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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ferrari boosts engine in Barcelona to try to catch Mercedes

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland, left, celebrates with third placed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany after winning the Formula One Grand Prix at the Baku Formula One city circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, April 28, 2019. (Sergei Grits / Associated Press)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland, left, celebrates with third placed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany after winning the Formula One Grand Prix at the Baku Formula One city circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, April 28, 2019. (Sergei Grits / Associated Press)
By Tales Azzoni Associated Press

MADRID – Five rounds into the Formula One season and Ferrari is already running out of time to catch Mercedes in the championship race.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc trail the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton headed into the Spanish Grand Prix, so the Italian organization fast-tracked the rollout of a new power unit aimed to give Vettel and Leclerc a boost in Barcelona.

“We are currently behind in the championship and we have to catch up,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, who noted the team used a new aerodynamic package in Baku last round.

“We will also bring some developments in this area to Barcelona. On top of that, we will have a new power unit that we are introducing ahead of schedule, as the second specification was due to be brought to Canada.”

The Canadian GP in June is only two races from now, but the team needed the extra power to compete with Mercedes this weekend at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. Binotto said a new “formulation of race lubricant” will also be introduced along with the new power unit, “delivering increased performance.”

Ferrari is attempting to reverse a dismal start to the season in which Mercedes finished 1-2 through the first four races for the best start for a two-car team in F1 history.

Bottas leads the drivers’ standings with 87 points, one more than five-time champion Hamilton. Vettel is already 35 points off the lead, with Leclerc 40 points behind. Hamilton won last year’s title despite just a five-point lead over Vettel at this stage of the season. He finished the year 88 points ahead of the German driver.

“The results seem to paint a relatively clear picture, but the truth is that they’re too flattering,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. “The performance has fluctuated in the first four races. So, there is no complacency about our situation because we know that it’s not truly representative of the balance of power this season so far.”

Wolff noted that Ferrari dominated in preseason testing in Barcelona and is expected to bring a strong package to the race in Spain.

“Our opponents were blisteringly quick in winter testing, so the Spanish Grand Prix will be anything but easy,” he said. “Despite the good start to the season we remain quite skeptical of our own performance and know that there are a number of areas where we can and must improve. We anticipate a tough and competitive weekend, first against our rivals and also between our drivers. Everything is still very much up for grabs this season and we will be keeping our foot firmly to the floor.”

Hamilton won the Spanish GP three times, including the last two, while Vettel will be seeking his second win in Barcelona and first at the track since 2011, when he was still with Red Bull.

“I’ve always had very positive weekends in Barcelona with Ferrari, even if we’ve never won,” Vettel said. “I hope this might be the moment to put that right.”

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