Ferrari's dominant performance in F1's 2022 season-opener in Bahrain came despite the Scuderia not running their power units to the maximum, according to reports in the Italian media.
After a fallow couple of seasons, the team roared back to competitiveness in Sakhir, with the Prancing Horse notching a 1-2 finish. Ferrari-powered cars also filled three of the remaining eight points-paying positions.
This year's power units are running on E10 fuels for the first time, and a freeze on engine development is in place until 2025.
Earlier reports from Italy suggested that Ferrari had overcome the horsepower deficit brought about by the change in fuel composition before the season had even begun, and some Italian media outlets are now reporting that the Scuderia's return to form has been years in the making.
"A very good sign" for Ferrari
"Ferrari has been working on the new engine for two years," wrote the Corriere dello Sport.
"In addition, the team has worked very hard on the new fuel, which has gone from 5.5 per cent sustainable to 10 per cent sustainable.
"This caused the power of the engine to deteriorate and that loss had to be minimised as far as possible.
"It became clear in Bahrain that the Ferrari engine looked good, especially in terms of acceleration.
"That is a very good sign for the Scuderia, as the engines cannot be changed until 2025."
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Ferrari engine "did not run at full capacity"
Ominously for rival teams, the newspaper added that the Ferrari power unit was not operating at its maximum potential in Bahrain.
"The positive news for Ferrari doesn't end there, because Ferrari's technicians did not let the engine run at full capacity in Bahrain," the media outlet stated.
"They didn't want to risk anything in Bahrain, so they drove with a conservative set-up.
"This way, they were sure that they would also finish the race and that no reliability problems would arise.
"Over the following races, Ferrari will only increase the engine power gradually."
The Corriere dello Sport adds that the Ferrari unit will therefore not be operating at its maximum for this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, where power is paramount.
"It is also likely that Ferrari will use their second engine [of three permitted for the season] early, probably after the fourth or fifth Grand Prix," it continued.
"They will replace the engine quickly, if it is clear that the second engine is even more reliable following development."
Praise for Ferrari from other quarters
This report echoes the thoughts of Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner, whose Ferrari-powered VF-22 finished fifth in Bahrain at the hands of Kevin Magnussen.
"I think the Ferrari is now the best engine," Steiner told media, including RacingNews365.com, after Haas' best result since the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix and the team's first points finish in 28 races.
"That gives a lot of credit to them, because they had to take a lot of sh*t from people about [their lack of performance], and they just did their homework and came back with something very good."
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