Vasseur “convinced” Ferrari’s lack of race pace in Bahrain “not a matter of concept”

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Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur says the lack of race pace for Ferrari at the Bahrain GP is “not a matter of concept at all” given the disparity with its strong qualifying showing. He also discussed the “never expected” issue which ended Charles Leclerc’s race early.

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari endured a tough start to their 2023 Formula 1 season with a DNF for Charles Leclerc whilst running P3 at the Bahrain Grand Prix, with team-mate Carlos Sainz only able to finish fourth after having difficulties with tyre wear, losing a late battle with the charging Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

Speaking to media after the race – his first as Ferrari Team Principal – Frederic Vasseur explained the severity of the issues on Leclerc’s car. The team changed the Energy Store and the Control Electronics on his car as a precautionary measure on Sunday morning, but that wasn’t enough to avoid a failure.

“Honestly we don’t know yet what’s happened exactly,” said Vasseur. “There’s been an issue this morning, we changed the parts, we don’t know where it’s coming from and we’ll have the investigation soon. But it’s too early stage for me to give you a better answer.”

The Frenchman admitted the team “never expected” that issue as it didn’t happen in all of testing and their dyno running back at the factory, and confirmed that a “full investigation” into the problem will take place:

“We never expected to have something like this because it’s the first time that we had it,” said Vasseur. “We didn’t face the same issue at all during the six or seven thousand kilometres that we did with the engines last week with the three teams. And we never had the same issue on the dyno throughout the winter.

“But again, we need to do a full investigation before to be able to give you a proper answer.”

With Mercedes already admitting after the opening race a need to change car concept if it is to win in 2023, Vasseur is “completely convinced” Ferrari won’t need to take similar action. He believes its big disparity between a strong qualifying pace – Leclerc was only 0.103s adrift of Verstappen after the first runs in Q3 – and a lacklustre race performance are down to set-up options:

“I’m completely convinced about this,” he said referring to sticking with the current car concept.

“I never saw a car that was able to match the pace of another one in quali and not be able to in the race. Then, it is a matter of set-up and some choices on the car.

“But this is not a matter of concept at all. I don’t think that we have to go in this direction.”

Vasseur said Ferrari’s strong pace in qualifying was “a positive point”, but warned that the team has to be “realistic” and put together a “clear picture” of the issues that prevented it from having a smoother season opener in Bahrain:

“Overall, I would say that the picture is not the one expected before the race,” said Vasseur. “If I want to summarise the situation I would say that from the quali pace we are there, we are matching Red Bull, at least in Bahrain, and it was a positive point.

“But now we have to be realistic. If we want to improve, we need to have a clear picture of the situation and the reliability is not at the level that we need. If we want to win races, we need to have a clean sheet on the weekend and not small details here and there.”