A Sunday in defense
The Sunday of the Qatar Grand Prix had started poorly for Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz’s car retiring even before the traffic lights went out due to a fuel leak. Charles Leclerc did his best to defend Ferrari’s colors, finishing in fifth place. However, what raised concerns, as expressed by Charles Leclerc himself via radio at the end of the race, was the gap to the McLarens of Piastri and Norris, who finished ahead of the #16 Ferrari by over 30 seconds. Ferrari’s team principal, Frederic Vasseur, also commented on this issue, stating that he is convinced that in Austin, under more normal conditions, the SF-23 cars will be able to perform better.
McLaren, the main anti-Red Bull, but not everywhere
“Overall, it was a challenging weekend,” said the number one at the Ferrari pit wall to Sky Sport F1. “Not just due to the tire and curb situation, but also because of the wind and high temperatures. There was sand on the track on Friday, so it was a complex weekend. We can’t complain because if we look at our drivers, their physical performance was incredible. If we look at the last two GPs, we can say that McLaren is right behind Red Bull,” Fred Vasseur added. “But Suzuka and Lusail have similar characteristics, with a succession of high-speed corners. We are probably in better conditions compared to them at Monza and Singapore, but we’ll see in the upcoming races starting with Austin, which is a mix of all these.” – he pointed out.
A Large Gap and Sainz’s Retirement
In his extensive analysis, Fred Vasseur also specifically identified the phase of the race where Ferrari incurred the most significant gap to their rivals: “We took 90% of the gap during the second stint because we got stuck in traffic and had graining. We also had a pace deficit, but not significant enough to create such a big gap.” Of course, the French manager went on to analyze what happened with Carlos Sainz’s car before the race: “There are regulations that dictate when to refuel the car. When we refueled, the problem appeared, not before. You could say that we could have refueled earlier, but it doesn’t work that way. In the end, there wasn’t enough time to change the fuel tank. I don’t know if this problem is due to the curbs; we need to investigate, and there hasn’t been time to remove the tank yet, but probably yes because the loss seems significant, and there is damage that probably stems from the last laps yesterday.”
Qatar’s Future and Verstappen’s Dominance
Frederic Vasseur then urged all of Formula 1 to reflect on how to improve the Qatar event in the coming years. However, he agreed with the decision to implement the three mandatory pit stops: “The decision made during the weekend was good because it was for safety reasons,” the Frenchman noted. “We found a solution to have a good race, but it wasn’t ideal for managing the weekend, changing the track limits, and I know how many cases there have been today as well. I talked about the number of laps for pit stops and track limits. Verstappen? Now it’s too early to say that he’s making history. The most impressive thing is that he hasn’t made any mistakes. He’s always there, even when he struggles a bit, he manages to react, and he’s impressive even on weekends when Red Bull didn’t have a great pace, like in Singapore. There, he had an excellent race, finishing in 5th place. He’s doing an exceptional job, but we hope to be able to compete with him in the present.” – the French manager explained at the end of the Qatar Grand Prix.
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