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Ferrari vs Red Bull: Has the deficit been halved?

Ferrari vs Red Bull: Has the deficit been halved?

( – Is the difference between Red Bull and Ferrari positive or negative? Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur is also asking himself this question after the opening of the 2024 Formula 1 season in Bahrain. He came to the conclusion: Ferrari is in a better position than it was a year ago.

Sergio Perez in the Red Bull RB20 in front of the Ferrari drivers in the 2024 Formula 1 opener in Bahrain

“The positive thing is that we could have achieved pole position with the fastest lap in qualifying,” explains Vasseur. “In the race we made up the gap to Red Bull by 50 percent.”

Both theses can be confirmed based on available data. Since Charles Leclerc had already led a time with the Ferrari SF-24 that was faster than Max Verstappen managed in the Red Bull RB20 – but in the second qualifying Q2 and not in Q3, where pole position is awarded.

Whereas Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz finished fourth in the 2023 Formula 1 season in Bahrain, 48 seconds behind Red Bull driver Verstappen, in 2024 he was only 25 seconds behind in fourth place.

Is Ferrari assessing the deficit realistically?

That sounds like a solid improvement for Ferrari, “but it's not enough,” says Vasseur. “We're still behind, even though we've caught up. Last year we were eight or nine-tenths of a second down in the race.” [pro Runde]This time it was maybe 50 percent of it.”

But here Vasseur is wrong: data analysis Formula 1 pace It shows a difference between Sainz and Verstappen of mostly six tenths or more per race lap.

In individual instances, Verstappen overtook the Ferrari for second place on every lap and generally did not appear to have reached the limit. With his fastest lap of 1:32.608, Verstappen was 1.9 seconds better than Sainz on his best lap.

Why is Ferrari still optimistic?

Ferrari remains optimistic. “After all, we have already improved over the course of the 2023 season. So if you consider that we fought with Red Bull in the latter part of the year, we have it.” [2024] “Good opportunity,” says Vasseur. After all, the Ferrari SF-24 represents the basis for a “much better” development than last year.

Vasseur says the pace of qualifying in particular will put Ferrari in promising positions: “There will be other opportunities where we can start from pole and other opportunities to win races.”

The real provisional result is only after the third race of the season

On the other hand, it is still generally too early to reach a provisional conclusion about the 2024 season. “You have to remember: things will look very different in Jeddah.” [eine Strecke mit] Different layout, different asphalt. And maybe [erst] After Melbourne, we have a better picture of the balance of power. “Before that, it will be difficult to get a clear picture.”

For now, he is “quite satisfied” with Ferrari's performance in Bahrain. “I don't think getting third or fourth under these conditions is a drama,” says Vasseur.

What didn't go well for Ferrari in Bahrain

Leclerc suffered from constant braking problems throughout the race and was never able to reach normal speed. “Overall, he handled it very well,” Vasseur says. “The pit wall also did a good job. So we saved fourth place in the end. And to be honest: I wasn't very optimistic in the first stint.”

And there's something else to spoil Vasseur's mood: “We had a lot of little problems this weekend.” First, losing pole position in qualifying, then the braking difficulties in the race.

“I was expecting a little more but considering the circumstances, it's a good result. Now let's focus on next week and catch up.” [in Saudi-Arabien] Back at zero.”