The first half of the season was full of ‘what if’ moments for Ferrari, after a catalogue of strategic blunders and reliability problems have left them playing catch-up in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
The Italian’s have only themselves to blame for being so far behind Red Bull Racing, with Charles Leclerc having retired from the race lead twice due to power unit failures and having lost the race lead a further three times due to strategic errors.
Instead of only having three victories to his name this season, the Monegasque could’ve potentially had eight, had the problems not occurred.
Ferrari have won four times this season, a number they would’ve been happy with in recent years; however, in a title fight against Red Bull who have won nine times, four simply isn’t good enough.
Max Verstappen has won every race bar one that Leclerc has lost the race lead of, with the Austrian team having been the strategic masters as well as having gotten on top of their own issues quickly.
Ferrari have been dominant in qualifying, with Leclerc having claimed seven poles this season from the thirteen completed Grand Prix’s.
It’s in the races when the Scuderia have let themselves down and is usually when Red Bull find their form.
Had it not been for Ferrari’s incompetence then the title fight would be agonisingly close; instead it looks set to be over given Verstappen doesn’t have a crisis.
Team principal Mattia Binotto has blamed the team’s errors on the Italian’s having more ground to make up in regard to their power unit, with the team having chosen performance over reliability this season.
The team boss states that his side are “paying the price” after making a huge performance gain compared to the last couple of seasons, where Ferrari became a midfield team.
Binotto still doesn’t see his side as the strongest on the grid just yet, with the Italian believing Red Bull have the edge still.
“I see it differently,” Binotto began saying to Auto Motor und Sport.
“The cars are practically the same speed. We are within a tenth of each other. You can’t say that one car is better than the other. There are tracks that suit us a bit better and tracks where Red Bull is ahead.
“In the end, it’s the set-ups, the outside conditions and the drivers’ form on the day that decide. That also applies to the efficiency of the cars.
“At the beginning of the season, Red Bull was better. They had a rear wing that was more efficient when DRS was activated. We reduced the deficit with a new wing. The balance is a good thing because the cars are so different. And yet we get to the same goal.
“Out of 13 races, we only won four. Red Bull is indeed more efficient. But we could have won eight times without our problems. So, the balance would have been the other way round.
“The truth is probably in the middle. Yes, Red Bull also had reliability problems. But they were never in the lead when they failed. With us it was always the other way round. In Spain, in Azerbaijan and in France [when Leclerc crashed out of the lead].
“In terms of stability, we are paying the price for the big leap in development we have made. There is much more new about our engine than our opponent. We had to make up a big gap.”
With the engine freeze in effect, Ferrari can only work on improving the reliability of their power unit, not its performance.
Binotto has in the past been the head of the team’s engine department and revealed that he’s never seen such progress in his “27 years” at Ferrari.
The Italian agrees that his team have become a victim of their own success, with the team’s attitude to choosing performance over reliability now coming back to bite.
“We are definitely paying the price,” Binotto admitted.
“It was clear to us that we had to go to the limit. After all, we couldn’t take our backlog into an era where engine development is frozen.
“The goals we set ourselves were very ambitious. I have never seen such a leap forward in my 27 years at Ferrari. It was an extraordinary achievement, especially at a time when dyno hours are limited. And that’s what we paid for in terms of reliability.
“In normal years, we would have ramped up the dyno hours and started parallel programmes for performance and reliability. This time we had a choice.
“Now, when I count the hours we put into the new engine and compare them to what Honda put into their power unit, we are certainly at a disadvantage. Honda had the experience because they built on an existing engine. We are doing it now. On the track and on the dyno.
“The goal is to fix the problems as soon as possible,” the Ferrari boss concluded.