Scuderia Ferrari got it completely wrong at the Australian Grand Prix, from the technical to the sporting side. The Maranello team came out firing in the cold of pre-season testing where the track temperatures barely reached 20’C, winning the Winter World Championship by 0.03s ahead of Mercedes. However, Ferrari struggled for pace from their very first lap of the Albert Park street circuit, as the Italian side couldn’t set-up the SF90 in the 40-plus degree heat, struggling with balance issues.
One possible cause for the difficulties in identifying the ideal set-up for the race in Melborune could be related to the current simulator situation. After the loss of Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Ferrari had to look at ways of reviving its simulator program. Davide Rigon stayed with the Italian side given the fact that he is finally the senior operator at Maranello, while at the same time Antonio Fuoco was given more tasks as a simulator driver during the weekdays. Pascal Wehrlein came to Ferrari and the Maranello team also brought in Brendon Hartley at the start of 2019.
Brendon Hartley was an excellent driver for the simulator and this was proved during the tests in Barcelona. From day one he had found a solid base for the SF90. The former Toro Rosso driver, with his experience in the Mercedes simulator and its working method, proved to be a breath of fresh air. Hartley did part of the winter test and worked with Rigon in the simulator on the balance of the car. This was found in Barcelona almost to perfection.
Yet the work of Davide Rigon and Brendon Hartley was up to some point the basis of the failure in Australia. Ferrari did not take into account in its program that both drivers were not available for simulation work in Maranello last weekend. Both drivers drove on the other side of the ocean in the 1000 Miles of Sebring and the 12 hours of Sebring. Because of this planning (it was known well in advance that both drivers would miss the first weekend) they depended on the inexperienced Wehrlein and Fuoco.
What followed this weekend was a drama. Pascal Wehrlein, who had already driven the simulator several times, couldn’t manage to put his finger on the sore spot. As reported by gptoday.net, it seems that the situation was so bad that during the weekend Ferrari had to keep contacting Davide Rigon. After they found out on Saturday evening that there was no one with relevant experience to provide forecasts from Maranello to Melbourne, Ferrari decided to play safe during the Grand Prix. The program and power of the engines were adjusted.
The strategy turned out to be a safe one and Ferrari was not looking to take risks and attack. It was therefore already clear from the first round that Ferrari was going for safely scoring the maximum points and had no illusions about a possible victory.