Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has taken the pressure of his team ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, insisting that their goal was always to return to competitiveness this year, not specifically to win the championship.
Ferrari got the 2022 season off to a flyer, winning two of the opening three rounds through Charles Leclerc, with Carlos Sainz securing a one-two for them in the opening round in Bahrain.
However, Red Bull have fought back since Australia, and upgrades, coupled with some misfortune and mistakes from Ferrari, have put them back in front of the Scuderia in the championship.
Despite being behind Red Bull, Ferrari can take plenty of solace from the fact that they have finally returned to being a competitive team this year, with Leclerc and Sainz managing eight podiums between them in the first seven rounds.
Competing for wins and being at the front, ultimately, was what Binotto had set his sights on before the season got underway.
“We set our objectives to be back [to being] competitive in 2022,” he told the BBC.
“So our objective is to be competitive, not to win the championship, and it would be completely wrong to turn that into, ‘let’s try to win the championship because we are so competitive.’
“Being competitive is one fact [but] becoming world champion is another level of task.
“[Saying] that is maybe to take off some pressure from the team, but also I think it would be wrong as management to change objectives from the ones we gave them.”
Of course, the 52-year-old wants to lead the team to title glory, but he professes patience as a virtue as the Italian team seek to claim their first championship since their 2008 constructors’ success with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
“No doubt what we intend to do is to try to open a cycle – become world champion, and not only once; try to stay there, but I think it will take time,” said Binotto.
“Our internal mindset is still we need to improve as a team to be capable of winning a championship.
“It doesn’t mean we will not do it. Maybe we will do it as soon as possible, but we are conscious of the fact that it is more than only being competitive.
“The ambition is there. Each single person working for Ferrari has the ambition. I don’t think I need to remind them.
“More important is to let them focus on our process of continuous improvement, so each race is an opportunity for lesson-learned review and to build to do something better.
“And it is important to stay focused on each single race. We are not looking at the classifications.”
The Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen have won each of the last four races between them, and the Dutchman is nine points clear of Leclerc in the Drivers’ Standings heading into Baku this weekend.
Perez is a further six points back, and the Milton Keynes-based side’s recent dominance puts them 36 points clear of the Maranello outfit in the constructors’ battle.
The Mexican took his first Red Bull win at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Leclerc started in pole, and he will be keen to continue his strong momentum from his victory in Monaco a fortnight ago.