Ferrari have been left disappointed and angry at their poor performance in the Belgian Grand Prix, according to their team principal, Mattia Binotto. The Scuderia endured their worst result of the season at Spa-Francorchamps, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel both finishing outside the points. However, Binotto has denied that the team is in crisis.
Their slump in performance has been directly attributed to a reduction in engine power after questions over its legality last season led to an investigation and subsequent rule clarification from the FIA. Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, said in Spa that the process had left a “sour taste” and had potentially denied his team victories in 2019.
Lewis Hamilton won at Spa with a dominant, trouble-free run from pole to flag, from teammate Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third. Ferrari, who have won the previous two meetings in Belgium were well off the pace all weekend. Leclerc and Vettel qualified in 13th and 14th and finished in 14th and 13th respectively. They spent just five of the 44 laps with a car inside the top 10. Clearly down on power, they could not compete on the straights and Leclerc said it was difficult to make a pass even with DRS. Vettel was overtaken by Kimi Räikkönen in a Ferrari customer-engined Alfa Romeo and who finished in 12th.
“We are disappointed and angry, as indeed are our fans and with good reason,” said Binotto. “It’s a difficult moment in a season that we knew from the start would be a tough one, but it’s at times like this that we need to stand firm and look ahead in order to get over this difficult period. It’s the only way we will get out of this situation.”
Ferrari have struggled for power since the FIA investigated their engine and instituted new rules relating to the fuel flow toward the end of last year. Ferrari were not penalised, however, and the FIA did not release their findings, instead coming to a controversial private settlement with the team.
On the power-dependent straights of Spa the shortcomings of the new engine were writ large. Their car is also draggy and the team struggled with switching their tyres on at the circuit, compounding their lack of pace.
At the previous two meetings Ferrari completely dominated in Belgium and other teams have interpreted the fall-off in performance as indicative of just how large an advantage their previous engine configuration was giving them last year.
“The whole thing has left quite a sour taste,” said Horner. “Obviously, you can draw your own conclusions from Ferrari’s current performance. There are races we should have won last year arguably if they had run with an engine that seems to be quite different to last year.”
Red Bull were third, 87 points behind Ferrari in the 2019 constructors’ championship.
Ferrari face a further turbulent two weeks. They go into a double header of home races starting next weekend at Monza, immediately followed by the first F1 race at the circuit owned by the team at Mugello, which will also be the first race this season to host a limited number of fans.
Binotto insisted his team were handling the pressure calmly. “It is wrong to use the word crisis for the moment we are going through,” he said. “We all take responsibility for this situation. I take that as team principal as well as all those who work in Maranello. We are all in the same boat but although the team is in the middle of a storm we are very united. There is no crisis, no tension.”
Vettel warned that no radical turnaround was to be expected for the next two races. “We have two important races coming up for the team in the next two weeks so that is where we focus, but we also have to be realistic as we cannot expect miracles,” he said. “The package is what it is, we are not as strong as we would like to be, so we need to stay optimistic and see the good things, even if at the minute there are not many.”