Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto believes the pace both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were able to produce in practice compared to its rivals should not be considered representative of its race pace as it lost its dominant speed across the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

During a truncated Friday at the Baku City Circuit, with FP1 cancelled after 13 minutes due to the manhole cover problem, Ferrari held a 1-2 throughout practice by ending FP2 over half a second clear of Mercedes and FP3 well over one second faster than nearest rival Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.

But after Leclerc’s Q2 qualifying crash and Vettel unable to pick up the pieces, Ferrari were left trailing Mercedes throughout the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with the reigning Formula 1 world champions sealing a fourth consecutive 1-2 at the start of 2019.

With questions posed about Ferrari’s perceived practice pace disappearing, Binotto feels key contextual factors distorted the times produced in the practice sessions.

“I think we should not too much look at the free practice results. We are on different programmes,” Binotto said. “We may run different fuel levels, different engine modes, so I think it’s very difficult to judge on a Friday.

“For us Friday was more important to focus on our plan — aero developments, what we brought – as well and I think the fact that free practice was compromised with FP1, no running, and FP2 was  messy. So free practice, I don’t think there’s any conclusion from that.

“Saturday I think we got a good car for qualifying. Potentially we could have been on pole. We didn’t. And I think that the races are certainly a different matter.”

Binotto also blamed running directly behind the Mercedes pair in dirty air compromised his drivers’ race pace, with Vettel in particular struggling for grip on the soft tyres in the first stint, which hamstrung Ferrari’s charge.

“I think that being in front or staying behind, it makes it quite different to manage your pace and your tyres,” he explained. “When you have got fresh or clean air certainly it is a lot easier.

“I think that our pace has been affected by our position on the grid at the start. But not only that, as certainly the others are very strong and we are facing very strong competition.”



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