Ferrari and Carlos Sainz have been emphatically defensive about their strategy in the French Formula One Grand Prix, with Sainz insisting Ferrari is “not a disaster” in that regard despite several recent failures.
Ferrari Formula 1 boss Mattia Binotto was forced to defend after the team turned a potential 1-2 result at the British Grand Prix to 1-4, and it was at it again after Paul Ricard’s F1 race that Sainz abandoned a potential podium finish by finishing By making an extra stopping point late in the race he was awarded fifth place.
“As to the choice we made, it was the right and right choice,” said Binotto, who insisted his driver lacked enough information from inside the cockpit to decide for himself, though it is interesting that Sainz did not automatically comply with the call to dig, suggesting That he had conflicting feelings at the time.
Binotto added that he had “no doubt” that the call was true.
“Once we had all the information, we realized there was not enough tire life until the end of the race. That simple. And staying outside would have been a safety and reliability risk in terms of tire life.
“So we had to stop. More than that, I think Carlos’s pace wasn’t enough to open the gap for more than five seconds [Sergio] Perez and [George] Russell, to cover the five-second penalty. So it was right to stop – by doing that we had the fastest lap of the race, which was still an important point and point for the team and for Carlos.”
Sainz started in the back of the grid due to engine component penalties (the result of burning his previous engine in the previous race in Austria), so he was put on the hard tire for the first mission in France. Most drivers start racing on modes with the goal of only stopping once – so Sainz’s original plan was to run long distances and eventually use new modes.
Ferrari’s strategy was jeopardized by Charles Leclerc’s crash on lap 18/53, which caused a safe car deployment and forced Sainz to a halt earlier than planned by that media. This was the right thing to do given the extra time he would have wasted stopping later under green flag conditions, but that meant he had to make this set of modes last 35 laps – although of course benefiting from reduced fuel load and an improved track .
Binotto’s argument hinges on Ferrari’s insistence that Sainz’s medium tires would have given up before the end of the race – and even if Sainz was still third on the road, the George Russell Mercedes and Red Bull of Sergio Perez were close enough to remain seeded. Up front, as Sainz had a penalty 5s for an unsafe launch on Williams Road Alex Albon on his first stop.
But there are two caveats here: First, Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri cut 35 laps to the finish on a range of media without a significant or obvious drop in speed – certainly with no safety issue, as Binotto had feared.
Even if you would argue that this is a comparison of apples and oranges, due to the different cars going at a very different pace, if you compare Sainz to second-placed Lewis Hamilton, Sainz matched the pace of the lead Mercedes (on the hard), which was moving away from Russell at a rate of about 0.25 seconds per lap before the virtual safety car steps in.
Sainz’s pace hasn’t shown any clear signs of slowing down, which isn’t to say he wasn’t going down later – but still, why not leave Sainz out to see if he can get to third? At worst, he would have been able to stop later for the tires (maybe under that VSC) and appeared just in front or behind Fernando Alonso. After that it would have been an easy pass for the fifth and fastest lap anyway.
“On the surface, it seems like a very quit way to do it,” Mark Hughes says in the last episode of The Race F1 podcast.
“Given that he just pulled the move on Perez, I was much more inclined to let him head and let’s just see if he can pull off five seconds – and if he fails he’s a failure.”
Once again, this raises questions about whether Ferrari has the operational capability to fight honestly for the Formula 1 world championship. Both Hughes and fellow analyst Scott Mitchell argue that Ferrari is still somewhat falling short of what is needed.
“Yes, a driver error occurred this weekend [from Leclerc]but these past weekends we’ve had power unit malfunctions, we’ve had strategy errors – I put a championship campaign together and included all of that stuff,” says Hughes. And they put it together.
“They won races where they weren’t the fastest. Many of Max’s seven wins this year haven’t been the fastest, but together he and his team produced the result.
“That’s what you face as a Ferrari, trying to win the championship. That’s the standard of competition. It’s not good to say ‘we can probably be better than them’, ‘we’re faster than them’ or ‘we can beat them on a good day’ – it’s not going to win you the championship.” .”
Scott finds Ferrari’s defense of Sainz’s strategy unconvincing, arguing: “It’s not like Ferrari is re-emerging after a decade in the abyss, they’ve only been trying to win titles for four years – even in 2019. They’ve only had two seasons. Outside of the photo.
“They haven’t been good enough for a really long time. And the longer that goes on, the more they find ways to make mistakes.
“I know they feel passionate about strategy, but I don’t think they’re up to par. I don’t think they’ve been in a while. And I don’t think there’s a really confident culture in this team.
“Maurizio Arrivabene [Binotto’s predecessor as Ferrari team principal] He made a really vague statement about it in Abu Dhabi in 2018 – “We need to learn to have a winning culture” – well, what does that mean? But he’s actually right, I don’t think they know how to win over the course of the season.
“Whether they’re guessing themselves or playing things conservatively, whatever it is, it feels like every part of this organization isn’t quite up to par yet.”