Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has questioned the progress Mercedes claim to have made following their Spanish Grand Prix performance.
George Russell placed on the podium at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Lewis Hamilton – who suffered a puncture on Lap 1 – fought back from last to finish fifth.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has since claimed that Hamilton “would have raced for the win” had he not lost time pitting to replace his damaged tyre.
Their performances have whetted the appetite for what could now become a three-team fight for the World Championship, with six drivers in the mix.
Mercedes gap is “like Ferrari’s last year”
However, Binotto has moved to remind Mercedes that they ended the 66-lap race 32 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen, a gap that he predicts could have been as large as 40 seconds had Charles Leclerc not suffered a power unit problem.
That deficit to the front, he says, is equal to that of Ferrari’s in 2021, a year in which the Italian team failed to taste victory.
“Congrats first to them, because they’ve recovered and they have improved the speed of their car,” Binotto admitted, speaking to Sky Sports F1.
“They were seven-tenths off the pace in the qualifying, during a single qualifying lap, and it’s a short circuit here.
“[On Sunday], they finished 30 seconds or more from the Red Bull. It could have been 40 seconds to Charles.
“40 seconds over 66 laps is still six- or seven-tenths per lap. Six- or seven-tenths per lap is still significant. That’s like Ferrari last year.”
Ferrari taking positives from DNF weekend
Binotto’s team, meanwhile, witnessed a race win slip from their grasp in Barcelona, as reliability once again played its part in the 2022 World Championship fight.
This time it was Leclerc who suffered his first DNF of the season with a power unit failure, allowing Verstappen to take the lead in the Drivers’ standings for the first time this year.
However, it remains a positive weekend for the Scuderia, according to Binotto.
“We need to keep optimistic and, for the team, it has been a positive weekend overall,” he explained.
“We brought upgrades, the car has been fast and we made a fantastic pole [position].
“While the race pace today was great, and after a few races where we started struggling in terms of tyre wear and high degradation, we were pretty fast!
“We started on the new [Soft] tyres, we should not forget that, as maybe it was an advantage, but as well on the Mediums, the drivers’ feedback was very strong and I think that is positive.”