Charles Leclerc spared Ferrari’s blushes by pulling the disappointing SF1000 from seventh to an unlikely second place at the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend.
It was a stunning drive from the Monaco man. His pace and determination late on once again confirmed just how impressive he can be in pressure situations.
It was a champion’s drive for the man effectively anointed as the Scuderia’s best hope of winning a first world title since 2007.
However, for all the praise, the SF1000 is far from podium material.
Austria will simply be a weekend the Prancing Horse will want to forget, spending much of it battling against the Racing Points and McLarens, rather than the Mercedes and Red Bulls.
Expectations in the Ferrari camp were not high heading into the season-opener and those fears were realised when Leclerc and Vettel placed a disastrous P7 and P11 respectively in qualifying.
They were just the fifth-fastest team in qualifying and the car was nearly a full second slower than they had been around Austria last year, when Leclerc clinched pole position.
The Scuderia were Mercedes’ main challengers last season, with their prime asset being qualifying speed and engine power. They secured nine pole positions out of 21.
Now, they seem to have slipped further behind the Silver Arrow.
There is no magic formula to fix quick problems in F1 and Ferrari must use these next few races to monitor various adjustments and upgrades accurately.
Leclerc admitted the car was better through corners but had some drag. Vettel, meanwhile, said the car lacked grip and downforce down the straights.
The problem, though, is not only with the car’s aerodynamics. Team boss Mattia Binotto insisted after the race that they were losing “0.3secs in cornering and 0.7secs power-limited on the straights”.
To hone in even further,