Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur reveals it was entirely Carlos Sainz’s idea to implement the slowing tactics that secured him victory in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Ferrari took advantage of Red Bull’s unexpected slump at the Marina Bay Circuit to become the first side other than the reigning champions to win a race in 2023.
After being beaten by the Red Bulls from pole position in Monza, Sainz controlled matters expertly from the front in Singapore to claim Ferrari’s first win since last July,
Following Charles Leclerc’s admission that he opted for the Soft tyre at the start to try and get ahead of George Russell to protect his team-mate’s lead, Vasseur says the pre-race discussions at Ferrari centred around creating a comfortable buffer for Sainz.
“The plan was to help Carlos because we knew track position was crucial in Singapore and the best way to protect Carlos was also to have Charles behind him,” he explained.
“It was also why we asked at one stage Charles to slow down a little bit to protect from an undercut and that was the plan from Lap 1.”
However, Ferrari’s plan unravelled on Lap 20 when the Safety Car intervened, resulting in Leclerc losing two places when he was held slightly in his pit box for oncoming traffic.
While Sainz appeared to have a handle on proceedings, a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 44 granted the opportunity for Mercedes to make a late assault on the victory by pitting its drivers for a new set of Medium tyres.
Despite Russell and Lewis Hamilton catching up to the back of Lando Norris, the Mercedes drivers couldn’t find a way past the McLaren.
Sainz revealed after the race that he had purposely backed up to give Norris DRS to defend, with Vasseur disclosing that the Spaniard formulated the plan himself.
“It was the idea of Carlos,” he admitted. “I don’t want to say it’s obvious, but he knew he was more at risk with Mercedes than with Norris.
“With Norris we had the same tyres, and almost the same pace from the Lap 1. We were not really at risk with Norris except if we lost the tyres, so it was a clever move from Carlos to keep Norris into the DRS.”
Having secured his first pole and podium of the year in Italy, Sainz expressed ahead of last weekend that he had always been “at one” with Ferrari’s troublesome SF-23 car.
Vasseur believes that Sainz has made considerable progress across the last two race weekends, underlining that he has been immediately on the pace from the outset.
“The last two weekends I think he did a very good step forward, also into the preparation of the weekend,” Vasseur acknowledged.
“The biggest difference is that he is ready from lap one of FP1. Zandvoort was also the same – although he didn’t do FP1 [at the Dutch GP] we had the rookie FP1, but from lap one FP2 he was there and it’s the best way to prepare the quali.
“If you don’t have so many sets of tyres, it means that if you are starting the weekend a step backwards, then you have to overshoot the limit. And also, for the team, in terms of preparation, it’s the best approach you can have.”