FLASH: Ferrari should not be worried about its Australia performance, as similar track conditions exist at a number of other street circuits on the calendar, but the performance in Bahrain should act as a much better barometer for how its season goes from here.
The biggest shock for Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) and it fans worldwide from the opening race of the Y 2019 season was how much it struggled relative to MercedesAMG.
A look at data supplied by F1 shows that, relative to MercedesAMG, most of Ferrari’s lap time went missing in medium-speed corners and on the straights. For the purposes of this comparison, medium-speed corners are those taken between 125km/h and 175km/h and they make up the majority of the corners at Albert Park. What is more, and in contrast to Barcelona, medium speed corners lead on to 5 of Melbourne’s 6 straights, meaning a poor exit results in lost time all the way until the next braking zone.
Compared to MercedesAMG, Ferrari was losing about 0.25secs per lap in the medium speed corners, nearly 0.4secs on the straights, but only a very marginal amount in high-speed corners.
The contrast between the performance of the Ferrari in medium-speed and high-speed helps compartmentalize the source of the car’s problems and also hints that the fundamental qualities that made the car quick at the Circuit de Catalunya are still there.
Aside from the corners, the other big difference between testing and the 1st race was the track surface.
The Circuit de Catalunya was re-laid ahead of Y 2018 pre-season testing, meaning it is still very smooth and, after a year of bedding in, has a relatively high-grip surface.
The track at Albert Park is used as a public road for most of the year and as a result it is bumpy, relatively low-grip and starts the weekend with no racing rubber laid down.
The car’s poor balance resulted in a loss of cornering speed, and had a negative impact on Sebastian Vettel’s ability to manage his tires. In the race, Ferrari was aggressive with its strategy, pitting Mr. Vettel on lap 14 to switch from the soft compound tire to the medium. In part it was an attempt to undercut Lewis Hamilton for 2nd place, but it was also about defending from Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen trying the same thing on Mr. Vettel.
But, so bad was the loss of performance from the medium compound tires, that Ferrari fitted a set of hards to Mr. Leclerc’s racer when he made his pit stop 14 laps later.
Mr. Leclerc’s strategy was the faster of the 2 as he was able to push harder on the more durable rubber in his 2nd stint and quickly closed in on his teammate. But, Mr. Vettel believes his poor race pace extended beyond his strategy and was rooted in the more fundamental issues facing the balance of his Ferrari at the weekend.
The Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend has F1 returning to a permanent circuit. The track surface is much more abrasive than Melbourne and has none of the bumps that unsettled the SF90 at Albert Park.
In place of the problematic medium-speed corners that caught Ferrari out at Albert Park, most of the straights are preceded by low speed corners that place an emphasis on traction over maintaining apex speed.
The Bahrain International Circuit has a number of Key differences compared to Barcelona, and if the theories about Ferrari’s struggles in Australia are right, it should suit the SF90 better than Albert Park.
Ferrari is the Aristocrat of the automotive sector.
HeffX-LTN overall technical outlook for RACE is Bullish across the board, and there is very little resistance here and none above 140.26. All of our Key indicators are Very Bullish in here.
Have a terrific weekend.