Ferrari’s team principal Fred Vasseur has defended his decision to let his drivers race each other at the Italian Grand Prix, despite the potential for a costly collision. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished third and fourth respectively, giving Ferrari its best result of the season in front of its home crowd.
A close call between teammates
The two Ferrari drivers were involved in a tense battle for the final podium spot, with Sainz closing in on Leclerc in the closing stages of the race. The Spaniard made several attempts to overtake his teammate, but Leclerc defended aggressively and managed to hold him off.
Vasseur said he had instructed the drivers to fight a “no-risks” battle on the track, but admitted that the notion of no risk was relative. He said he trusted his drivers to be sensible and respectful, and praised them for their performance.
“I trust them but I told them no risk at all,” Vasseur said. “It’s always relative, the notion of no risk is relative, but it’s a happy end and I’m quite proud of the decision and of the job done by the drivers today.”
Leclerc agreed that both drivers took some risks, but said it was all fair and clean. He said he enjoyed the fight with Sainz, and was happy to secure his second podium of the year.
“Carlos was on the limit of the regulations on braking and I was on the limit of regulations attacking, so we both did [take risks], but it ended well so it’s all fine,” Leclerc said. “It was very fun. Obviously I would have preferred to have a little bit more pace towards the end and not having to fight that hard with Carlos, but it was still very enjoyable.”
A contrast with McLaren’s approach
Ferrari’s ‘no risk’ strategy contrasted with that of McLaren, which saw its drivers collide on the first lap of the race. Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris made contact at the second chicane, damaging Ricciardo’s front wing and Norris’ floor. The incident compromised their race pace and left them out of contention for points.
McLaren’s team principal Andrea Stella was not amused by his drivers’ clash, and said it was unacceptable. He said he expected them to be more careful and cooperative in the future.
“This is not acceptable,” Stella said. “We are a team, we work together, we have to respect each other. We have to avoid this kind of situation. We will discuss it internally and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Stella added that McLaren had a clear policy of allowing its drivers to race each other, as long as they did not jeopardize the team’s interests.
“We have always given freedom to our drivers to race,” Stella said. “We think it’s important for them and for the sport. But there is a limit, which is the welfare of the team. And today that limit was crossed.”
A positive outcome for Ferrari
Despite the close call between Leclerc and Sainz, Ferrari’s ‘no risk’ strategy paid off at Monza. The team scored 27 points, its highest haul of the season, and closed the gap to McLaren in the constructors’ championship to 13.5 points.
Ferrari also showed strong pace in low-downforce configuration, with Leclerc taking a surprise pole position on Saturday. The team had introduced some upgrades for its home race, which seemed to work well.
Vasseur said he was pleased with Ferrari’s progress, but cautioned that there was still a lot of work to do.
“It’s a good step forward for us,” Vasseur said. “We have improved the car in every area, but we are still not where we want to be. We have to keep pushing and keep improving.”
He also said he hoped that Ferrari’s performance at Monza would boost the morale of its fans, who had suffered in recent years.
“It’s important for us to give some emotions to our fans,” Vasseur said. “They have been very supportive in difficult times, and they deserve some happiness.”