Losing positions after swapping to the hard tyres at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Fred Vasseur has revealed Ferrari didn’t turn the engines down, the pace was just “not what we expected with the car”.
Lining up fourth and 12th on the Jeddah grid with Carlos Sainz ahead of the penalty-hit Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari team-mates finished Sunday night’s races sixth and seventh with Sainz 35s down on race winner Sergio Perez and Leclerc a further eight seconds back.
It was, as team boss Vasseur admitted, “not a good result”.
While Sainz lost places, in part undone by the timing of the Safety Car, Leclerc climbed five places but was left to rue a grand prix in which Ferrari once again didn’t have the pace to fight for the podium.
It saw Leclerc vent his frustrations to his race engineer Xavier Marcos Padros, the driver even saying at one point that “being behind like this is really sh*t.” He later added: “I’m not going push anymore.”
The result has left Sainz in fourth place, 24 points behind championship leader Max Verstappen, with Leclerc a 38 points off the pace.
Vasseur admits it’s not ideal.
“It’s not a good result,” he told Sky Sports. “I think the first stint went well with the soft and medium, we were on the pace in the first part of the race. And then with the hard we struggled a lot more and we didn’t have to pace.
“We have to be honest with ourselves, when something is going well we have to be clear, and when it’s going wrong we have to also be clear.
“The pace was not what we expected with the car.”
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Refutes suggestions Ferrari turned down the engines
It had been speculated that Ferrari may have turned down the power units given their reliability issues from Bahrain. That, though, was denied by Vasseur.
Asked if Ferrari had compromised engine performance in the latter part of the race, he put their lack of pace down to tyre management.
Saying they were a “bit conservative on the tyre management”, he insisted that it was a “matter of one or two tenths but had nothing to do with the gap” they had at the Jeddah circuit.
“But we have to understand where the lack of performance is coming from,” he added. “It is not coming from the management.”
Vasseur admits the challenge is now to figure out exactly what went wrong for Ferrari given that once again they showed decent pace in qualifying, only to fall well behind Red Bull in the grand prix.
The drivers in fact also lost out to Fernando Alonso and the two Mercedes drivers.
“The most difficult in my business after a race like this is to understand what is going well and what is not,” said the Frenchman. “I think we have positive points, but we need a step on the reliability.
“Qualy pace compared to our competitor was much better. I think on the one lap we opened the gap.
“In the first stint of the race I think we can be quite happy with the with the outcome. But now clearly the race was based on the last stint and we did not have the pace.”
Rumours of wide-spread unhappiness with management
Vasseur’s comment about ‘management’ comes at a time where rumours persist claiming all is not well at Ferrari with team personnel said to be unhappy with management.
This has been denied by the Scuderia, the drivers telling the media ahead of the Jeddah race that these rumours are designed to destabilise the team.
“It seems like the place is not in a great moment,” said Sainz, “but I can tell you it is so clear to us what we need to improve, how we need to do it, what are the short, medium and long term targets, that I’m actually very surprised at how some people back at home have been trying to destabilise the team.
“Some call it a crisis but we’ve only done one race, it’s impossible to judge a team’s performance after just one race, and we are the first ones not happy with how this first race went.
“We are the most worried about it and we are the most affected by it and we’re going to try as much as possible to improve. I’m quite calm about it, I see people at the factory are committed, focused and with a very clear target in mind and I include myself in it.”