Fred Vasseur admits that Ferrari went for the wrong strategy with Charles Leclerc, as the Monegasque dropped down the field in COTA. Even before the 26-year-old was disqualified post-race for a technical infringement, his afternoon in Austin was very complicated.
Starting from Pole Position, there was optimism that Ferrari could secure good points. Although the Sprint Race exposed the SF-23’s poor tyre management, this was largely due to the decision to run Carlos Sainz with soft tyres.
In the race itself, the Italian outfit actually showed reasonable tyre conservation. This is not altogether surprising, given the progress made on this front since the summer break. As a result of this, Leclerc was able to extend his opening stint longer than most drivers surrounding him.
Ironically, it was Leclerc’s exceptional management that encouraged Ferrari to try the one-stop. This decision soon proved incorrect, as the #16 car found itself on the defensive in the final laps of the race.
Once again, a combination of factors saw the 5-time F1 race winner plummet from P1 on the grid.
Speaking to formu1a.uno and other members of the media post-race, team principal Fred Vasseur admitted the team misjudged the race:
“We committed for a one-stop, and it was not the good choice. It’s obvious. I mean, I spoke with Charles ten minutes ago.
“It was not a good choice. For me, the issue is we didn’t have a clear picture of this before the race.
“We were hesitating a bit in the first stint [thinking about] pushing or not pushing, and we made a mistake…
“If you do 6-7 laps more, and everyone is one second faster than you, you are losing 4-5 positions on track.”
Mercedes are currently 22 points ahead of Ferrari in the standings, a gap that is certainly reachable before 2023 ends. The W14’s latest updates in America have proven effective, especially in the hands of Lewis Hamilton.
However, the consistent pace shown by McLaren – alongside a potential second wind at Aston Martin – will increase the stakes in Mexico. Ferrari remains formidable in qualifying, but optimising race day is where the battles are won and lost.
Operational shortcomings from Mercedes helped Verstappen secure victory on Sunday, a reminder that all areas – including pit stops and strategy – must be excellent to compete with the reigning F1 Champions.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang