Sebastian Vettel has said that Ferrari is facing three areas of crucial concern heading into the rest of the 2018 season.
The team started well with back-to-back wins for Vettel in Australia and Bahrain. But Mercedes have been resurgent in the latest races in Azerbaijan and Spain, and Vettel fears that the balance is swinging in their rival’s favour.
“We were not quick enough,” said Vettel of the most recent race in Spain at the weekend. “If we are not able to see that then we are more than blind, because we didn’t have the pace in the first stint.
Even a raft of upgrades to the SF71H had failed to deliver a breakthrough performance. “We all had our updates for this race, maybe the others have brought more than us.”
While Hamilton was dominant on Sunday, Vettel lost out a consolation podium when he was forced to make a second pit stop. He agreed that tyres were another of the scuderia’s issues at the moment.
“I think we struggled a little bit over the course of the weekend with the tyres,” he said. The race saw Pirelli adjust the tread depth on their tyres in response to the newly resurface track at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“We had different tyres that maybe suited others better than us,” Vettel acknowledged. “They changed, but they changed for everyone.
“Our ambition has to be that we’re better off, rather than worse off, than everybody,” he added. “It was our fault for not having the same tyre wear or life as other people.”
Vettel was not among the conspiracy theorists who believed that Mercedes benefited unfairly from the change in tyre tread. On the contrary, he admitted that Ferrari could have been even worse off without the changes.
“If we used the normal tyres on Sunday, it would have probably been worse,” he told journalists attending in-season testing at Barcelona. “So it was the correct call.”
Vettel said he was also concerned by the emergence of reliability problems. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen had to make a precautionary engine change after Friday’s practice sessions. He was then forced to retire from the race itself with a power unit failure on lap 25.
With only three sets of each of the key engine components available to drivers for the season, Raikkonen now faces a real prospect of grid penalties later in the year. And Vettel fears the same could be true for him.
“It’s important these days that you understand why and what’s missing for the next races,” he explained. “It was a poor weekend in terms of reliability. Kimi had an issue with the engine and obviously retired in the race.
“I’ve said many times that this team is strong and we’ve got a lot of potential, but I think we also need to make sure we address the problems we have.”
“What does it help? Why find excuses?” he concluded. “Bottom line is we were not quick enough to win, and that’s what needs to be addressed.”