After prioritising a more aerodynamically efficient car for the start of the season Ferrari has enjoyed a straightline speed advantage over its rivals but has lost too much performance in the corners to compete regularly with Mercedes and even Red Bull.
It is still yet to win a race in 2019 but has pursued more downforce with a change in development direction and Binotto is curious to measure Ferrari’s progress in this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Asked if Ferrari’s pace in Germany last week, including the rain-hit race, was a sign of the car enjoying extra downforce, Binotto answered: “Have we improved our downforce yet, are we we where we should be? Not yet. Therefore the downforce levels, there is still some development required.
“But the car has improved. Certainly we have learned how to use it in terms of set-up, but certainly we have put some more downforce on the car as well.
“There is still a long way to go. I’m quite curious to see what happens this weekend [in Hungary].
“It’s a track where downforce is important, I’m expecting our competitors to be stronger and stronger but I think we can start to challenge them. Hungary will be important for us to understand where we are.”
Ferrari SF90 bargeboard detail
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
The top element is attached to one of the fins and the bottom element is mounted further back and lower down.
Binotto said of the revised bargeboards: “We are not transforming completely the car but again it’s showing we keep pushing and developing.
“Whenever we can, we try to bring some developments and improvements.
“It’s small steps in the right direction but hopefully that will give us some more pace.”
A rain-hit second practice session made it difficult to draw firm conclusions on Friday in Hungary.
However, Sebastian Vettel was in the mix in FP1, lapping within 0.2s of the pace, and though Charles Leclerc struggled more with the set-up of his car the 21-year-old felt Ferrari’s upgrade had produced a “positive step”.
“This is always good to see that the pieces we are putting on are working as expected,” he said. “But the balance didn’t feel good.”
Leclerc believes there is “quite a lot of laptime” in improving his car’s balance for qualifying.
“It’s a track where you need a lot of downforce, we knew it would be a difficult track for us,” he added.
“I am just struggling with overall grip, so we need to try to understand what is going on to try and help me a little bit, and I will focus on my driving to see what we can fix.”
Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images