Ferrari considered swapping drivers amid undercut surprise
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says the team considered instructing Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc to swap positions in Singapore, having been surprised at the effect of the undercut.
Formula 1’s front-runners lapped at a slow pace during the early stages in order to preserve their tyres, and on lap 19 third-placed Vettel was called into the pits.
Leclerc, who had led the race from pole position, came in one lap later but emerged from his stop behind his team-mate, who also jumped long-running Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel and Leclerc, who expressed his frustration at the situation during the race, maintained their positions through to the chequered flag.
“The undercut was effectively more powerful than expected, it was 3.9 seconds,” said Binotto.
“We were not expecting such a big number. As a matter of fact, when we stopped Sebastian, we thought when Charles stopped the lap after, he would be ahead of Sebastian.
“Sebastian drove well, got the undercut of 3.9 seconds, that’s the difference.
“As first, I understand Charles somehow is a bit disappointed because he was trying to do his best to win the race, and I think he did whatever he could to win the race.
“Did we consider the swap? Yes, we did. I think we thought at that stage at least it was the right choice not to do it.
“Obviously now, we are still discussing with the drivers if that was the right choice or not, which internally we still have different opinions to discuss. But yes, we thought about it.”
Binotto added that Leclerc would have been susceptible to getting mired in traffic had they used the undercut to protect him against second-placed Hamilton.
“We have always given the advantage to the car ahead, that’s normally the rules we are doing,” he stressed.
“But in that case, you would not stop Charles as first he was leading the race, he would have been in traffic, and that would have been the wrong move.
“The opposite, [Max] Verstappen was ready to stop, we knew that, and the best way to protect Sebastian’s position was to stop him. It was the right timing to stop Seb.
“Following that it was the right timing to stop Charles. I think it was a one-two or two-one.”