management, maybe we can score some good points.”
The poor showing so far this weekend puts a lot of pressure on Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto who as expected was disappointed with the tougher than expected result. Binotto said: “There’s no point denying that was a disappointing qualifying session. We knew the start of the season would be difficult for us and today’s result certainly confirmed that to be the case, even more so than we had expected. We have to analyse very carefully every aspect of our performance and compare it to the opposition, trying to understand why there is this gap.”
“Now, we will prepare as well as possible for tomorrow’s race, which will be tough with plenty of unknown factors, more so than usual, it being the first of this strange season. We will carry out our tasks to the best of our ability, trying to get everything out of the package we have here. It’s pointless to predict where we might finish and we must just try and score as many points as possible,” Binotto concluded.