Ferrari cut a philosophical tone ahead of the much delayed 2020 F1 World Championship season opener in Austria, conceding it is unlikely to have the quickest car and won’t be bringing updates until round three.

More than three months has passed since the erstwhile 2020 F1 curtain raiser in Australia was cancelled last minute as the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic began to take its hold, with track activity since limited to driving older cars or using up some of the limited filming days.

 

 

However, while the lack of reference points means there is a great sense of the unknown heading to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, Ferrari says it doesn’t expect to be any better positioned than in March when it arrived in Melbourne on the back of an indifferent performance in testing.

Indeed, Ferrari could well find itself even further adrift of Mercedes and Red Bull after being forced to delay its upgrade package until round three in Hungary, unlike its main rivals which are bringing several new parts to the opener.

"This weekend the car will run in the same configuration used towards the end of the Barcelona tests,” team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed. “This doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs in the very limited time of just five and a half weeks in which we were able to work on the cars, because of the stringent procedures involved in working around the pandemic as well as the total shutdown of activities required by the FIA in agreement with the teams.

“The truth is that the outcome of the tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front.

“First, we had to understand why we did not see the results we had expected on track and how much to recalibrate the whole programme as a result. It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned, knowing that we would not have reached our goals.

“Therefore we decided to come up with a new programme that looked at the whole car, knowing that not all of it would be ready for the first race.

Ferrari arrives in Austria facing some scrutiny after Sebastian Vettel confirmed he will exit at the end of the season, while Charles Leclerc embarks on the start on a long-term contract, but it will do so without everything available in its armoury.

“Our aim is to introduce the updates at the third race on 19 July at the Hungaroring. Apart from that, over and above the actual development of the car itself, these past few weeks we have worked a lot on analysing its behaviour, with simulation work and with the help of our drivers and I think that will prove its worth in Austria.

“We know that, at the moment, we don’t have the fastest package. We knew it before heading for Melbourne and that hasn’t changed. Having said that, the Spielberg circuit has different characteristics to Montmelo and the temperatures will be well above those of February.

“In Austria, we must try and make the most of every opportunity and then in Hungary, with the new development step we are working on, we will be able to see where we are really compared to the others, while having to take into account the developments our competitors themselves will have brought along.

The truth is that trying to make predictions at the start of such an unusual season is even more pointless than usual. There will be a few pointers come the end of the three hours of Friday practice, but a more accurate idea will be available after Saturday’s qualifying.

“Only then will we start to have a clearer picture of the hierarchy among the teams, but then there is always the uncertainty that comes with the opening round, in terms of reliability and tyre performance over a race distance. We must try and be perfect in everything we do, in preparing for every session and in how we carry out our tasks. The aim? To bring home as many points as possible, as is always the case in fact."

 

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