Ferrari highlight ‘game killer’ compared to Red Bull

Tyre degradation could prove a 'game killer' for Ferrari this year, according to team principal Fred Vasseur

Tyre degradation could prove a ‘game killer’ for Ferrari this year, according to team principal Fred Vasseur

Fred Vasseur has highlighted a secondary area where Ferrari has to improve considerably this season if it is to challenge Red Bull for the Formula 1 titles.

Following his appointment, Vasseur made clear that solving the Scuderia’s reliability issues which proved so costly last year was high on his agenda.

That became even more prevalent after Charles Leclerc retired from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with a power unit problem when finishing third was likely on the cards.

But another worry for Vasseur was the tyre degradation of the SF-23s around the Bahrain International Circuit.

The track’s asphalt is naturally highly abrasive, which forced Ferrari into two stints on the hard tyres, compared to one on the soft.

Both Red Bull drivers, however, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, were able to conjure their comfortable one-two with a strategy offset by using two sets of softs and one hard.

Suggested to Vasseur he now had more on his plate to consider than after testing, he replied: “After the test, I think every single team was a bit blind on the situation.

“They’d already played a lot with the level of fuel and the engine mode.

“But I think everybody, including you (the media) was expecting Red Bull to be a bit further away in qualifying, yet we were there.

“And then we were able to match them over the first 14 or 15 laps (of the race), which for me, was good news.

“But the fact they were able to do two soft, one hard (tyre stints) when we had to do two hard, one soft, for sure it’s a game killer. We have to improve on this.

“But I would say the first issue for me is reliability. We need to have zero issues on the operation.”

Vasseur refusing to play waiting game

Carlos Sainz, who at least managed to finish fourth in Bahrain, has expressed hope the next race in Saudi Arabia will play more to the strengths of his car.

The high-speed Jeddah Street Circuit has smoother asphalt, so degradation should not be as severe for Ferrari as was the case in Bahrain.

Vasseur, though, has no intention of waiting for another two or three races to obtain a clearer picture of the current situation with regard to tyre wear.

“The picture of today is the picture of today, even if Bahrain is a bit extreme in terms of degradation,” said Vasseur.

“Also considering the layout of the track and the fact you have a lot of traction phase with the DRS.

“It means that if you’re not in good shape it becomes a mega (problem), but this is the situation.

“The circumstances increase the picture, they don’t change the picture.”

As to whether he felt Ferrari was facing a short-term problem, the Frenchman replied: “I don’t have my crystal ball.

“Honestly, it’s quite difficult to anticipate. Sometimes with tuning you can fix it, but I hope it won’t be too long.”

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