The Sprint Race at the United States Grand Prix was an opportunity to gather information and prepare for today’s race. Ferrari chose to differentiate its tire selection to have more data for the 56 laps ahead. The insights that emerged tell of an SF-23 that continues to struggle with tire management as the distances increase.
In the end, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz secured third and sixth places, which, in reality, don’t change the standings much. Mercedes evened the score with Lewis Hamilton’s second place and George Russell’s eighth place, despite his difficulties in adapting to the car’s new floor.
For car number 16 (Charles Leclerc’s car), medium tires, specifically the C3 compound, were chosen. Car number 55 (Carlos Sainz’s car) went for the softer C4 tires. At the start, Charles had a fantastic launch from second place, almost managing to pull alongside Max Verstappen, who defended himself by squeezing hard but fairly into Turn 1.
However, Leclerc couldn’t attempt an overtake and exited the hairpin at the top of the hill slower than his rivals. This allowed Lewis Hamilton to attack and take the position, which he held until the end. In the final phase of the event, Leclerc’s lap times significantly increased, demonstrating that challenges persist over long distances. These challenges are hoped to be addressed through the data collected during the “sprint.”
Ferrari: A Sprint Race of Study
Carlos started from the sixth position and finished in the same place. The Spaniard, who opted for a more aggressive strategy on soft tires, provided data to the team but struggled due to the tire degradation over the 19 laps. He was overtaken by Lando Norris and Sergio Perez.
Observing the race of Ferrari’s two drivers underscores one of the team’s biggest problems: tire degradation that inhibits performance. Considering the high tire consumption in the F1 Sprint, today’s race potentially looks even more challenging.
At the end of the GP, Charles Leclerc was not entirely satisfied. The event was compromised from the start due to Max’s strong defense, but the SF-23 was never able to close the gap on Mercedes. “At Turn 1, there was an opportunity to pass Max: I saw the space and tried, but he obviously defended himself. It was a duel on the edge, and I lost a position to Lewis. But they were a bit stronger than us in terms of race pace. We need to work on understanding what we can do better for tomorrow’s race,” admitted Charles, who would have had a difficult time winning even if he had taken the lead in the first corner.
Ferrari, as highlighted at the beginning, was the only team to run with two different tire compounds. This provides more data to lean on, which Charles Leclerc hopes to utilize: “We have a lot of elements to analyze. We used two different tire strategies, and now we understand how different compounds behave. This could help us a bit for the race; we hope to take advantage of this slight edge and hope to win.”
Carlos Sainz struggled throughout the 19 laps due to the red-banded Pirelli tires not being ideal for such a stint. “By choosing soft tires, we took a risk because we knew we’d struggle in terms of pace during the race due to degradation. However, I managed to start well and overtake two cars, climbing to fourth place. Then the more difficult part began, where I had to defend while managing the tires.”
“Keeping Lando and Sergio behind was very challenging, and the battle with George was not easy either, but we managed to stay ahead and score points. We are focusing on the GP given the wealth of information we have gathered,” concluded the Spanish driver.
Ferrari, Vasseur: “Differentiating the strategy was a necessary choice”
In other remarks, Carlos Sainz alluded to the need to discuss the strategy with the team in technical briefings since it did not meet expectations. A slight jab that Frédéric Vasseur immediately parried by clarifying, “We talked this morning, and we thought it was important for us to have a good interpretation of tomorrow’s race. That’s why we decided to differentiate the tire strategies for our drivers in the Sprint. This was the only opportunity for us, and I think it was a good choice.”
“I’m not satisfied with what we managed to do. I think we could have done a better job. But I believe it was important to get feedback with the two tire compounds in mind for the long race tomorrow. We will start from pole position, and it’s important to have a good understanding of the situation, the tires, and different elements to have a good race tomorrow,” the French manager explained to Sky Sport.
“The race will be a challenge; Max Verstappen will start from the sixth position, and if we want to try to win, we need to keep him behind. We must have a much better pace than what was shown in the Sprint, and we need to conduct a thorough analysis of the race in the debrief to understand it fully and also to understand what happened to Carlos. He struggled in the middle of his stint but performed quite well with the Soft tires in the last part.”
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“The top position in the race will be important because we have excellent straight-line speed. Carlos managed to defend against Russell, even though Mercedes was faster than us. We defended ourselves throughout the race. We know we have better straight-line speed and less aerodynamic load than other teams, but that’s how it is. It was our choice before the weekend, and now we have to manage the package we have and use it to the fullest. It can also be a good solution for the race. We have good straight-line speed and are well-positioned both defensively and offensively. Track position will be crucial, as will the first lap.”
From the words of the former Sauber team principal, it is clear that Ferrari is prepared for a defensive and challenging race. On a circuit like COTA, if Max Verstappen stays out of trouble at the start, he has a good chance of making a comeback and claiming victory. It won’t be easy for the Ferrari duo, despite their straight-line speed, to hold back the RB19 as well as the Mercedes cars.
These cars, along with McLaren, have shown better tire management thanks to their increased aerodynamic grip. They must be flawless over the course of the 56 laps of the GP and devise an effective strategy to avoid losing points in the battle for the second-place title.
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica