Ferrari says the “hardest part of its tough cycle” is over but that unlocking more race pace from its SF1000 should be the “next piece of the puzzle.”
Ferrari has endured a difficult 2020 campaign amid problems with its draggy and aerodynamically subdued SF1000 and an engine that has lacked overall power.
But after a lacklustre run across events in Belgium and Italy it has shown an upturn in form off the back of bringing revised components to its SF1000.
Charles Leclerc has scored successive top five finishes while Sebastian Vettel – who has struggled to get on top of the SF1000 – was set for one of his best 2020 results until a tardy pit stop stymied his progress.
Ferrari’s Sporting Director Laurent Mekies says gains have been made – particularly over one-lap – but further pace needs to be unlocked in race trim.
“I think we’ve undoubtedly had an incredibly difficult season in which for many races in a row we had a car performance [which was] dropping compared to the competition,” said Mekies.
“We knew we had deep issues with the car and we did take a lot of time to understand them and figure out solutions for them.
“Hopefully now we’d like to think that the hardest part of that tough cycle is behind us.
“If we look at the last three to four races, having understood our issues, we brought little bits after little bits – nothing which could happen in one day because we know it [a big improvement] is not going to happen in one day – and yes we do see a slight upward trend in that performance, so I think that’s positive.
“Now that’s true for quali. For the race we know we have additional challenges and certainly we had a few disappointing races.
“It’s the next piece of the puzzle we need to unlock and we are conscious that there is still a lot to learn on that front.”
The soon-to-be-departing Vettel has scored only 18 points compared to the 85 accrued by Leclerc but Mekies feels the four-time champion is getting accustomed to the SF1000’s nuances.
“He has been more comfortable in Portimao, it was another step here [at Imola], it’s frustrating it doesn’t show on the positions but if you look at the lap times analysis he is closer to Charles,” said Mekies.
“Seb and his team around him have been never been giving up about trying to find solutions about what has been making him lose his edge and his confidence and certainly our car is a difficult one this year.
“I think they have found a window that has put him in a better place, at least that’s what the last two or three races seem to indicate.”