In Depth

F1: Italian media hit out at ‘weak’ Vettel after Ferrari’s slow show

Scuderia’s performance at the Australian GP is put under the spotlight

While Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes were celebrating victory at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Ferrari were left to reflect on a disappointing result in Melbourne.

Going into the first race of the 2019 campaign Ferrari had impressed in pre-season testing and were tipped to set the pace down under.

However, in qualifying Sebastian Vettel could only record the third-quickest time behind Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Bottas. In Sunday’s race Bottas finished first, Hamilton was second and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third.

Ferrari duo Vettel and Charles Leclerc had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively as they missed out on the podium.

Speaking in Melbourne German driver Vettel told F1.com: “We were just slow. [I had] way less grip. In Barcelona, we were very happy with tyre life from day one. The balance was right, the car was responding to what I was asking it to do and I had a lot of confidence.

“All weekend, summing up, I didn’t get the confidence I had in Barcelona, I didn’t have the car underneath to play around, it wasn’t doing what I was asking.

“There were glimpses - here and there we were strong. Our performance in some corners was good, but the majority of corners it wasn’t, that’s why we were slower than other people and lost out today.”

Italian press ‘slam’ Vettel

GPFans.com reports that Vettel remains confident Ferrari can battle Mercedes and Red Bull for the 2019 title.

“It was one race,” said the four-time world champion. “Mercedes is very strong and the rest are far behind, but it’s a long year.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto also refused to panic after the poor showing in Melbourne. He said: “We need to analyse what happened here in peace at the factory. I remain convinced that we have a good car. We haven’t seen our true potential on a race weekend yet.”

Despite Vettel and Binotto’s words, the Italian media was not happy with Ferrari’s result - or the fact that Leclerc was told not to attack Vettel.

Calling Vettel’s performance “weak”, Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport said: “Leclerc seems to have more energy and openly admits that he was told to stay behind in the final stages of the race.”

Sky Sports Italia journalist Mara Sangiorgio said even through it is just the first race the team in red needs to react in Bahrain.

Sangiorgio wrote: “The two Ferrari drivers have both shown that they have neither rhythm nor speed. The SF90 struggled throughout the weekend. It is [up to] the Ferrari team principal to immediately stop alarms and deny any other technical and more serious problems.”

Ferrari the biggest loser in Melbourne

In his round up of the biggest winners and losers at the Australian GP F1.com writer Lawrence Barretto said the main winner - Valtteri Bottas - was an easy and “deserved” choice after his dominating victory for Mercedes.

However, Barretto picked out Ferrari as the weekend’s big losers. He said: “Ferrari were the number one contender for the losers side of this feature after a lacklustre weekend that was a sniffle rather than the roar we expected following their performance in pre-season.

“Sebastian Vettel admitted Ferrari were just slow. He’s not wrong, the Scuderia ending up nearly a minute behind race winner Bottas - a staggering deficit.”

Vettel: Lerclec will challenge me

With Kimi Raikkonen joining Sauber in the close season, Vettel is this year partnered by 21-year-old Leclerc.

Vettel believes that the youngster will push him during 2019, the BBC reports. The 31-year-old said: “He’ll put a lot of pressure on me the whole season. It will be very close. He is very talented. I am sure we will have tough and tight battles but more than that I hope we have a lot of fun together.”

The second race of the 2019 Formula 1 season will be the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday 31 March. Held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir the Bahrain GP will start at 4.10pm (UK time).

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