FERRARI are already in turmoil – just one race into the new season.
The Italian team have been plunged into disarray here in Austria amid claims they have gone into REVERSE and are over a second slower than this time last year.
It raises fresh accusations about the legality of their engine for much of 2019; the investigation that was kept secret by the sport’s governing body.
Add into the mix Sebastian Vettel is furious about their handling over his own departure from the team.
Plus, Charles Leclerc’s decision to leave the ‘bubble’ in Austria to return to his home in Monaco has also raised concerns within the paddock.
It all comes after F1 announced that following the Italian GP, the sport will head to Mugello for the ninth race on the calendar on September 13.
The track is owned by Ferrari and will be the team’s 1,000th race in F1 – but it could be a huge embarrassment.
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Ferrari boss, Mattia Binotto, had revealed in the run up to the season-opener last Sunday that the Italian team would be without updated parts as they changed their car’s design.
Leclerc defied the odds to bring the car home in second place while Vettel was down in 10th place after a poor weekend for the four-time world champion.
Vettel revealed that he was dumped by Binotto over the phone when he had been assured of being offered a new deal when his current contract expires in December.
Binotto has since blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the team’s decision to perform a u-turn on their plans to keep him on.
SunSport understands that Vettel has been left in a spin by their decision and is deeply upset.
The German was a driving force behind the team but has now been left in the lurch as Leclerc has become the clear No.1.
All-eyes are now on Ferrari’s new posterboy. Leclerc, 22, is an obvious talent after a meteoric rise through the ranks.
However, Ferrari will juggle that talent with keeping his feet firmly on the floor.
Ferrari were again woefully adrift during first practice for the Styrian GP as Vettel and Leclerc were placed 10th and 12th.
That only served to reopen the debate about their power unit, especially as Binotto said last week “the engine isn’t as good as it used to be”.
That has revved up their rivals, who are still bitter that the FIA reached a private ‘settlement’ with Ferrari in February over their investigation into their engine.
While teams have been publicly silent many are suspicious of foul play and are pushing the FIA to disclose their findings.
That all serves to pile the pressure on Binotto, with former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger, fearing that strain could become too much.
He said: “I like Mattia, he was on my cars as an engineer. A nice guy, also clever guy, also good guy.
“But when you compare Ferrari having one leading person like Binotto, on the technical side, on the political side, on the race strategy side and so on.
“And at Red Bull you have a Christian Horner, extremely competitive, you have Adrian Newey, a genius in his area, you have Helmut Marko, a shark having all the motorsport experience.
“If you take Mercedes, the same thing. Andy Cowell, Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff.
“Everybody at the same time, improving the team. Political, technical, and whatever.
“So I’m wondering if the setup of Ferrari is strong enough?”