Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is confident that Ferrari have made good progress on last year’s performance, but maintains that they will simply have to wait and see where they are relative to other teams.
The Scuderia unveiled a “brave” chassis design under the new technical regulations, and are said to have overcome the 20 horsepower deficit that comes with the new E10 fuel blend aimed at improving Formula 1’s sustainability.
They managed 87 laps during the opening two practice sessions at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ending second and third fastest respectively in both.
Conversely, Mercedes looked like they were still being hampered by the “porpoising” and handling issues as a result of the dramatically different aerodynamics, and they managed a best position of fourth through George Russell.
Sir Lewis Hamilton testified after the second hour that the likes of Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri are on the heels of the eight-time constructors’ champions but, following on from Sainz’s comments on Mercedes’ “typical” mind games, Binotto is convinced that the Silver Arrows will be challenging towards the front in qualifying on Saturday.
“I’m sure about that,” he told Sky Italia.
“I believe Red Bull today did not push at the maximum, as us and Mercedes.
“It’s right to preserve the engine on Friday. It’s a reliability matter, the season is long and the engine must be managed for more races. So today we pushed, but not at the maximum.”
The Maranello outfit ended 2021 third in the Constructors’ Championship, 290 points behind the champions from Brackley, and the Italian is optimistic that they have taken significant steps forward in their bid to break into the top two.
“For sure it made a step forward compared to last year. We have to wait for qualifying tomorrow when everyone will push at the limit,” he explained.
“So today’s indications are not a final result yet. But it’s a good sign, then in qualifying we will all unleash full power and we will see where we will be.
“The testing showed we could be fast, as well as they showed Red Bull were fast too, maybe even more than us.
“They also showed Mercedes were very close and I believe these first sessions confirmed this trend.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff previously stated that he “absolutely” believes that Ferrari will be back on race-winning form for the first time since 2019 this season but, while Binotto is adamant that this is where the Scuderia belong, he is keeping expectations at a rational level.
“We always have to aim for the top, victory included. Then I believe we have to stay with our foot on the ground because the competition is very strong,” added the 52-year-old.
“It will be so for all the season and this weekend too. From the drivers’ side it’s right to be excited, to believe we can win, but we don’t have to commit the sin of too much desire to do and get disillusioned.”
There is amplified anticipation ahead of the first qualifying of the season on Saturday afternoon as we wait to see which team will turn out to be the fastest.