Ferrari will run its Formula 1 car in pre-season testing specification for the first two races of the season in Austria ahead of a switch to a new aerodynamic philosophy planned for the third race of the campaign in Hungary.
The team struggled during pre-season testing at Barcelona, which has led to this change in approach and what team principal Mattia Binotto characterises as a recalibration of its development programme.
“It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned, knowing that we would not have reached our goals” :: Mattia Binotto
Leading rivals Mercedes and Red Bull have already confirmed they will introduce significant upgrades for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix after running well during pre-season testing.
“This weekend the car will run in the same configuration used towards the end of the Barcelona tests,” said Binotto.
“This doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs in the very limited time of just five-and-a-half weeks in which we were able to work on the cars, because of the stringent procedures involved in working around the pandemic as well as the total shutdown of activities required by the FIA in agreement with the teams.
“The truth is that the outcome of the tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front.
“First, we had to understand why we did not see the results we had expected on track and how much to recalibrate the whole programme as a result.
“It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned, knowing that we would not have reached our goals.
“Therefore we decided to come up with a new programme that looked at the whole car, knowing that not all of it would be ready for the first race.
“Our aim is to introduce the updates at the third race on 19 July at the Hungaroring.”
Binotto confirmed Ferrari’s analysis showed it to be off the pace during pre-season testing, which supports the prevailing opinion that it would struggle to match pacesetter Mercedes and Red Bull.
It is hoped that a combination of the analysis of what it learned with the running it has done with its 2020 car and the different conditions in Austria will allow it to at least get the best from the machinery over the next two weekends.
“Over and above the actual development of the car itself, these past few weeks we have worked a lot on analysing its behaviour, with simulation work and with the help of our drivers and I think that will prove its worth in Austria,” said Binotto.
“We know that, at the moment, we don’t have the fastest package. We knew it before heading for Melbourne and that hasn’t changed.
“Having said that, the Spielberg circuit has different characteristics to Montmelo [Barcelona] and the temperatures will be well above those of February.
“In Austria, we must try and make the most of every opportunity and then in Hungary, with the new development step we are working on, we will be able to see where we are really compared to the others, while having to take into account the developments our competitors themselves will have brought along.”
“We have to be realistic when it comes to the pecking order seen at the tests, but we are not downhearted” :: Sebastian Vettel
Binotto refused to predict how the competitive picture will evolve this season, but expects a clear hierarchy to start to emerge after qualifying at the Red Bull Ring this weekend.
But with Ferrari expected to be at the back of the leading group of three constructors, the priority for the team is to bank as many points as possible ahead of the hoped-for improvement as the season progresses.
“The truth is that trying to make predictions at the start of such an unusual season is even more pointless than usual,” said Binotto.
“There will be a few pointers come the end of the three hours of Friday practice, but a more accurate idea will be available after Saturday’s qualifying.
“Only then will we start to have a clearer picture of the hierarchy among the teams, but then there is always the uncertainty that comes with the opening round, in terms of reliability and tyre performance over a race distance.
“We must try and be perfect in everything we do, in preparing for every session and in how we carry out our tasks.
“The aim? To bring home as many points as possible, as is always the case in fact.”
Sebastian Vettel, who will kick off his final season with Ferrari this weekend, said the team has to be realistic heading into this weekend given its struggles.
But he stressed that having two races in a row at the same venue will also allow Ferrari to accumulate valuable data.
“We have to be realistic when it comes to the pecking order seen at the tests, but we are not downhearted,” said Vettel.
“It will also be unusual doing two races in a row here as for the second one we will have a lot of data to work with.
“What we do in the first weekend will have an important effect on the second.”