Ferrari were forced to clarify that their F1 US GP results weren’t down to the FIA directive after the comments made by Red Bull Racing.
Off the line, both the Ferrari cars fell back positions as lack of grip from their mediums left them sliding across the bumpy asphalt of Circuit of the Americas in F1 US GP. Seven laps later, Sebastian Vettel’s suspension was undone as he was forced to retire.
“I had very poor grip on the first lap and had to let a lot of cars by,” said Vettel to the media after the race. “I struggled to get the car to work, especially in right hand corners, maybe something was already broken on the car.
“Then, after seven laps the suspension failed over the bump in Turn 8-9. At that time, I hadn’t done anything different to the previous laps over the whole weekend, so we have to analyse. I think we had the potential for a podium, so it’s a shame.”
At the same time, teammate Charles Leclerc managed a bit more than Vettel, but a seemingly inexplicable problem plagued the Monegasque, leaving him unsettled. His first stint was terrible which set him back on the leaders.
Despite having better pace in the second and final stints, Leclerc could only salvage fourth with the fastest lap point as he fights against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for third in the drivers’ standings. “The first stint was extremely hard,” said Leclerc to the media.
“I believe this was the main problem of the race. To be completely honest, I’ve got no explanations. The front-left felt very very weird. We need to analyse that because I’ve never had this feeling before. I’m pretty sure something was not right on this stint.
“Then, on the two others, the pace was not as bad as the first one, that’s for sure. We were a lot better but still not as strong as the guys in front, so this we need to understand, but the first stint is the one that doesn’t feel right to me.”
The lack of pace from Ferrari surprised nearly everyone in the paddock, especially after a competitive weekend in Mexico and also in the second half, although Verstappen had reason to believe that there struggles were due to the latest FIA directive.
“[I am] not surprised at all about it after what came out,” he said. “So that explains everything.” A small statement was enough to disappoint the Ferrari camp with Mattia Binotto even visiting Christian Horner afterwards to speak on the matter.
Verstappen already faced critisicm in Mexico for being quite laid-back on the yellow flag issue and with his comments now on Ferrari – almost alleging them to be cheating – has only increased the problems for the Dutchman.
Ever since Ferrari came back strongly in the second half of the 2019 F1 season, rivals Mercedes and Red Bull have been chasing the FIA to have their power units checked, as to if the Italian manufacturer is walking on a thin line in terms of legality.
It is a usual thing between teams but the news was spread in the paddock which did upset Ferrari. “The powerunit is an incredibly complex piece of machinery both from a hardware and software perspective,” stated, Horner.
“The clarifications that we have requested were standard stuff that goes backwards and forwards continually between the teams and the FIA. So it is always good to get clarity before wasting effort.” Ferrari didn’t take the comments well, though, as mentioned.
“I think it is a joke to be completely honest,” said Leclerc on Verstappen’s comments. “He has no clue. He is not in the team, so we know exactly what we are doing. I don’t know why he is speaking. He doesn’t know anything about us.”
Ferrari team principal Binotto dismissed it as well, adding: “I read and I heard a lot of comments this weekend about a Technical Directive and the impact on our cars. I heard comments at the end of the race which I feel are very disappointing.
“As a matter of fact I believe in qualifying we were very close to pole position as it has been in the last race. I think Seb could have done and scored pole, maybe he was a bit too cautious in one corner [to miss out by just 0.012s].
“I think that Charles had a clear problem in the morning as he lost FP3 and then we had to fit a downgraded engine. Looking at his performance in Q3 and what could have been done, without the issue, I am pretty sure that he was potentially on the pole as well.
“So I don’t see where is the problem. If I look at the race, certainly the speed on the straight was not our issue whereas we had clear problems with the grip of the car on the first stint with both drivers. It is the type of comments are completely wrong in the sport.
“It is not good for the sport and I think everybody should be a bit more cautious. Honestly we will look through the technical directive. We have not done it this weekend in detail, we have seen it. I think it is number 35 of the season.
“It is a normal process where teams ask for clarification from the FIA and the FIA replying. Did it have an impact or on the qualifying? I don’t know anything. I am not able to answer you.” It will be interesting to see how this topic escalates in future.
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The article was co-written and edited by Darshan Chokhani