Ferrari respond to team orders call that left Carlos Sainz with ‘sour feeling’

Oliver Harden
Carlos Sainz looks into the distance as Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc lurks in the background at the Austrian Grand Prix. Styria, July 2023.

Carlos Sainz looks into the distance as Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc lurks in the background at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has defended the team orders that left Carlos Sainz with a “sour feeling” at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari enjoyed their strongest weekend of the 2023 season so far at the Red Bull Ring, where Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc qualified inside the top three.

Sainz appeared to be the quicker of the pair in the early stages of the race, but his calls over team radio to be allowed to swap positions with Leclerc were dismissed by the Ferrari pit wall.

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The Spaniard went on to suffer a slow stop when both Ferraris headed to the pit lane during an early Virtual Safety Car and was ultimately classified sixth after incurring a post-race time penalty for exceeding track limits, whereas Leclerc held second place to secure the team’s second podium finish of 2023.

Sainz later expressed his annoyance with Ferrari’s management of the race, telling Formula 1: “Obviously frustrated with the final outcome after having such a strong pace on the mediums, feeling also like I was playing the team game and not getting rewarded with a good result, which obviously leaves you always with a sour feeling.

“I’ve been very strong today, very quick, very fast. Good overtaking, good defending, but in the end [the result] is not what I want.”

Speaking after the race, however, Vasseur insisted that Ferrari’s priority in Austria – agreed between the team and drivers pre-race – was to use the DRS effect to build a gap to the cars behind and preserve their positions behind the dominant Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

He told Sky Sports F1: “At the beginning it was the strategy that we decided that [our] interests as a team and as drivers was to pull away of P4/P5 in favour and to not attack ourselves.

“And for sure when you are behind, you are much faster with the DRS and we didn’t want to swap each two laps. It was a strategy and they applied the strategy perfectly.”

With Ferrari showing improved pace since the introduction of a major upgrade package at last month’s Spanish GP, Vasseur feels the team are now back on the right track following an underwhelming start to the 2023 season. recommends

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However, with Verstappen ahead of Leclerc by more than 20 seconds before pitting on the penultimate lap in an attempt to take the bonus point for the fastest lap, the Frenchman has admitted Ferrari need more if they are to return to race-winning contention.

He added: “It’s not so easy when you’re on the pit wall and in the car but the result is a good one and I think we are [going] in the right direction.

“We did a strong quali on Friday, the race in Canada was a good one [and] we confirmed today on a completely different track layout and with a different Tarmac and so on.

“Now we have to do another step if we want to fight with Max and we are pushing for this.”

Ferrari are suddenly right back in the fight for second spot in the Constructors’ standings, sitting just 21 points behind Aston Martin and a further three adrift of Mercedes who both struggled in Austria.

Yet despite estimating Ferrari’s advantage over Mercedes and Aston Martin at 0.3 seconds per lap at the Red Bull Ring, Vasseur rejected the notion that the Scuderia have pulled “safely” ahead of their rivals in terms of pace.

“I’m not sure that is the right word,” he said. “I’m sure that they will develop and they will bring some updates in the next couple of events and we will do the same.

“But I think it will be a long one until the end of the season. It’s very close because today the gap was three tenths per lap, but we have to keep this momentum and this pace because I think we are doing a good job.”

Sainz’s frustration understandable but Ferrari knew their limit in Austria

If it looked like Ferrari were more focused on the cars behind in the early stages of the Austrian GP rather than looking ahead, that’s because they really were.

With Verstappen and Red Bull dominant once again, Ferrari quickly understood the limit of their ambitions in Styria and sought to protect their podium positions, the DRS effect helping Sainz and Leclerc to gradually edge clear of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.

Sainz may not have been too pleased, but for a team with just a single podium finish in the first nine races of 2023 the opportunity to have both drivers in the top three for the first time since Singapore 2022 was just too good to pass up.

It may have worked out too, but it was to Sainz’s great misfortune that he lost crucial time to a slow front-left tyre change under VSC conditions.

His post-race penalty for track limits just added insult to injury.

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