As they head into the seventh round of the Formula One season in Canada this weekend, Ferrari are already 118 points behind rivals Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.
Pre-season expectations of competing for the world championship quickly came shuddering to a halt while an engine upgrade was fast-tracked to the Spanish Grand Prix last month.
It has not stemmed the Mercedes tide, with the champions claiming victories in the six opening races. Another this weekend would be a first since 1988, when McLaren’s Aryton Senna and Alain Prost went on to win 15 of 16 grands prix that season.
But Sunday’s race in Montreal, where Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari claimed pole position and the win last year, poses the biggest challenge yet to the Mercedes streak.
It is a track with long straights and fast corners and, like races in Bahrain and Baku, should suit Ferrari’s SF90.
The Italians were unlucky not to win the season’s second meeting in Bahrain, where an unprecedented short circuit in the engine’s control system saw race-leader Charles Leclerc’s car lose power and him slide back to third.
In Baku, the missed opportunity was less obvious, but the team appeared to have the quickest car over one lap and could have taken pole. However they wrongly opted to use the harder compound tyre during the second qualifying period, and Leclerc would ultimately crash out.
Four-time champion Vettel has not been immune from the mistakes plaguing the team, spinning in Bahrain during a battle with Lewis Hamilton, while Ferrari’s failure to get Leclerc through the first phase of qualifying in Monaco last time out was symptomatic of a desperation to deliver results.
This weekend, then, presents Ferrari with the chance to finally kick-start their season.
“We arrive here ready to do our best and put the mistakes of the last few races behind us,” said team principal Mattia Binotto. “We know we’re not competitive enough right now.”
Binotto is adamant that Pirelli’s tyre tweaks have negatively impacted the car, arguing that reduced tread thickness makes it difficult for Ferrari to get heat into their tyres.
It adds to the reasons why the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve should benefit them with its fast corners and heavy braking. If they cannot end their duck here, on the other hand, it begs the question whether they can beat Mercedes anywhere this season.
“We will be in a better shape compared to Barcelona, but I think they’ve still got the best car,” Binotto added. “I think they are still the ones that should be ahead, but maybe the gap will be closer. If there’s any opportunity, we will be ready to take it.”