Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has poured cold water on his hopes of seeing either Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel standing on the top step of the podium at the 2020 Formula 1 opener in Australia this weekend.

Having continually played down its pre-season testing pace, sticking to a programme to find a comfortable setup with its SF1000 rather than seeking outright performance immediately, Ferrari boss Binotto still sees Mercedes as favourites going into the Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

But when pressed on whether Ferrari can mount a charge for victory at Albert Park, Binotto dismissed the prospect when comparing the respective race pace of the front-running teams from pre-season testing.

“I don’t think we’ll be in a position to win in Australia,” Binotto said. “Obviously, every team has its own issues, some with reliability, others with lack of performance, but in a race weekend anything can happen. But as of today, we’re not quick enough to be up there.”

Binotto says Ferrari remains under intense pressure to deliver wins and a F1 world title challenge regardless of its own predictions and insists his negative forecast isn’t a pre-season psychological move in an attempt to catch Mercedes off guard.

Reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is already wary of mind games being used before the start of the 2020 F1 season and is ignoring the current performance projections from his rivals.

“I don’t think it’s a relief of pressure. When you’re not going as fast as you would like or you should, you get the pressure,” Binotto said. “As Ferrari, we only have one objective. If you are not reaching it, you cannot be relieved.

“We’re not playing games, this is our true performance at the moment. How good or bad it is, it’s only after the first three races we will have a clearer picture. The pressure is there. The pressure should be seen as a motivation, not a drama.

“The overall performance needs to be improved, power unit, even set-up, so I don’t think there is a single area where we need to focus but all the areas.”

Ferrari has won the Australian GP twice over the past three seasons, with Vettel taking the win in both 2017 and 2018, but saw Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas dominate at Albert Park 12 months ago.



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