And although Leclerc’s magical driving last weekend during the Austrian GP earned the Italian team a second-place finish, Sunday’s drop out compounded a tough start to the season.
After its cars struggled for speed during qualifying for the Austrian GP, Ferrari fast-tracked upgrades to its cars, which had been originally scheduled for July 19, in the hopes of improving its chances.
But after watching his cars struggle for speed for the second weekend in a row, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says the team must “change this state of affairs.”
“A really disappointing day,” he said after qualifying for the Styrian GP. “We have to accept that the stopwatch doesn’t ever lie. In two qualifying sessions, albeit in different conditions, we have not been competitive, not only against those who have been our closest rivals over the past few years, but also against others, who up to yesterday were generally behind us.”
“We worked very hard to bring updates to the car earlier than planned, but they didn’t show their worth on track.”
‘Excuses are not enough’
In the pouring rain during qualifying, while Lewis Hamilton drove masterfully to earn himself pole position – which he converted into a nearly 14-second victory in Sunday’s GP – Ferrari’s drivers struggled.
Despite the changes made to the SF1000 car – which Vettel said was like a “different car” – Vettel and Leclerc finished 10th and 11th respectively, meaning Ferrari didn’t have anyone inside the first six places on the starting grid for the second straight week.
The incident between Vettel and Leclerc took place on turn three of the opening lap, as Leclerc tried to slip past his teammate on the inside, only for the German to narrow the gap and make contact.
Vettel’s rear wing was held on by barely a thread and Leclerc’s front wing and floor were badly damaged, meaning both cars had hobble to the pits.
But having sustained so much damage, Vettel was forced to retire immediately, with Leclerc only able to complete three more laps before also retiring. Leclerc apologized to Vettel after the race.
“Obviously excuses are not enough in times like this,” said Leclerc. “I am just disappointed in myself. I’ve done a very bad job today. I let the team down.
“I can only be sorry, even though I know it’s not enough. I hope I will learn from this and we will come back stronger for the next races.”
It is the second time the two have clashed on the racetrack, with the pair retiring with just six laps to go after colliding in the Brazilian GP in 2019. After that collision, both drivers apologized.
Ross Brawn, F1 managing director and technical director of Ferrari during its period of domination in the 2000’s with Michael Schumacher, said the team has “a long road ahead.”
“One of the biggest problems for Ferrari is that of all the teams on the grid, they come under the closest scrutiny from the media, particularly in Italy,” Brawn wrote in his column after Sunday’s race in Austria. “I know from my own experience that the media pressure in Italy can be incredibly intense, and you have to make sure it doesn’t get to your people.
“The management have to cope with it and make sure the staff maintain the faith and stay focused on what needs to be done. They aren’t going to turn it around overnight, and there’s a long road ahead of them. They need to find out if there is a fundamental problem with the car – and they need to find out fast – because clearly they are some way off the pace.”
The 2020 season continues next weekend with the Hungarian GP.