“A show of strength”. This is how Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto defined the Italian side’s performance of making it to Q3 at the Suzuka circuit while also saving a set of soft tires in preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
However, the rain punctually arrived on the Japanese track, even in advance as compared to the forecast ahead of Sunday’s race, which basically made Ferrari’s advantage useless, as the slick tyres were no longer needed for the rest of the weekend:
“We tried to save as many sets of tires as possible for the Grand Prix” – confirmed Inaki Rueda, head of strategy at the Ferrari pit wall, in his post-race debrief – “but on Sunday we realized they would be useless”.
The racing dynamics meant that at a strategic level the race was quite obvious: “Having the possibility to choose which tire to start in the wet, everyone opted for the intermediate because it is a much better tire than the full wet” – added Inaki Rueda, pointing out one of the major flaws of the wet tyres – “and after the red flag the restart behind the Safety Car was mandatory with extreme wet tires. Two cars, however, immediately returned to the pits to mount the intermediates at the restart and from the times of Sebastian Vettel already in the exit lap it was clear that it was advantageous to move to the intermediates” – the Ferrari head of strategy explained.
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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen stopped together with Charles Leclerc, who had to extend his time waiting in the Ferrari box due to Sergio Perez’s passage into the pit lane. After a promising start to the stint, however, Charles Leclerc’s pace and performance went down sharply: “At the start of the stint Charles Leclerc managed to gain time against Sergio Perez, then, however, the tire degradation was much greater than that of the Red Bull cars. We evaluated the option of making an extra stop, but there would never be enough time to get back to where we were, or in second position, so Charles Leclerc continued to the checkered flag losing second place due to the time penalty” – Inaki Rueda concluded.
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