Ferrari rues horrible graining, but takes delight in the upgrades

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Russia, Sochi International Street Circuitru

Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto was not happy with the outcome of the Eifel Grand Prix, but he said that the upgrades finally show that the team is heading in the right direction.

Following its disastrous qualifying performances at the last grands prix, Ferrari bounced back yesterday. Charles Leclerc qualified a stellar fourth for the Eifel Grand Prix while his teammate Sebastian Vettel also showed signs of improvements by ending up 11th fastest in the all-important Saturday session.

However, the opening phase of the Eifel Grand Prix was a real shock for the Scuderia as Charles Leclerc was not able to protect the soft tyres. The 22-year-old got off the line brilliantly and even challenged Max Verstappen for the third place, but started to struggle with heavy graining on the front tyres, forcing him into the pit much earlier than hoped.

Ferrari’s Team Principal and Managing Director Mattia Binotto revealed that the tyre management was vital in today’s race which saw the coolest conditions of any races in 2020.

"It was a tough race today, mainly down to getting the tyre temperatures into the right operating window,” he said. „That was particularly the case with Charles who, after a good start, began to suffer with graining on the Softs, right from the first few laps, which meant he was unable to push as hard as he would have liked. We therefore had to pit him earlier than planned, immediately switching him to another strategy. Then, in the closing stages, when it would have been possible to pit under the Safety Car, we took the joint decision to leave him out on the Mediums, given what we had seen in the early stages of the race.

„As for Sebastian, the spin early on compromised his race and from then on, there was little to be done, even in the final laps when he was running the Softs.

The Maranello-based team introduced new parts for the previous Russian Grand Prix, including modifications to the rear wing, the under-nose cape and the nose profile. The Scuderia continued its development work at the Eifel Grand Prix, bringing new parts for the so far troublesome SF1000 that featured new bargeboards and slight modifications to the front of the floor at the Nurburgring. Binotto was delighted with the upgrades that have confirmed the results expected from the computer simulations.

„Of course, we are not satisfied with this result, but we continue to work on improving our overall performance level. We saw signs of progress in qualifying, but the important thing is that the updates we are introducing seem to be going in the right direction, especially looking ahead to 2021. In the light of this, we should also have a few updates for the next race in Portimao."

Vettel tried a different strategy to those starting in front of him by starting on the Yellow medium compound. However, he lost a position at the start to Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi which meant that he spent the first part of the race behind the Italian, losing valuable time.

"I would have liked to bring home some points, but generally, I was struggling too much with the tyres. I think the start wasn’t bad. I was on the Medium compound and only lost one place to Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo. However, once my tyres were in the right temperature window I was stuck behind him and I was struggling a lot to pass him. I probably took too much of a risk and damaged my tyres. I was obliged to pit and after that it was very difficult to fight back.

„With the Safety Car at the end we thought there was a chance for points, we fought with Magnussen and I also tried to pass Giovinazzi. In the end we just weren’t able to pick up the last point. It was a very difficult day," the four-time world champion concluded.

Following his brilliant qualifying performance, Leclerc was not able to keep up with Ferrari's current rivals. The Monegasque stressed that the graining massively compromised his chances at the race as he had to shorten his first stint.

"Seventh is the best we could do today. On the soft tyres at the beginning we struggled massively, which compromised our race. We had a lot of graining so we were very slow and lost several positions. So we went for a two-stop strategy, which I believe was the right thing to do.

"On the medium tyre it went quite well and we did some good overtaking which is always fun. It was very tricky after the safety car period towards the end of the race, because I had to do the re-start on old tyres and it was very cold, but I think we managed pretty well. I am happy with the overall improvement we have seen in recent weeks. We are not yet where we want to be, but every small step is going in the right direction and this is what we need,’ the Monegasque said.