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Formula 1 | Ferrari brakes the euphoria after impressive test drives

“It’s the same story every year,” Carlos Sainz waves off when he is asked for what feels like the thousandth time during the Formula 1 winter tests in Bahrain that Ferrari is a favorite for many observers after the performance shown in Barcelona and Bahrain go into the new season.

“Everyone is impressed – like in 2018, 2019, 2017,” Sainz smiles and clarifies: “We all know that the tests don’t say anything. I don’t know why people fall into the same trap every year and try to do it tests too much.” Because Ferrari often left a strong impression in winter.

In 2017, the then drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel took first and second place in the last test before the start of the season, a year later – albeit in reverse order – again. And in 2019, too, Vettel drove a razor-thin ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s best time, while Charles Leclerc finished third.

As is well known, the title never landed in Maranello but always in Brackley with Mercedes. This is one of the reasons why the Scuderia seems to be very careful with forecasts. That’s not to say they’re not happy with the combined six days in Barcelona and Bahrain.

Nobody drives as much as Ferrari

“It was a very solid winter test for us, especially in terms of reliability. We were able to complete the entire program without any problems,” explains Sainz, recalling that this is not a matter of course with a new car. This is also shown by a look at the mileage table.

Ferrari covered 3,941 kilometers this winter – more than any other team. For comparison: taillight Haas only covered 2,096 kilometers, almost half as many. And even Red Bull (3,405) were more than 500 kilometers behind the value of Leclerc and Sainz. The Spaniard therefore explains that he has “no idea” where the F1-75 is in terms of performance. Reliability, on the other hand, is definitely a plus point this year. Team boss Mattia Binotto also explains that they are “pretty happy” with the new car.

This runs “quite reliably”, confirms the Italian. And that could be the difference to the years 2017 to 2019 mentioned by Sainz. At the end of the last winter test, Ferrari was at the top of the time list – but never in the kilometer table. After all, in 2018 they took second place behind Mercedes, in 2017 it was only fourth and in 2019 only eighth among the ten teams. In 2022 the opposite was the case: Leclerc “only” finished third in the Bahrain test, but the Scuderia drove more laps than everyone else throughout the winter.

Can Ferrari still win?

However, Binotto also never tires of emphasizing that Ferrari does not automatically make the favorite. “We’re not the favourites. The favorites are the teams that were the best last year,” he clarifies, adding: “It’s true that we had good tests and a good start to the season.”

“But to be a favourite, you also have to drive good races. We have to prove that we are able to win,” explains Binotto. You know that from Mercedes and Red Bull from last season. Ferrari, on the other hand, has been waiting for a triumph since Vettel’s victory in Singapore in 2019. That was almost two and a half years ago. Will Ferrari be able to end the dry spell this year and possibly even reach for the first world title since 2008? “We will do our best,” promises Binotto, who cannot or does not want to make a prediction.

“We had a good test. We still have to learn more about the car and optimize it,” says the team boss. Sainz, who does not want to talk about the possible strengths of the F1-75, sees it similarly. “We don’t know that yet because we don’t know where we are stronger or weaker than the others,” he explains.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll all be very close together,” Binotto announced in terms of the balance of power this year. He sees Ferrari – at least at the beginning – but not at the very front. “I expect them to be ahead in the first race,” he says of Mercedes and Red Bull.

Equal opportunities for both drivers

But it is not so important who has the fastest car at the season opener in Bahrain. The “key” in 2022 is the further development. “They have [2021] proved how good they are at further developing a car,” says Binotto with regard to Red Bull.

“And maybe Mercedes will improve even more by the first race,” says the team boss, who expects a tough fight at the top. “I hope that we can challenge them somehow. That would be great for us,” says Binotto, who initially sees his team as an outsider in 2022. Everyone ran different programs during the tests, but it was clear to him that Mercedes and Red Bull were “very, very fast”. But there is no lack of motivation in Maranello. “We went through a few tough years, and Ferrari always wants to win,” Sainz recalls.

Therefore, one is “as hungry as ever” before the new season, emphasizes the Spaniard, who will start the year together with Leclerc as joint number 1. “Last year we had no number 1 and no number 2. And we won’t have that this year either,” Binotto clarifies.

“Both have the same chances,” emphasizes the team boss and Sainz himself explains: “That’s one of the strengths of our team. Both drivers push each other hard. Last year you saw how we pushed the team forward and pushed each other to have.”

Ferrari’s construction sites: porpoising and drivability

The 27-year-old is going into his second season in red this year. “I know everyone very well now and it helps me to integrate into the team much more quickly,” he explains, adding with regard to his personal feeling in the new car: “I feel better on long runs with lots of gas than on short runs.”

“But I’ve also driven much more often with a lot of petrol than with little, so I think that’s normal,” said the Spaniard, for whom the new car is “harder” to drive than its predecessor. “We are now working on making the car more drivable and enjoyable,” he reports.

“It’s a step backwards compared to the past few years. But that’s the same for everyone. Everyone has bigger problems than in the years before,” said Sainz. This has to do with the porpoising, among other things, which Ferrari hasn’t completely gotten under control in the tests either. when we go down with the car. So we have to keep working on it,” said Sainz. However, other teams seem to be struggling a lot more with this.

By the way: Visually, Binotto is already – unsurprisingly – certain: “I think that our car is the most beautiful.” Whether it is also the fastest remains to be seen…

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