Ferrari says its decision to bring forward its first Formula 1 engine upgrade of the season was a “last-minute” call made on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix.

In a renewed push to close the gap to rivals Mercedes, the Italian squad introduced an upgraded power unit in Barcelona that was originally scheduled to be brought to June’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Speaking after the Spanish Grand Prix, team principal Mattia Binotto explained the thinking behind Ferrari’s early-season development push.

“I think when starting the season in Australia we realised there was performance that needed recovering to the main competitors and so it was important for us to push as much as possible on the development,” Binotto said.

“We still believe development will be a key factor this season so I think whatever programme we anticipate it is our duty and our task to do it. We decided very early this season to anticipate the programme on the engine.

“It has been a big effort and not straightforward or obvious but it has been a last-minute decision to introduce it. We just concluded the entire homologation process in the last days.

“We did it because we were convinced it could have been important here as well. Maybe important in the next races and maybe even in Monaco.”

Despite a host of updates, Ferrari once again lagged behind Mercedes in Spain, while it was beaten to the final spot on the podium by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

“Before we judge our performance I must say compliments to Mercedes who have been really strong so far in this season so merit to them as they have done very well and work very hard which is not a surprise,” Binotto said.

“On our side we can work very hard and very well as well. The season is still long and we will never give up. That is our approach. There is much to learn from here.

“We are disappointed about the race and the performance during the weekend. Our hope was to deliver more. We brought some upgrades, aero and engine, here and we were expecting to somehow be in the fight, but it has not been the case.

“The upgrades worked well, power-wise, straight-line speed we are good enough, but certainly we have some weaknesses on the car that were highlighted this weekend.

“It is up to us to assess and to improve in the future. It can only make us stronger in the future - that is the final story of this weekend.”

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