Former F1 engineer Ernest Knoors has criticised Fred Vasseur, saying “stronger” management would not have allowed the drivers to engage in a “risky fight” at the Italian Grand Prix.
Although Sainz started Ferrari’s home race at Monza from pole position, the Spaniard was third heading into the final five laps having lost out to the rampaging Red Bulls.
He almost lost third as well with his teammate Charles Leclerc attacking him throughout those closing laps as the two raced wheel-to-wheel and came close to punting each other off the track more than once.
Ferrari boss defends his call to let the drivers race
And they did so with Vasseur’s blessing.
The team boss admitted to the media including PlanetF1.com that he had the “last call” on the late-race battle and told his drivers to have at it, just “no risk, you can race, but no risk”.
He defended his decision, saying: “If I froze the position, you would have exactly the same question – ‘Why did you freeze the situation?’ It’s much easier to comment when you have a happy end, but I think it was also the best way to thank everybody and the support of the Tifosi.”
Sainz held on to take third by less than two-tenths of a second ahead of Leclerc.
The Spaniard later said while he understood Vasseur’s decision, he was borderline with his tyre wear and struggling for grip as it was. He called their battle “on the limit”.
Knoors agrees, GPFans reporting him as having told Viaplay: “Risky fight.
“What I don’t understand from Ferrari is, if you know you are limited on that tyre degradation, what you don’t want then is to put two cars so close together in the middle of your race so that they start to work against each other a bit with that wear.
“Let them both drive in free air, make a decision, let someone get ahead or fall behind [strategically], but don’t leave it up to the drivers to race, because with that, they both use up their tyres a lot, and you saw at the end that Sainz was struggling to keep his tyres in good shape.”
Pundits debated the Ferrari teammate tussle in the days after the race with 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg saying he doesn’t believe Toto Wolff would’ve allowed his Mercedes teammates to fight as Ferrari had.
Knoors believes a “stronger” team boss would’ve laid down the law to his drivers and told them to “stay away” from each other.
“I think a stronger… I have to be careful, but a good team would manage this differently,” Knoors stated. “A stronger team leader here would say, ‘Guys, I don’t want to see this. The race is still long; I want to keep the opportunity open for the end of the race,’ and that [would be] strategically a bit stronger.
“I think they said ‘You can race until the end but keep it clean,’ but I wouldn’t have given that message. I would have just said, ‘Guys, this is it, and stay away from each other, and make sure you don’t do anything stupid.’
“But okay, [it was] a nice fight. We saw something we don’t normally see; they didn’t crash into each other, so there was respect and skill there, but everyone’s heart was in their throat.”