After Sunday’s French Grand Prix, Ferrari have been taking a lot of incoming fire over their race strategy for driver Carlos Sainz. Carlos started from the back and drove all the way to third place before the team boxed him with 10 laps to go for fresh tires ceding 3rd, and 4th place as the Spaniard came home in 5th.
Team boss Mattia Binotto is confident that the strategy call was the correct call while Sky Sports F1 and thousands of at-home couch strategists were convinced otherwise. This left it up to Carlos Sainz to share his thoughts on the strategy call.
“At Ferrari we get super criticized for things that might be going wrong, but every time there is a moment we are discussing things, it is not a disaster like people say we are.
“We like to discuss things, we are open about them – yes I was in the middle of an overtake [when the team called for him to pit] and I didn’t think it was the right lap to stop, I believed at the time it was better to risk it and stay out.
“I had made it to P3 and I saw the podium position and thought ‘if I make these tires last maybe I can finish on the podium’, but we will never know. The team has a lot more data on the computer and if they make that decision, I’m 100% convinced they did it with the best of intentions. But the team is doing a good job.”
There is enough wiggle room in that statement to give you the impression that perhaps Carlos was not sure it was the right call but he trusts the team that they made the right call. Those are two different things. In fact, he said he’s convinced they did it with the best of intentions but again, that’s a very different sentiment than they made the right call.
Regardless, I do know Carlos started on the Hard compounds and Ferrari only had two Soft compounds to choose from during the race. This was going to make it hard for Carlos irrespective of how the race unfolded.
Ferrari had to factor Carlos’s Hard compounds at the start, two Medium compounds remaining, a one or two-stop strategy, what Red Bull was doing with both their drivers as he recovered through the field, what Mercedes was doing with their drivers as came back toward the front, the Safety Car, the Virtual Safety Car and the tire wear rate and degradation he was experiencing with his Medium compound tires with blisters on them.
In the end, it may have been the safer bet because Ferrari weren’t convinced the condition of Carlos’s tires would have allowed him to stay in third or 4th and boxing was a way to nab fastest lap point as well as 5th. Sure, not a gamble but with Charles out of the race, I am not sure Ferrari felt much like gambling for points anyway.
Ferrari’s post-race comments suggested they had to box Carlos to serve the penalty but that 5s would have been added to his final time regardless of if he boxed or not so that’s a tad misleading to be fair.
I’m not making a big defense of Ferrari here as I may have made the call to stay out and gambled for 3rd but then I don’t have the heaps of data the team do and I am not an F1 team strategist either.