Ferrari: We should have focused more on downforce

Ferrari should have placed more emphasis on downforce when designing its 2019 Formula 1 car, team boss Mattia Binotto has admitted.

The Italian outfit headed into the campaign as the favourite on the basis of a strong pre-season showing, but was powerless to prevent Mercedes from racking up eight straight wins and establishing a sizeable points lead that has been maintained heading into the summer break.

While the SF90 has benefitted from superior straightline speed, its downforce deficiency has left Ferrari exposed at circuits dominated by low and medium-speed corners.

Adding more downforce to the SF90 has long been a priority for Ferrari, and Binotto admits he will have placed a greater emphasis on it in hindsight, also because this will have helped the car work the 2019-spec Pirelli tyres.

Binotto told Ferrari’s current balance between downforce and drag was “not a question of philosophy” or car concept, and that extra horsepower from its engine was also a factor in its superior top speed.

However, he added: “As we said, certainly these tyres require more downforce just to heat them up, to make them work.

“So, yes, if I would come back one year ago, I would give more focus on the downforce compared to what we did, even to the disadvantage of some more drag. Can we call that a ‘concept’? Not too sure. I think it’s an objective that has become more clear, certainly.”

Binotto said Mercedes’ performance gains late in pre-season testing meant Ferrari was aware that its rival had assembled a formidable package.

Nevertheless, the team expected its SF90 to be, on average, a match for the Mercedes W10.

“I think we’ve been surprised by our poor performance at the start of the season, because maybe we were not thinking to be ahead, but at least as fast as them, and it has not been the case in Australia,” he recalled. “Maybe it was the case in Bahrain, but it has not been on average the case we were thinking.”

He admitted being roundly defeated in the Spanish GP, at the venue of the SF90’s strong pre-season performance, was particularly “discouraging”.

“It’s true as well that if you look at the first half of the season, it’s quite strange how in certain races some cars are performing well and others not – even maybe the cars which have been the fastest at the start of the season, in some tracks were certainly not the fastest. I think it’s really up and down, of all the cars,” Binotto continued.

“If there is anything that needs to be looked at, it’s maybe the average. And maybe as well winter testing simply it was a case where we were overperforming or they were underperforming, whatever were the reasons, and that turned into a different situation on different circuits, different time, different weather, different tyres.”

Binotto went on to add: “We missed a few opportunities, and certainly today if you would’ve looked at the result with a few wins, the picture would’ve been completely different”.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF90

Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

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