Different strategies led to different outcomes, which is understandable. However, when we consider the context of this choice, which was made on a weekend with the Saturday Sprint, it becomes more significant.
In the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix Sprint Race, Ferrari started with different tire compounds for its drivers. Charles Leclerc raced on a used set of Medium tires, while Carlos Sainz Jr. used Soft tires, being the only driver among the 20 starters to opt for the softest compound.
Charles Leclerc completed the 19-lap short race in third place, with Lando Norris closing in on him in the final moments during a late surge. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz began strongly thanks to the extra grip provided by his Soft tires but faced tire degradation midway through the stint, ultimately returning to life at the end.
Frédéric Vasseur, speaking to Sky Sport after the Sprint, explained the different tire choices for his drivers. He admitted that he wasn’t satisfied with the result but mentioned that this was almost a mandatory choice to gain an edge in the Sunday race, where Charles Leclerc, who starts from pole position, is aiming for a win.
“We talked this morning and thought it was important for us to have a good understanding of tomorrow’s race. That’s why we decided to differentiate the tire compounds for our drivers in the Sprint. This was the only opportunity for us, and I think it was a good choice. “No, I’m not satisfied with what we achieved today. I think we could have done a better job. But I believe it was important to have feedback on both tire compounds for the long race tomorrow. We’re starting from pole position, and it’s essential to have a good read on the situation, tire performance, and various factors to have a strong race tomorrow.” – the French manager pointed out.
The anomaly in tomorrow’s race isn’t the pole position of Charles Leclerc but the sixth-place start of Max Verstappen. That’s why having the season dominator so far behind required a small sacrifice. Understanding tire behavior to gather as much data as possible and plan the best strategy to aim for a big win was crucial.
“Tomorrow’s race will be a challenge, but Verstappen will start from the sixth position. If we want to try to win, we have to keep him behind us. We’ll need a much better pace than what we showed today, and we’ll need to conduct a thorough analysis of the race during the debrief to fully understand it and also comprehend what happened to Carlos. He struggled midway through his stint, but he did quite well with the Soft tires in the last part. We’ll see tomorrow.”
“The first position in the race will be essential because we have great straight-line speed. Carlos managed to defend against George Russell, even though the Mercedes was faster than us. We defended throughout the race. We know we have higher top speed and less aerodynamic downforce 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 make the most of it. Things are like this; it’s not a drama. But it could also be a good solution for the race.”
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection! Click here to enter the F1 online Store and shop securely! And also get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
Closing his statement, Ferrari’s team principal commented on Max Verstappen’s defensive maneuver at the start, as well as Lewis Hamilton’s overtaking move in turn 1 on Charles Leclerc.
“The move Max made at the start was, to say the least, aggressive. I’m not sure if it was too aggressive. Charles had to cut the pit lane exit line to avoid being closed by Max, and then Lewis also went off the track in turn 1 when he eventually overtook Charles. I’m not sure if there’s an investigation underway, but he certainly went well beyond the track limits to make the pass. But as I mentioned earlier, we have good straight-line speed and are well-positioned both defensively and offensively. Track position will be crucial tomorrow. The first lap will be crucial, as always,” concluded Fred Vasseur.