As Mercedes aced the first pre-season test of 2020, rivals Ferrari admitted they were lagging behind as Sebastian Vettel suffered a car failure.
Valtteri Bottas continued the world champions’ razing run in Barcelona with the fastest time of the week on Friday, proving 0.8 seconds faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton at the Barcelona circuit.
However, the third and final day of the first test was one to forget for Ferrari, with the new SF1000 breaking down at the hands of Vettel.
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Ferrari dominated 2019 testing, only to lose momentum early and effectively concede both championships in a lacklustre first half of the season.
On Friday, with Vettel at the wheel, the 2020 car suffered a hiccup as the four-time world champion copped an engine failure.
The car was loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck and was cycled back to the pit lane. A blanket over the car kept prying eyes away from the first high-profile car failure of testing, with Ferrari now licking its wounds ahead of next week’s second test at the same venue.
Vettel wasn’t the only one to strike drama – Haas driver Kevin Magnussen suffered a minor accident at Turn 8 following a puncture, while Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo stopped on track late in the afternoon session.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto admitted his team is behind the eight ball, but acknowledged it’s still early days.
“I am not as optimistic as last year so it means the others are faster than us at the moment,” Binotto said.
“How much faster it’s really difficult to judge. We will go through all the data.”
Vettel was 12th fastest overall after suffering the drama midway through the morning session.
The SF1000 was built with a stronger aerodynamic focus, having lagged behind Mercedes and Red Bull for much of 2019 – a season Ferrari won just three of 21 races.
However, Binotto said it’s “a very early stage to decide” as to whether Ferrari has closed the gap despite their dramas this week.
“I’ve seen certainly Mercedes, and Red Bull, very fast in these first days. But I think we will assess the true performance only next week or in Australia,” he said.
“That will be true performance to start the season with, knowing that 22 races are very long and everything may change.
“We changed the approach to testing so we focused the first sessions on trying to map the car in various aero and mechanical configurations without really trying to optimise the set-up and look for overall performance.
“On the other side it is true that last year at this stage I was more optimistic because the lap time was easier to find… while if it is true we did not focus on set-up work or performance, it seems it is more difficult.
“The competitors apparently are very strong but we should not forget the story of last year and let’s wait until next week and Australia to better understand the true picture.”