Ferrari holds against: Vettel not only used for Leclerc

( – “In the end, I only played the brake block until the pit stop,” said Sebastian Vettel about his strategy at the last race in Russia. The Ferrari driver only pitted to change tires on lap 30 – too late in his opinion. “There was no reason we stayed outside for so long,” he says.

Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo

Sebastian Vettel felt used as a brake block for the Renaults



But then there was for him: In his opinion, he should stop the two Renaults and thus help Charles Leclerc, who was actually able to leave one of the two Renaults behind after his pit stop. “But of course that didn’t help me,” quarreled Vettel, who ended up only 13th.

At Ferrari, however, they are now denying that Vettel was only there to help his teammate. “His race was a lot more complicated,” says chief strategist Inaki Rueda. “He didn’t have the speed to overtake. An undercut against Grosjean and Giovinazzi was an option, but then he would have been stuck behind Magnussen for the whole race.”

Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi were ahead of Vettel after the first laps. With an early stop and a long stint on Hards, he might have overtaken the Haas and the Alfa Romeo with an undercut. Kevin Magnussen before that was too far away and they feared that after his stop they would get stuck behind the Dane.

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“We asked Seb about the condition of his tire and stayed with the plan that we had made before.” That meant: Vettel had to stay outside. Meanwhile, the competition drove into the pit to stop at some point.

“From lap 17 onwards, Seb continuously made up ground and with every lap came closer to the point at which he could have successfully switched to softs,” said Rueda. However, after Ricciardo overtook him on lap 27, the tires collapsed. Ferrari still hoped that the tires would recover, but in lap 30 the German was brought in for service.

Because at this point there were still 23 laps to drive, it was too early to switch to soft tires, so after the medium stint Vettel had no choice but to go out hard. “Even if the car was lighter, 23 laps seemed too much,” explains the strategist.

On hard tires, Vettel had to hope that the group in front of him would have tire problems. “And although the hard tire was very consistent, Sebastian unfortunately lost time due to blue flags. He couldn’t do much more than drive home in 13th place.”

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