The Spanish Grand Prix has so far been a chastening weekend for Ferrari – and for everyone else hoping for a championship battle that involves more than the two Mercedes drivers.
Ferrari threw a huge effort into improving for this race, in the attempt to close the gap on a team that might have scored four consecutive one-twos to start the season but still seemed tantalisingly within reach.
Ferrari not only brought the traditional aerodynamic upgrade to their car for the first European race of the season but also unusually introduced a new engine. Two races earlier than originally planned.
It smacked a little of desperation – the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is not a track layout that particularly rewards extra engine power because of its corner-heavy design – but it also underlined their determination to finally get their season on track after a disappointing start.
But it has not worked out that way. Mercedes also brought an aero upgrade, and this one was bigger than Ferrari’s – insiders say it was worth a huge 0.4 seconds a lap.
The result has been the biggest gap between Mercedes and Ferrari so far – Valtteri Bottas’ pole position was a massive 0.866secs faster than the quickest Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. With Lewis Hamilton in second place on the grid, a fifth consecutive silver one-two looks a strong possibility on Sunday.