Hamilton and Verstappen get title boost as Ferrari boss refuses claims

Mick Schumacher drives his father’s Ferrari F2003-GA in October

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen could enjoy an early-season advantage over Charles Leclerc and Ferrari as new boss Frederic Vasseur rubbishes claims the team has found drastic upgrades. Italian media at SoyMotor.com claimed the team had found an extra 30bhp for next season.

This was down to improved reliability as Ferrari were likely not running their car at full power for most of the season. Ex-team boss Mattia Binotto has previously admitted to dialling down the team’s performance at stages last year.

Formu1a.uno also suggested the Scuderia’s new 2023 car would be around a second faster than last year’s design. However, Vasseur has stressed the numbers being claimed were a “joke” and not likely to come to fruition.

The Frenchman also suggested Ferrari’s pace was “not an issue” despite getting dominated by Red Bull at stages last season.

He said: “Regarding the engine, the numbers, I don’t know where the numbers are coming from, but it’s just a joke that we made some step. It’s just about reliability. I think the performance last year of the engine was not an issue at all. The issue was the reliability and the first target is to fix it.”

Ferrari suffered mechanical failures at key moments last season which had a major dent in their championship challenge. Leclerc was forced out of the Spanish and Azerbaijan Grands Prix while leading due to issues.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz also suffered issues including a dramatic blaze at the Austrian Grand Prix as he closed in on P2. Despite winning two of the first three races, Leclerc’s championship bid faltered after failures were coupled with strategic errors and a lack of pace.

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Mercedes were able to leapfrog the Italian marque by the end of the season with Ferrari failing to win again after Leclerc’s success in Spielberg. Vasseur has admitted his mechanics are also having to solve some proposing concerns ahead of the season opener.

He added: “So far it looks okay but the reality of the track is a different aspect. I think that a couple of issues that the team suffered, and it’s not just true for Ferrari, but in terms of reliability are also coming from the track operation, bouncing and vibration.

“And I believe we’ll have a much better picture in Bahrain in a bit more than two weeks’ time.”

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