Fred Vasseur: Conditions in Qatar were “beyond the limit”

Jaden Diaz
10 Oct, 2023

On paper, it was known that Qatar would be one of the toughest events for the SF23 – due to the track surface and other features of the Losail track. Fred Vasseur admitted that “if we put together the wind and the high-speed corners in the sequence, we knew it would be difficult, but we limited the loss to Mercedes.”

This was mainly thanks to the first-lap accident between the two W14s, although Ferrari themselves did not maximise points.

The Ferrari Team Principal discussed the extreme conditions drivers endured last weekend. He acknowledged that today we were even over the limit, but next year, the GP will be around December. Therefore, I think the conditions will be different.”

Ferrari now looks to the American Grand Prix in Austin, where Mercedes will bring an important package which will shape preparations for 2024.

Vasseur extreme conditions: “We need to be careful in the future. Next year will be better”

The main topic of discussion was the extreme conditions to which the drivers were subjected, with many unwell during and after the race. Vasseur commented on this issue:

“I think we are at the limit (physically) for the drivers who have the possibility to stop but also to have an accident. I think we were even over the limit today.

“Here, the conditions combined with the fast sequential corners, which are very demanding, were very challenging for the drivers. I’m just saying that we need to be more careful in the future. 

On the topic of bouncing, the Frenchman is not convinced that he played a role:

“In 2021, the race was later in the year – 10 degrees higher temperatures were important. The bouncing wasn’t a problem. I think it was more a problem of atmospheric conditions than technical ones.”

Vasseur also argued the number of stops complicated things for drivers:

“Obviously, you always push without worrying about managing too much. Without the limits [from the FIA], I think it was a one stop race.

The ex-Alfa Romeo Team Principal also criticised the management of the track limits situation while limiting his words for clear political reasons:

“The reaction (of the FIA) was appropriate, but it’s a shame to be in a situation like this.

“It is certainly frustrating as a situation for the programs that a team prepares and the plans change like this. We need to discuss how not to get to this situation.”

Even for the spectators, the track limits saga was far from positive:

“There are drivers who went over every lap in the last ten laps, but it’s not their fault. It’s not a good thing for the show. Those who see it don’t know about all the warnings and penalties.”

Vasseur was very measured in his words, and made sure not to point any fingers:

“I don’t know who is responsible for the situation, so I don’t want to express myself. But it’s a problem of layout, of curbs, of the whole thing. The organizers make a great effort to host us, but the result is not up to the challenge.”

Vasseur post-race: “We don’t look at Mercedes. In Austin, I expect a better Ferrari”

Speaking more about the performance aspect of the weekend, the Maranello Team Principal did not want to comment on the great speed of Mercedes, Ferrari’s number-one rival in the last five events:

“II look at ourselves. We had graining in the second stint and were stuck in traffic. We can always do better, but let’s focus on the next race.”

Strategy also limited Ferrari’s potential this weekend:

“It’s no secret that we had tyres with a maximum of 61 laps for a 57-lap race. We didn’t have much margin and flexibility for strategies.” 

The problem that stopped Carlos Sainz even before the start of the Qatar Grand Prix has not yet been analysed, but one can imagine that a possible cause was the excessive stress caused by the use of the curbs of the Losail circuit:

“Definitely, but until we do the analysis, we can’t know. It’s too early. It was impossible to get out on the track. What we saw was too big a problem.”

Vasseur, however, defended the team, as the leak was “impossible to see before due to the fuel levels used up to that point.”

Finally, the usual question about the prospects for the next appointment was taken lightly by Ferrari’s number one: “I prefer to stay quiet (laughs). It will be a little better than Qatar. 

If the Red team wants to take P2 in the championship once again, it must maximise results every weekend and show stronger race pace relative to Mercedes.

Authors: Andrea Vergani , Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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