Vasseur on Ferrari’s performance in Canada: “It’s good that we’re going in the right direction”

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Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

For many, Scuderia Ferrari have been better known for the last two seasons for the memes they have generated rather than their on-track performances – particularly when it comes to strategy. However, this past weekend in Montreal saw their drivers cross the line in P4 and P5. On this occasion the outcome was the direct result of a successful strategic gamble. A gamble, which according to Team Principal Fred Vasseur speaking post-race in Montreal, was heavily influenced by his driver pairing.

Last Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix saw Charles Leclerc start from P10 with his teammate Carlos Sainz on the row behind in P11. It would take something special for the driver pairing to score meaningful points – particularly on a day featuring beautiful sunshine as opposed to the heavy rain of Saturday’s qualifying.

Both drivers chose to start the race running new medium compound tyres but were soon stuck in a DRS train. An all too familiar sight in 2023 at a time when the latest evolution of F1 car was meant to be able to run closer together and allow more passing on track. However, when George Russell hit the wall on the exit of Turn 9, the collision was such that a Safety Car was required. At that stage many cars chose to take what they hoped would be a ‘free’ pitstop due to the reduction in time – but the Ferrari drivers remained on track.

Before, the shout of ‘not another strategy error?!’ could be heard from the F1 fanbase it became apparent that Leclerc and Sainz had a lot of pace. A pace which they could now exploit in the free air in front of them.

“You always have some hesitation, but both [Leclerc and Sainz] told us they had the pace when not stuck in traffic and the potential was there,” explained Vasseur. “They said: ‘Just give us some clear air’ and the best way to do it was not to pit, but it was a gamble because if you have another Safety Car 15 laps later, it is a bit more difficult.”

Both Ferrari drivers managed their medium tyres very well in the first stint. They completed over half the race distance on that compound with 38 laps completed by Carlos Sainz and 39 laps completed by Charles Leclerc. In fact, the Monegasque racer drove the greatest number of laps on this compound out of the whole field of Sunday’s competitors.

When the chequered flag fell, Carlos Sainz was P5 with his teammate Charles Leclerc just ahead in P4. The points which came the way of the Spaniard meant he is now P5 in the Drivers’ Standings having reached 68 points and carved out a three-point lead over George Russell – and 14 over Charles Leclerc. Had Sainz been allowed to attack his teammate during Sunday’s Grand Prix the deficit may have been even greater.

Fred Vasseur discussed with media why that was not an option but also rejected any talk of team orders being used to protect Leclerc. A racer who many feel Ferrari treat as their number one driver – irrespective of the current drivers’ standings.

“It was not that we wanted to protect someone. The strategy at this time of the race was to push, to avoid losing time fighting together as we were trying to extend and create a gap to [Esteban] Ocon and [Lando] Norris,” stated Vasseur.

“To fight together and lose time would have been stupid,”

The comments from the man hoping to lead Scuderia Ferrari’s revival went on to state “They are free to race together, but in this situation, it would have penalised both cars.”

There was a clear positive for all those in red to take away from Montreal and that was the fact that it seems as though – in Montreal at least – the Ferrari was able to match Aston Martin as well as Mercedes on race pace.

“At least we did the last stint with the same tyres as Alonso, I think for almost the same number of laps, and it was plus or minus one second over 30 laps,” Vasseur claimed.

“For sure you can always say that [Max] Verstappen was not flat-out, but I don’t think that [Verstappen was coasting]. Compared to two or three races ago, we finished 10 seconds [behind] and that was almost the gap at the end of lap one.

“For sure, it was a positive Sunday. We also had a good Friday. The Saturday was a bit more difficult, but at the end it was a good Sunday. Now we don’t have to jump to conclusions about the situation of the season after one race – Montreal is a bit different, it’s a lot about kerbing, that the track is green… But it’s good that we’re going in the right direction, I hope that it will be also of use in two weeks’ time in Austria,” said Vasseur.

Therefore, having been so strong in the race, was this a case of a missed opportunity for Scuderia Ferrari had they not had such a disastrous qualifying.

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to race with ‘if, if, if’,” Vasseur stated on the matter. “It’s like it is, now we have to think about what happened [in qualifying], we’ll have a meeting to discuss about it on Tuesday. But I don’t want to race with ‘if’, because with this kind of attitude, everyone is world champion.”

Fred Vasseur has been displaying the attitude of a man not hiding from responsibility nor claiming credit for other people’s decisions. This is the mindset of a leader who can galvanise a team. With Vasseur at the helm, Scuderia Ferrari could be back challenging at the front this season – if they can maintain the level of decision making seen on race day in Canada.