Leclerc criticised in Ferrari post race debrief

The 2023 Italian Grand Prix provided Formula One fans with a sight not often seen this season, wheel to wheel racing at the front of the field for the entire race.

Much of this was due to Ferrari targeting their home race in Monza as a must win race. The Italian team went all out to push Red Bull all the way fitting two new engines to both cars, running the lowest downforce package of any of the cars and delivering a top speed without DRS assistance which topped the rest of the competitors.



Ferrari target Monza with one off car

On Saturday this proved to worked in qualifying, as Carlos Sainz who had topped the time sheets for much of the weekend translated his pace into a pole position.

Despite Monza having the highest average speed characteristics of all the current F1 circuits, Sainz clinched the front slot on the grid by just 13 thousandths of a second from Max Verstappen, but his team mate Charles Leclerc was a mere 0,05s further back.

The margins were incredibly small, but Ferrari occupied two of the top three starting positions for the race on a circuit where the diminished effect of the DRS makes overtaking much more tricky.

However, Ferrari should have done better on Saturday and locked out the front row though team boss Fred Vasseur in usual Ferrari style refused to believe had Ferrari acted differently the result would have been different.



Vasseur defends Leclerc decision

Sainz pole was won by him using another car to ‘tow’ him along into the final Parabolica turn and then again dow the main straight to the finish line. However, Leclerc ran his fast lap alone with no such assistance from his team mate or any other driver.

“I’m convinced that, without the slipstream, he’s been better,” was Vasseur’s opinion of Leclerc.

“For sure, you see the advantage of the slipstream in the straight line but for sure you have the disadvantage [in the corners]. Max was without the slipstream also. It was the right call.”

But when margins are so fine and the Red Bull has proven in clean air to be the quickest car all season, Vasseur’s opinion smacks of more “c’est la vie” than what may have been.

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Rosberg criticises handling of “team politics”

2016 driver champion Nico Rosberg believed the Ferrari team made a mistake by not orchestrating a ‘tow’ for Leclerc and that the Monegasque too was culpable for not insisting the team attempt this during the final runs in qualifying.

Rosberg said: “I remember that Fred sometimes has these special views. But, in this case, I would say it’s totally not correct because we know that the tow, if you get it right here, is a huge help.

“I think Charles Leclerc probably made a mistake on the team internal politics there, because it shouldn’t have been that he pulls Carlos two times in a row in Q3 on a track like Monza. 

“He should have made sure before there that at least it’s one on one in the last part of qualifying, so I think he made a mistake there.”

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Leclerc admits he failed to get a tow

Over the years we have seen teas in Monza attempt to position their cars one behind the other, just far enough apart to not disturb the car behind when passing through the corners but close enough to create a slip stream during the final sector of the lap and Leclerc believed this would have been the optimum way for him to go in Q3.

“On my side I’m a bit disappointed. I obviously wanted to be first but seeing that Carlos is P1 is great for Ferrari,” said Lecerlc.

“In qualifying I managed to put everything together, so I was really happy. Unfortunately, in Q3 I didn’t have a slipstream. That probably cost us one position at least, but it’s life. We should be happy, especially on my side. I’ve been struggling a lot.”

However, most drivers were attempting the tow and those who pulled it off saw significant benefits when compared to their average qualifying places this season.

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“Everyone was going for the tow”

Alex Albon look set for a remarkable P4 behind the Ferrari’s and Verstappen only to find on his final run he failed to get the tow. Yet the Williams finished a credible 0,08 seconds behind George Russell who eventual yclaimed the final spot on the second row of the grid.

“Everyone was going for the tow but I went no tow – and it sort of worked out,” Russell explained after the session.

“If you nail the tow and your out lap is a good one [then there’s] a half/ two tenths in it – but the risk is you don’t get the right out lap and are too focused on it.”

Russell added that the problem with the tow was evident when following different cars.

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Albon explains benefits of slipstream

“Its inconsistent as well, its quite challenging when you’re heading into turn one at 210/220 mph and you get a slipstream the next lap and your doing 225mph [behind a faster car] – it changes your braking point,” said the Mercedes driver.

Albon concurred: “I always went for the tow and complained when I didn’t [get it].,” he laughed.

Basically for me if you nail it – its quicker – in my Q3 run1 lap I towed [behind] a Mclaren and I was quicker than it. But by sector three I was a bit too close to it had a bit too much understeer [in the final corner].

“For the next run I was following Checo, but it was obvious the cars [McLaren and Red Bull] have different speeds. Checo pulled away from me a bit more and that completely changed the balance of my car.”

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Vasseur instructed “no risk” to drivers

However, the excitement and trepidation Ferrari brought to the Italian Grand Prix were present in equal measures. Forcing Verstappen to go around the outside of the Curve de Grande, Sainz battled inches from the wheels of the Red Bull.

The late in the race it was the Ferraris turn to deliver wheel to wheel racing, lap after lap. At one point a battling Leclerc touched his team mate Sainz and the two were forced to take to the escape road.

However after the race the Ferrari boss clearly was exasperated by the risk his drivers took fighting for the final podium position.

“I told them no risk,” Vasseur revealed to Sky F1.

“As you can imagine we’ll have the discussion after the race, but probably not tonight.

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Debrief at the factory will deal with drivers

With two laps to go Sainz requested the team tell Leclerc to “hold station,” ut the call never came over the pit radio. The Ferrari pair touched in an incident that could have ended both their races and Leclerc had a huge lock up into turn 1 which finally gave Sainz the breathing space to bring his car home third.

“Tomorrow they are in the factory. In the moment, I told them no risk, but I didn’t freeze the position” explained Vasseur.

Though clearly Leclerc missed an opportunity during qualifying by failing to try for th tow and risked a huge amount in his desperation to beat his team mate to the chequered flag.

READ MORE: Wolff’s slur backfires in his face

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