Ferrari’s Belgian Grand Prix weekend started badly and never really improved from there, with both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc failing to finish Sunday’s race in the points.
The pair qualified in 13th and 14th position, and that’s also where they ended up crossing the finish line having failed to make any sort of impression in the afternoon’s proceedings.
Leclerc did show some early promise when he opted to start the race on the soft compound and vaulted up to ninth place on the opening lap.
However it was a short lived advantage as the red walled tyres proved much less durable and he soon found himself dropping back down the order.
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Leclerc’s pit stop then took longer than usual as the team tried to fix an issue on the SF1000. A second pit stop was similarly compromised as the mechanics had to top up the car’s pneumatic pressure.
“Extremely frustrating,” Leclerc told Sky Sports F1. “It’s been a very difficult weekend for us and the race was not any easier.
“We had issues on the few pit stops I’ve made, which made me lose quite a lot of lap time and positions,” he said. “Then I tried to catch back but then it’s very difficult for us to overtake, even with the DRS.
“We need to work and find something, because like this it’s very difficult.”
Having started ahead of Vettel on the grid, the two stops meant that Leclerc ended up finishing behind his team mate, the pair briefly touching wheels as they fought for position at one point in the closing stages of the race.
But despite being passed by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen towards the end, Vettel remained optimistic that Ferrati’s woeful showing this weekend would prove to be a one-off and not a portent for the team’s future fortunes.
“I hope they will be a bit Spa-specific,” Vettel said when asked about the team’s problems. “There’s probably something that is not exactly clear.
“There’s a lot of lessons this weekend and we need to make sure we stay strong, stay together and we do the best we can,” he continued. “Spa is obviously one of the most power-sensitive tracks and we struggle this year when it comes to power, so naturally you would expect to fall a bit behind.
“You can work on a couple of tenths, but I think it was difficult to have a decent pace this race,” he added. “We were even behind the people we were quite a bit faster than, especially on race day, in the last few races, so speaking of Sauber [Alfa Romeo] and Haas.
“I tried a lot of stuff in the race driving-wise to try and drive around the car and its problems, but the underlying factor is we’re just not quick enough and you cannot pull out miracles.”
That’s a nod to expectations for the next race on the calendar at Monza in seven day’s time, where a similar slump in performance would be unacceptable to Ferrari management and fans.
“We have two important races for the team in the next two weeks, but you also have to be realistic,” he insisted. “The package is what it is, we are not as strong as we would like to be, so we need to stay optimistic and see the good things, even if at the moment, there are not many.
“We need to make sure that we stay calm and we don’t get frustrated, because frustration is not usually leading you anywhere.”
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto agreed with Vettel that the team’s dire showing this weekend was likely to be track-specific.
“The problem is related to this weekend,” he told Sky Italia. “We have not been able to understand how to make the tyres work.
“After all, this is the same car we had in the past races,” he pointed out. “There is something that didn’t work for us, because we are further behind than we should be … We saw it on the straights, in the first and third sector.
“We are disappointed and angry, as indeed are our fans and with good reason,” added the Swiss engineer.
“It’s a difficult moment in a season that we knew from the start would be a tough one, but it’s at times like this that we need to stand firm and look ahead in order to get over this difficult period.
“It’s the only way we will get out of this situation.”
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