Ferrari focus on reliability after Bahrain DNF
Reliability was not the main concern of new Ferrari boss Fred Wasser ahead of the F1 season, but Sunday’s opening race in Bahrain put it back on the priority list.
Charles Leclerc, who led the Ferrari from pole at Sahir last year, was leading by one-two. lost power and retired with 17 laps to go and Carlos Sainz finished fourth.
Ferrari had already replaced the energy reserve on Leclerc’s car ahead of the race, which is a blow as drivers have only had two in a season of 23 races without a penalty on the grid.
Prior to this, both drivers were more focused on whether their car could match the pace of Red Bull, which suffered a double retirement last year but this time finished with Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.
“In general, I would say that this is not the picture that was expected to be seen before the race,” Wasser told reporters.
“We have this for the first time. [the problem] and we didn’t encounter the same problem at all during the 6000-7000 km run we did with engines last week with three teams.
“We have never had such a problem with a dynamometer all winter long,” he added.
“The most important thing now is to have a clear understanding of the situation in which we are failing, conduct a proper analysis and come back stronger as soon as possible.”
The Frenchman felt that Ferrari was not inferior to Red Bull in qualifying, but he needed to fix the reliability and tire wear in the race.
Both Ferrari drivers had heavy tire wear and although Leclerc was third before the crash, Sainz finished 48 seconds behind Verstappen.
Red Bull dominated the soft/soft/hard tire strategy while Ferrari had to choose between soft/hard/hard tyres.
“The fact that they can do two soft and one hard [stints] when we have to do two hard ones, one soft one is sure to kill the game,” Vasser said.
“We have to improve it, but I would say the first issue for me is reliability because we shouldn’t have any issues.”
Vasser was confident that Ferrari was on the right track to compete with Red Bull, even if Mercedes rivals were already rethinking their car design given the gap they were facing.
“I have never seen a car capable of competing with another in qualifying and not capable in the race,” said Wasser. “Then it’s a matter of customization and some car choices. It’s not a matter of concept at all.”
Ferrari won two of last year’s first three races before losing due to poor reliability, strategic mistakes and driver error.
Wasser moved from Swiss Sauber in January to replace the departed Mattia Binotto and immediately made some changes, including a shake-up of strategy.
On Saturday, the team sacrificed a potential pole position to give Leclerc a set of new soft tires for the race, and Sunday’s pit stops went off without a hitch.