Bob McMurray: Ferrari needs to keep a stiff upper lip
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It was an anomaly they said. They didn’t understand and nor did their main rivals.
Where had it suddenly appeared from they asked? And just when everything was looking so good!
We are talking about the sudden lack of pace shown by Scuderia Ferrari at the Australian F1 Grand Prix — not about the appendage on the top lip of Sebastian Vettel.
Each is as intriguing as the other with Vettel’s moustache gaining Nigel Mansell tea-strainer proportions but a long way from the Formula 1 daddy of them all, belonging to Liberty Media boss Chase Carey, or perhaps even that of Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Mercedes-Benz.
Vettel’s “lip furniture” proved to be anything but a good luck charm for him last weekend.
Ferrari came roaring back in the Bahrain Grand Prix and set the Mercedes team back on its heels, seemingly unable to match the straight line speed of the SF 90.
All was looking good especially when the rookie Charles Leclerc put his car firmly on pole position and in front of his four-time World Drivers’ Champion teammate Vettel, then overtook the team leader, against team orders, and ran away from the rest of the pack, driving with a skill and confidence that belied his comparative inexperience.
Ferrari, being Ferrari, managed to scupper his chances of winning by inventing a new problem with its powerful engine. Despite this, Leclerc drove magnificently to a podium finish and in doing so eclipsed his illustrious colleague.
After the race Leclerc handled his disappointment with a maturity that some of his more exalted fellow drivers could only wish to emulate.
Vettel was made to look the junior driver and appeared lacklustre in his driving, again.
He looked like a man who has lost the ambition to fight although he did report after the race that his car was “extremely difficult to drive”.
On the other hand, it looked encouraging to see that the muted performance of Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix perhaps was, as team boss Mattia Binotto said, “an anomaly”.
Vettel is too good a driver to sit back and watch Leclerc run circles around him again. If the Scuderia can make its bullet of an engine bullet-proof as well, then we can look forward to a great season.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was a test of the new-for-2019 aero modifications and they did what it said on the box.
The drivers were able to follow each other more closely and, with the added effect of an extra DRS zone, there was tighter racing and more overtaking.
Midfield runners are reasonably closely matched so, once again, the 2019 season is looking promising.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was owned by Leclerc, something Daniel Ricciardo could only wish for after another Renault problem ended his (and teammate Hulkenberg’s) race prematurely.
If there was a world record for a driver to have so many power unit problems with the same engine manufacturer, then Ricciardo would sweep it.
If he and Fernando Alonso should have a beer together, one can imagine the subject of any conversation would be around making the wrong team move at the wrong time.
Either that or, the latest Vettel accessory may be mentioned.