Ferrari make honest admission that puts pressure on Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton decision

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto insists the team will largely focus on the design and development of their 2022 car rather than looking to significantly improve their 2021 model throughout the upcoming season. Formula One regulations will change significantly next year with teams looking to take advantage and overthrow Mercedes at the front of the grid.

Ferrari are hoping their SF21 2021 car is improved enough on their 2020 equivalent after they endured a grim season last year, their worst in 40 years.

But Binotto admits that as they seek to improve on finishing sixth in the constructors’ standings in 2020, in-season developments on their current car are likely to be more minimal given the lack of opportunity to reel in Mercedes and Red Bull.

And that essentially sees the Prancing Horse rule themselves out of title contention although they are hopeful they have improved their straight-line speed, which was a huge weakness last season thanks to a disappointing power engine.

For 2022 though, due to their dire 2020, Ferrari will be gifted more time to work on the car’s aerodynamics – and they intend to fully take advantage of that.

“Because of the windtunnel opportunity, and having some more time having finished sixth last year, our focus during 2021 will be [on] developing the 2022 car, that will be the main target,” Binotto said at Ferrari’s team launch on Friday.

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“We will not spend much time on the ’21 [car] during the season, it is a balance, it is a choice that we need to make at some stage.”

Speaking on 2021, he continued: “To see how the car is handling at the very start of the season is very important as [it is] the balance of performance we may see for the rest of the season.

“As I said we know how much we progressed in the wind tunnel but what will be important is to see the track delivery, and how it will compare behave to expectations.

“We have experienced, and we’re not the only ones, that sometimes you mismatch from the wind tunnel to the racetrack.

“I think that will be a key point for all the competitors because again, having changed the regulations from the back of the car, I think there is a work of correlation that is needed and I think that will be a key factor for the season.”

Binotto has even revealed he will skip some of the 23 races in the 2021 F1 calendar in order to be back at Maranello to aid development of the 2022 car.

And that a team of Ferrari’s might, the Scuderia boasting an unparalleled 16 Constructors’ Championships, are putting so much resource into their planning for 2022 puts extra pressure on the Silver Arrows.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both out of contract at Mercedes at the end of this season and there is a belief the Briton may retire if he surpasses Michael Schumacher with an eighth world title in 2021.

The 36-year-old is the best driver in the paddock and losing his talents would be a blow enough for Mercedes, never mind having to battle a rejuvenated Ferrari and perhaps even the likes of Aston Martin and McLaren on top of Red Bull for the title.

With a driver of Charles Leclerc’s ability, and Carlos Sainz also having impressed at McLaren before his switch, Ferrari have a strong line-up that can be a threat if provided with the right package.

And if Hamilton does indeed call it a day, Mercedes know they must get it right and pick a driver who can immediately come in and be a success if they are to avoid losing their status as the team to beat.

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George Russell at Williams and Esteban Ocon at Renault, both Mercedes junior drivers, have been confirmed as options to replace Hamilton and Bottas by team boss Toto Wolff.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has also been touted as a potential replacement and the Dutchman refused to rule out a move earlier this week when the Milton Keynes-based team unveiled their 2021 challenger, the RB16B.

Ferrari boss Binotto, meanwhile, insists he wants his side to show a desire to win this year even if they may not have the machinery capable of delivering race victories.

“We know we need to do better in 2021. What will count more is our will to win,” he said.

“I am not saying we will win. We have to be realistic – there have been cars that are very strong last year and with the cars partially frozen will be very strong again in 2021.

“But will to win is our commitment, our intention, being aware that details count, determination will be important and showing progress. That is what I am expecting.”

While Leclerc said: “If you ask me, when we have a new project for the car it’s always very difficult to know how things are going to go until you try it out.

“I think with all the meetings we’ve had since the beginning of the year, more or less we know that there are some positive things in this car. A huge amount of work has gone into it to improve it.

“After other people have done their work, we’ll see how it goes on track. So yes I hope we’ll be back in command soon.”

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