Of the Ferrari drivers in Budapest, only Sebastian Vettel made it into the points. He called the result the “new reality”. Team boss Mattia Binotto demanded a strong reaction and total rethinking from his team. Starting places five and six on the grid gave courage at the Hungarian GP. To keep them was the minimum goal for Ferrari. Until now the rule was that the red cars are faster in the race than on one lap. Because the performance deficit of the engine is less in race mode than in qualifying. And because the Ferrari cars are more gentle on their tyres than some of their competitors’ cars.
Sebastian Vettel even hoped to bring at least one of the two Racing Points to their knees. But no sooner had the race started than the drivers started to orient themselves more towards the back than the front. After 70 laps the embarrassment was completed. A sixth and an eleventh place, both cars lapsed, no chance to keep the pace of Racing Point and Red Bull.
Ferrari could be happy that McLaren and Renault were also out of shape. Otherwise the defeat would have been even worse. One should not expect more than fifth or sixth place in the future, Sebastian Vettel warned. “This is the new reality.” Charles Leclerc’s second place at the season opener was a combination of positive circumstances: “Today we have seen a more honest picture of our performance.”
At the end of a disappointing weekend for the Maranello team, we sum up the main three points which should be addressed by Ferrari:
1 – A different car than on Saturday
Charles Leclerc could not explain his fall to eleventh place. He was faced with the same mystery as Vettel in the first race. From one day to the next, his Ferrari was unrecognisable.
“I really don’t know what happened. We didn’t touch the car from Saturday to Sunday. The balance was suddenly much worse than on Friday and Saturday. It felt like a different car. I think we still have a lot to understand. We’re just too slow. There’s a lot of work to do.”
The lapping of the winning Mercedes was humiliating from the outside. Not so much from the cockpit. “To tell you the truth, we were expecting this. They’re just driving in a completely different class,” Vettel said. The circumstances are still bitter. Lewis Hamilton also made one more pit stop than the Ferrari. A sad realisation from the red camp: “We did what we could. It wasn’t enough.”
2 – Mistakes in tyre selection and pit stop timing
The disappointing lap times are one thing. But in Hungary Ferrari also got it wrong with the tactics. Charles Leclerc’s early pit stop after the first lap was basically correct. The Haas drivers came to change tyres even before the start and were rewarded with places 3 and 4.
The mistake happened to Ferrari when choosing the tyres. They gave Charles the soft tires, allegedly to protect themselves in case of another short rain. Then of course you want to drive the softest compound with slicks in the wet.
But actually Ferrari had to know after free practice sessions that the soft rubber was by far the worst race tyre on this day. The green track and the increased temperatures caused the left front tyre to start graining after only a few laps. This was already known on Friday. Mercedes even refrained from doing a longrun with this type of tyre. “We knew the only time we’d use the soft tyre was at the very end for a fast lap.”
Sebastian Vettel obviously had the same feeling. He rejected the recommendation of his race engineer and instead asked for a set of mediums when the pit asked him to change the tyres. That’s called experience. Seb didn’t make the story broad because he didn’t want to hit his beaten team as well.
His problem was more the timing. The third lap was the worst of all possible, with a total of nine drivers heading for the pits in quick succession. Vettel was so badly placed in traffic that he had to wait a long time after a scheduled stop before Ferrari could thread him into the fast lane of the pit lane. In the process, 6.7 seconds and four positions were lost.
Seb didn’t make a big fuss about this either. Nothing would be worse than bringing even more unrest to the team by blaming it on him. “There was nothing clever, but there was nothing wrong. Maybe I should have been brought in a lap earlier.”
Both Ferrari were lapped in the race. This creates a bad atmosphere in Maranello.
3 – Everyone has to question himself
Looking back, the second pit stops came too early. With Charles Ferrari had no other choice. After only 17 laps the soft tyres were flat, as the Monegasque driver lost over two seconds per lap to the competition. The stop on lap 18 gave the hard set of tyres a remaining distance of 52 laps, but maybe the team should have planned with three stops already.
Sebastian Vettel was brought to the pits at least five laps too early. Obviously driven by the desire to make up ground against Albon and Grosjean through an undercut, and also a little dazzled by Charles’ good lap times at the start of the stint with the hard tyres. The undercut worked, but Seb paid the price in the final stages of the race.
Team boss Mattia Binotto could not get a good side to either the result or the course of the race. Just like in the previous Grand Prix, the Team Principal pointed out a sad truth: “It was an extremely disappointing Sunday and that’s hard to digest. While we got the most out of the car in qualifying, we didn’t manage that in the race. Being lapped is hard for us and our fans to bear. After retunring from this long trip, we have to do everything we can to improve in every area. Everyone must question their work and have the courage to change course if necessary. The current dynamic of events is unacceptable. We must resolve this problem.” Ferrari insiders interpret Mattia Binotto’s sweeping blow as him already struggling for survival.
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