Ferrari's extra horsepower could be crucial in the team's bid to overtake McLaren for third place in the constructors' championship.
Ferrari has faced an uphill battle to get back on par with Mercedes in terms of engine performance since its power units were affected by a 2019 technical directive that clamped down on systems to circumvent FIA fuel sensors. During the off-season, Ferrari improved its engines, and in the second half of 2021, it rolled out an updated hybrid system on the cars of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in Russia and Turkey, respectively. After suffering the agony of a grid penalty for using a fourth engine, both drivers discovered that the upgraded package provided them with a tangible performance advantage.
The latest hybrid improvements from Maranello, according to team boss Mattia Binotto, are a “big step,” implying that the gap with Mercedes is not as wide as it was last year. “The [additional] power is always available through the straight line, so you get the benefit from it at the start of the straight line and as well at the end,” Binotto explained.
“The way we can quantify that; if I look at this weekend, we’re running maximum downforce, but we’re somehow almost matching the speed of the others. Considering last year, how the situation was, it is certainly a big step forward. We still know that there is a gap to the best engine today, but we believe that gap is not so dramatic,” he added.
Ferrari’s extra horsepower could be crucial in the team’s bid to overtake McLaren for third place in the constructors’ championship. McLaren has admitted on record that Ferrari now has the faster car after a close race throughout 2021 that swung both ways depending on the circuit.
Binotto admitted that the updated ERS system gives him confidence that Ferrari will be able to gain a competitive advantage in the upcoming races. “Generally speaking, in the overall balance of the lap, I think we have been clearly faster this weekend,” Binotto explained.
“I think on the paper it was not a circuit which was suiting obviously our car. That’s why I’m pleased with the progress I’ve seen in the last races, certainly the help of the power unit both for qualifying and the race, and that gives me some confidence for the next races.”
It has been an up-and-down season for the prancing horse in 2021. Ferrari are, of course, nowhere near the level that they aspire to be with the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull taking podium after podium. They are well and truly out of the race for the constructor’s championship. However, finishing third, ahead of their arch-rivals McLaren, is an important goal for both the team and the Tifosi.
It will not be easy as the Ferrari car this year has been anything but perfect. Both Sainz and Leclerc have had numerous problems over the course of the season with it. There have also been reports of internal strife between Leclerc and Binotto. According to several Italian sources, tensions have been high between the two for a while. Witnesses at the Italian Grand Prix earlier in the month recalled Binotto and Leclerc arguing heatedly in the team garage.