Frederic Vasseur explains why they went with the strategy in F1 Abu Dhabi GP for Carlos Sainz, as he feels pace was the problem and not strategy.
For Vasseur, his first season in charge of the Scuderia has come to an end. Like for most of the non Red Bulls teams, it was a challenging exercise, the 2023 campaign but they did better than most. Insofar as the Maranello based outfit actually won a Grand Prix. The F1 Abu Dhabi GP saw them finish on a high with Charles Leclerc finish second.
However, it was not enough for the team as Mercedes pipped them by three points in the constructors’ race by three points but aside from that, the other race winner in 2023 apart from the Red Bull pairing; Sainz endured a tough afternoon.
He had a crash in practice on Friday and was subsequently knocked out in Q1 with low pace and traffic. They started on the hard compound to run long and go for one-stop, but the pace just wasn’t there for Sainz which forced them to switch to two stops.
But they waited long for safety car to come to gain something out of it. With no chance of it, the points were gone as he pitted with couple of laps to go. He eventually retired with suspected power unit issue as Vasseur noted it wasn’t strategy which cost them, it was purely lack of pace on his side of the garage.
“For sure Carlos was out of the pace, that it’s clear and we have to understand why,” said Vasseur to media. “But honestly it’s not that we missed something. If you have a look on the championship, I think we had a tough event. We had Miami, we had Zandvoort in terms of pace and we had some events when we had a reliability issue, and this was much more painful than Abu Dhabi.
“We had a strong pace as a team in Abu Dhabi that we are able to fight for the pole position. We fight with the Red Bull almost all the race. I’m not sure that it’s that we missed something. On Carlos’ side, when you have to pit on lap 20, you have no other option than to put on a set of hards because if you put on mediums, you will have to pit on Lap 30.
“And the plan was – I don’t know if it was a plan – but the option was to go hard-hard and to expect that we would have a safety car or red flag. The plan was to… Lap 35 or something like this to the reverse of the others. The others did 15-20 laps with the medium and then 40 laps with the hard, and the target was to do 40 laps with the hard with part of the race in clean air and try to compensate part of the deficit.
“The issue is that it was not a matter of strategy, it was a matter of pace. We did not have the pace and in this case, or the strategy,” summed up Vasseur. Overall it was a painful for the Madrid native and he too noted about lack of pace with the strategy not being the biggest issue for them.
“We started on the hard, expecting the hard to help us do a one-stop,” said Sainz. “Again like we’ve seen many times this year, whenever we start on harder compounds with our car, we struggle a lot, and it was again. We had nothing to lose starting 16th and we gave it a go, but in the end again it didn’t work for us.
“The harder compounds at the beginning of the race with dirty air and the sliding just doesn’t work for us. And once we saw that we had very little chance of scoring points, we left it out for a safety car, and it didn’t work out also. We had to retire in the end with a PU issue so it’s not like it would have changed much.”
It was a disappointing finish to the season for Sainz, a better qualifying might have yielded a better result and maybe Ferrari might have nailed runner up spot in the constructors’ race, but the pace was gone seemingly after practice crash and he never recovered.
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