Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says the early F1 2022 frontrunners are “much better prepared” than previous years to fight for the title although the team are still wary of their “incredible” rivals Red Bull and Mercedes.
A resurgent Ferrari have enjoyed a superb start to the new season, scoring 78 points from a maximum of 88 from the opening Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs to open up an unexpected 40-point gap at the top.
Their charge has been led by Charles Leclerc, who has a pole and a victory to his name, while neither the Monegasque nor team-mate Carlos Sainz have finished a race off the podium.
“For us to be there in the fight, that was our objective to start the season and we can be very pleased,” Binotto told Sky Sports F1.
It is a great opening to the year, although the team are well aware their job is nowhere near done. With the cars still very new, there will be a development battle through the season – something Ferrari have struggled with before, notably in 2017 and ’18 when they started well but dropped away from Mercedes in the title race.
“Keeping up the level on a long season is a challenge, not just for us but all the teams,” said Binotto.
“It’s true that our competitors have very strong development. In 2017 and ’18 we lost a bit of ground.
“But since then, in car design, we have improved our wind tunnel, technologies, processes and simulations and so today we are much better prepared than in the past to do a good job with development.
“We also have a budget cap which will affect the rate of development… we need to make sure we have the right policy on that, as it could be a game-changer in the fight for development.”
Ferrari’s large lead at the top is both down to performance and reliability, with Mercedes well adrift in terms of pace and Red Bull, while evenly-matched with Ferrari, suffering a point-less double DNF in the season-opener.
“I believe Red Bull is the strongest and the favourite,” added Binotto.
Sainz, meanwhile, is also wary of Red Bull and Mercedes.
“If anything I’m impressed with the car that both Red Bull and Mercedes managed to put together, with less wind tunnel time than us, with the championship fight going on,” said Sainz.
“It just shows they are two very strong teams performing at an incredible level, and at any point in the season, they can turn it up and put a strong competition.
“We just need to keep our heads down and keep maximising our chances. But at the same time, I also trust the development capacity of our team. I think this year’s car proves it. It’s a car that is very well thought out, with some special concepts to it.
“So I really trust the people behind it and I’m sure we can develop.”