When testing their new cars ahead of the 2020 Formula One season, it became patently clear that Ferrari were still streets behind perennial constructors’ champions Mercedes.
There were accusations of ‘sandbagging’, a practice where the real speed of a car is masked in order to preserve an air of mystery, although such rumours have since been debunked by lead driver Charles Leclerc and the Team Principal, Mattia Binotto.
The insinuation is that the Scuderia are now behind both Mercedes and Red Bull in F1’s unique pecking order, with some pundits pointing to a lack of straight-line speed in the testing laps at Barcelona as proof that the SF1000 is not on the same level as the F1 W11 or the RB16.
And Binotto was in no doubt as to where the issue lies. “Generally speaking, we need to improve the base performance of the car, which is power, drag and downforce,” he said.
In a separate interview, he elaborated on the issues that have come from Ferrari’s factory being temporarily shut, which has meant that the team’s engineers have been unable to work on the car to bring it up to speed.
Binotto said that the SF1000 was basically at the same point as it was in readiness for the cancelled Australia Grand Prix, and that he wasn’t expecting any major improvements ahead of F1’s return in Austria in July.
“Developments will come later, so I don’t expect to be the fastest car in Austria,” he confirmed.
It’s a bold assertion, particularly as the Red Bull Ring has been a happy hunting ground for the Italian outfit of late. Leclerc took pole position there during the 2019 campaign, although he was subsequently overtaken by Max Verstappen – the Frenchman ended up in second place, with teammate Sebastian Vettel in fourth.
So are Ferrari trying to get one over on their opponents, or are they being truthful about their lack of high performance? Only time will tell, but the latest F1 odds for the Austrian Grand Prix make Lewis Hamilton a comfortable favourite to take the chequered flag first, with Leclerc and Vettel considered nothing more than lively outsiders.
The Magnificent Eight
The revised schedule has been released for the 2020 campaign, and there will be eight Grand Prix races in total including two each at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, respectively.
The action will get underway in Spielberg on July 5, and Ferrari will be hoping for a Hollywood finish of their own to get their season off to the best possible start.
A week later the action will return to Austria for the Styrian Grand Prix, before a trip to the legendary Hungaroring on July 19.
The Silverstone double-header kicks off with the British Grand Prix on August 2 before the one-off ‘70th Anniversary Grand Prix’ a week later.
The 2020 campaign will conclude with a trio of races on mainland Europe. The Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona is first up on August 16, before the drivers get a well-earned week off, and then on August 30, it’s a date with Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix.
With fewer races, the Drivers’ Championship could come down to the wire, and so it will be all eyes on Monza for the Italian Grand Prix that will bring the curtain down on the itinerary.
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