Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has described his team’s performance in the Italian Grand Prix as “embarrassing”, however lead driver Sebastian Vettel who finished over 30 seconds behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, called it an “optimum result” considering where they started on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton poured fuel on the flames on the podium saying, “Mercedes power is better than Ferrari power!” Afterwards he joked in the press conference room that he would need a bodyguard to get out of Monza.
Marchionne never arrives or leaves anywhere without several bodyguards and Monza was no exception. But the chairman was not happy with the way his team performed in qualifying and the race.
Ferrari were relatively close on single lap pace in the dry on Friday, but a few tenths of a second adrift on long run pace on the supersoft.
Engine power has been cited as a possible reason, but that didn’t look like a factor last weekend at Spa, the highest engine sensitivity of the season. That said there is evidence that Mercedes did turn the engines up on Sunday.
The other culprit was the set up of the car.
The car needed more work but the team didn’t have the chance, as it rained on Saturday for final practice and neither Ferrari driver had the confidence in the car in Q3 on full wet tyres to attack, unlike the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers. Without the engine penalties for the Red Bull pair, Ferrari would have started 8th and 9th in their home Grand Prix.
Vettel, who started behind Raikkonen, made reasonably short work of clearing Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon but was over 20 seconds adrift of Hamilton after the first stint and fared no better on the second stint on soft tyres.
Raikkonen’s race was affected by some operational mistakes, on strategy he lost the best way through the Ocon and Stroll battle and that left him exposed to the charging Ricciardo later in the race. (See Tuesday’s UBS Race Strategy Report on JA on F1 for details)
Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne was not pleased and attacked the team in the Italian Media for failing to improve the car from last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix and for its operational errors.
“It was hard to suffer,” said Marchionne. “I told Arrivabene (team principal) and Binotto (technical director) that the car hasn’t improved from Belgium to here.
“Something we’ve done on the set up of the car didn’t work. The lack of pratice in dry conditions certainly impacted on the set up.
“Today was almost embarrassing, seeing the difference between Mercedes and ourselves. We were losing a second a lap; that’s impossible, that is not Ferrari.
“I really want to wipe the smile off the faces of this guys (Mercedes). They’re busting my balls!”
Ferrari had a new front suspension for Monza, possibly introduced with an eye on Singapore and it may be that this didn’t have enough evaluation, when it rained on Saturday, meaning no more practice time.
Vettel came on the radio on the slow down lap and thanked the team, acknowledging that it had been ‘un giorno difficile’ (A difficult day).
“Being technical you can say, I don’t know what it adds up (to), the gap, the amount of race laps.. I think we probably lacked something like half a second per lap today but there’s not all the parts of the race you can judge.
“The last 20 laps I was struggling. I went off in Turn 1 and I think something broke in the car. The left-hand side of the steering was a bit down and I couldn’t trust the car, especially on braking and it’s a braking track. So the last laps I don’t think they showed the pace we could have gone
“I’m not worried too much about the gap. As I said before, Monza is a specific place. If you have that extra bit and confidence then it makes a big difference. So, I’m not too stressed about that. We probably knew it would be a difficult race. Probably expected as well that we would be closer but all in all, it’s not nice to see them two winning but I think with the third position, at least we gave everything we had and that’s the most important.
“Overall you could say it was a bad day, but I know the team is on the right way and there is a lot of stuff that is going to improve. Overall, it has been amazing so far to see where we are but I know that we only get stronger, so I’m in a very, very positive mood, despite the number and all that. I am not worried about these… overall, it was a difficult weekend but I know that there is still a long way to go and we have got the people behind us so it is a great feeling.
“They (Mercedes) did the better job and they deserved to win – no doubt about that – but I think considering the day yesterday and where we started from, I think it was the optimum result.”
This is good leadership from Vettel, who knows that Ferrari can be easily unsettled by difficult days at Monza – as Marchionne’s words show.
His show of faith in the team is designed to steady nerves ahead of an even more important encounter at Singapore.
Ferrari knew the characteristics of their car meant they had little chance of being better than third at Monza.
But they must win Singapore.
* Monday morning Ferrari announced that “Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its multi-year partnership with Philip Morris International. ￼The agreement continues the collaboration of over 40 years between Philip Morris International and Scuderia Ferrari.”
Although the sponsorship is not visible on the Ferrari cars or drivers, as carrying of tobacco sponsorship is banned, the sponsorship contributes a significant sum to Ferrari’s racing budget