After a season without pressure, Fred Vasseur is hoping that if Ferrari can turn the screws on Max Verstappen and Red Bull next year they can be pushed into making “mistakes.”
Verstappen and Red Bull overpowered their rivals this year as they destroyed the competition with 21 victories in 22 grands prix, 19 of which were won by Verstappen.
Setting new records for the most wins in a single season, most successive victories from pole position, most podiums in a campaign, and F1’s biggest-ever points haul, it was a season unlike any Formula 1 had ever witnessed.
Ferrari team boss applauds Max Verstappen’s ‘mega’ season
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
Verstappen’s rivals hope it stays that way.
It was a near-flawless campaign with the World Champion’s only slip-up coming at the Singapore Grand Prix where Red Bull’s set-up issues opened the door for Ferrari and Carlos Sainz to nab the win, the only non-Red Bull victory of 2023.
That Sunday also marked the Dutchman’s sole grand prix result where he finished off the podium.
In fact, such was his prowess in the RB19 that Verstappen was seldom challenged even off the line as he romped from one win with a double digits advantage to another.
Ferrari team boss Vasseur concedes it was an incredible display from the 26-year-old, who secured his third successive World title.
“I think it is not sure that someone has a doubt on this, he did a mega season,” he told media including PlanetF1.com in Abu Dhabi. “He was fighting with Checo in the first two or three events and then he was on another planet.
“Clearly, he didn’t make a mistake all season, and when he struggled in qualy, like in Jeddah, it was due to a mechanical issue. And then he was always there, always making good starts, no contact. The only one was Vegas.”
But could that be a silver lining for Ferrari?
However, have swept his way through a season in which he was never under pressure, Vasseur wonders what could happen if Ferrari, or other teams, apply pressure next season.
The Frenchman hopes that will lead to mistakes from either the driver or the team, or both.
“I think we are getting a bit closer to him, we are,” he added.
“I don’t want to say putting him under pressure because it is not true, [in Abu Dhabi] he was not under pressure. But he was a bit more under pressure than he was in Zandvoort, or in some other events when he was flying.
“There is no doubt about the fact that he was dominating all the season, and the only issue for us is that, as everybody, he will do more mistakes when he will be under pressure.
“But nobody was able to put him under pressure this season except us at the last two or three events, or except Carlos in Singapore.
“And it’s where he started to do some mistakes, or perhaps Red Bull did some mistakes in terms of set-up. We were too far away to put this kind of pressure on them.”
Ferrari finished the championship a distant third to Red Bull with 406 points to the Milton Keynes squad’s 860.