“That’s frustrating, of course.” says Ferrari after the US Grand Prix, the blue ribbon F1 event in American.
Scuderia Ferrari is experiencing a “disappointing” race in Austin – just on the 50th birthday of team boss Mattia Binotto. Sebastian Vettel retired early in the race due to a suspension failure, Charles Leclerc was unable to finish near the podium in only fourth place.
“That’s frustrating, of course. I think that doesn’t reflect our performance at the moment. Of course we expected more today. That was a disappointing day for us,” Binotto sums up his feelings after crossing the finish line at ‘Sky’.
The first stint on the medium was decisive for the large gap at the finish – Leclerc was 52.2 seconds behind Valtteri Bottas, 47.2 seconds down from the podium. On average, he lost almost one second per lap to the top. “We didn’t expect that either,” admits Leclerc.
“I’ve never had this strange feeling before”
“The first stint was extremely difficult. That was our main problem in the race. But to be honest, I have no explanation.”
Especially the left front tyre felt very strange at the start of the race. “I’ve never had that feeling before.”
He was pretty sure that something hadn’t been right. “In the other two stints the pace wasn’t as bad as in the first, but still we weren’t as strong as the guys in front. We have to understand that. The first stint didn’t work out at all.”
Like Max Verstappen and the Mercedes drivers, Leclerc started on the used medium. In the initial phase he had to give up a place to World Champion Lewis Hamilton, but was able to pass the stumbling Sebastian Vettel. After a slight contact with Alex Albon he came fourth.
By his first stop on lap 20, he was already 23.5 seconds behind the leader. It didn’t matter anymore that the pit crew screwed up the stop (7.7 seconds standing time). Fascinating: Ferrari seems tame in the very race before which a new technical directive of the FIA was published.
It deals with a possible circumvention of the petrol flow limiter. Red Bull has therefore asked the FIA for clarification because it is suspected that Ferrari could use such a trick to get more power.
It is unclear whether this clarification is already beginning to have an effect. But the fact is: Since the power explosion after the summer break this was by far the weakest performance of the Scuderia Ferrari. It was more reminiscent of earlier races in the season.
Technical directive: Binotto refutes speculations that he was disappointed after the race that the competition attributed the bad result to the new directive. These are completely false accusations, says the Italian. But Max Verstappen adds further accusations to “Ziggo Sport”
“That’s what happens when you stop cheating!” says Verstappen to the Dutch media.
After the race, the Ferrari team boss has another explanation ready, which agrees with Leclerc’s version: “His first set of tyres didn’t work, he didn’t have any grip. It was very slow, very bad pace. He was almost a second if not slower than the top. We haven’t understood that yet,” he comments on the result.
On the second set (Hard) and the third set (Soft) the SF90 worked much better. “Of course, it’s difficult to compare this with the others in terms of timing. But at least he had a better pace again. He also drove the fastest lap on the soft tyre.”
“Something must have happened in the first stint”.
When Ferrari realised that the fight for the podium on Sunday would be without Leclerc, they brought the Monegasque into the pits for a second stop and sent him on fresh softs to challenge for fastest lap. On lap 44 he was able to meet expectations and scored the extra point with a time of 1:36.169 minutes.
At that time Leclerc was eight tenths of a second faster than the fastest time of winner Bottas. In the end, however, nothing helped, the 21-year-old had to settle for fourth place. “Something must have happened in the first stint, something went wrong. We have to understand that, because our race was already over after the first stint,” Binotto explains.
At least the second Ferrari driver crossed the finish line on points. He had no problems with the suspension. After Vettel had retired, Leclerc had been instructed to avoid the curbs in curve 8. “I was told on the pit radio not to drive on the curbs in some corners. They probably believed that it had happened through the curbs. But the bumps didn’t help either.”