We may only be one race into the 2023 Formula 1 season, but Ralf Schumacher has already seen enough to dismiss Ferrari‘s chances of winning a first title since the 2008 constructors’ championship.
Red Bull dominated the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as Max Verstappen led a comfortable one-two under the lights in Sakhir, with the Dutchman finishing 38.6 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso in third.
To make matters worse, footage emerged of Verstappen‘s engineer repeatedly telling the world champion to slow down in order to protect the car because there was “no race”.
It’s a blow to Ferrari, who had hoped to mount a more sustained title bid in 2023, but Charles Leclerc was forced to retire, while Carlos Sainz suffered with tyre degradation that left him in fourth.
And such was Red Bull‘s dominance that Schumacher thinks the gap is already too much to bridge for the Maranello-based outfit.
Asked by Formel1 if he thinks Ferrari can mount a 2023 challenge, he replied: “I don’t think so.”
“I think it will take too long [to close the gap] and that Red Bull is already out of the picture unless, of course, there is technical bad luck.
“I would like it, but I fear that this will be a relatively boring season. It will revolve around two fighting teammates.”
Vasseur: We are matching Red Bull
Despite Schumacher’s concerns, new Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur remains optimistic about the season ahead.
The Frenchman is confident the SF-23 is a match for Red Bull‘s RB19 when it comes to raw pace, although admitted he was worried about Leclerc‘s early DNF.
“In terms of pace, we are there,” Vasseur told the press after the 2023 Bahrain GP. “We are matching Red Bull but now we have to be realistic. If we want to improve, we have to get control of the situation.
“We never expected to have something like this [Leclerc‘s DNF] because the first time that we didn’t face the same issue at all during the 6 or 7,000 kilometres that we did with the with the engineering team last week [at testing].
“We never had the same issue on the dyno on the other meter. Again, we need to do a full investigation, but it’s never good to start with a DNF.
“The most important now is to be able to have a clearer picture of the situation [and see] where we are failing.”