Ferrari suffers nightmare, Mercedes’ upgrades underdeliver

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Germany, Hockenheimringde

The qualifying session for the 64th German Grand Prix saw both Ferrari drivers suffering fatal technical problems, depriving them of converting their incredible speed into a good result. The Italian team was in with a chance for locking out the front row following their promising and constant form throughout the practice sessions.

However, in the end, the qualifying session turned into a horror for the fabled Italian outfit. Sebastian Vettel will start from the back of the grid, after suffering a turbo issue on his first outlap meaning that he failed to set a time in the session. His team mate Charles Leclerc was also hit by fuel system issues in Q3, leaving him unable to take to the track for the final round which leaves him to start Sunday's race from tenth place.

Team principal Mattia Binotto could not hide his disappointment after the qualifying session. “At the moment the entire team is bitterly disappointed. We feel especially sorry for our drivers who were in with the chance of doing something special for the people back in the factory who are working so hard and for all our fans.”

After the first analysis, Ferrari found out that both cars suffered problems of different natures. According to Binotto, the team has never experienced these problems before. On Vettel’s car, a component of the intercooler caused the failure while on Leclerc’s car it was a fuel pump issue which sidelined the Monegasque driver.

“We are now carrying out an in-depth analysis of what happened. What we do know is that they were two completely different problems, neither of which had ever occurred before. The first indications from Sebastian’s car lead us to believe it could be related to a component on the intercooler. The component is to the same specification as those used previously and it was fitted new. Charles had a problem with the fuel pump control unit.”

The Swiss-Italian says that his team has to find remedy for the issues to avoid any repeat of the reliability problems without falling into panic. “We are angry with ourselves and I myself feel responsible for what has happened. But I am also aware that we must react calmly and do our best tomorrow. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Interestingly, Ferrari has already been dogged by reliability issues during the qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix. At Spielberg, it was Sebastian Vettel who was demoted to take on the role of a viewer at the end of the Q2 segment due to a technical glitch with the pneumatic valve system.

Upgrade requires fine-tuning

Despite to its dominant form for the sixth consecutive year, Mercedes prepared an extensive upgrade package for its second home Grand Prix. Its introduction was not so straightforward though. On Friday, the new development proved fragile as small elements were constantly flying off the cars while Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were conducting setup work during the practice sessions.

Moreover, the new package which debuted at the race weekend when Mercedes is celebrating its 125-year-long presence in motorsport did not deliver the expected performance gain. “We are not that strong here as we should have been. Regarding the numbers, the aerodynamic upgrade is working, but I guess we calculated a bigger gain. It could have been different if Ferrari had not had any issues,” said team boss Toto Wolff.

According to the Austrian, the team wants to find answers why it proved difficult to convert computer-calculated number into real-track gains. The Brackley-based outfit hopes for dry weather for today’s race to collect as much data as possible to be able to fine-tune its heavily overhauled car for next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.