Red Bull’s VSC plan shows Ferrari’s strategy call is not wrong in Italian GP

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Sebastian Vettel’s stranded Aston Martin caused a VSC on lap 11 at Monza, and Ferrari took the opportunity to send Leclerc to the pits for fresh rubber.

That move, so early in the race, pushed the Monegask into a two-stop strategy and got out of balance with runaway leader Verstappen, who was a one-stop.

But while some have questioned whether Ferrari made a blunder by stopping then, rival Red Bull thinks it was a viable option at the time.

However, the ultimate deciding factor was that Ferrari never had the pace to run with the Red Bull, so whatever strategy it was would never help it triumph.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Sunday evening his team would be ready to put Verstappen in if Leclerc had not stopped during the VSC – but he doesn’t think strategy was the determining factor in the race.

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“We understood why they did that,” he said. “I think we just had a faster car. I think they made a good decision strategically. I think we had a faster package today. So I think we would have won the race that doesn’t matter.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo By: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said his team realized early in the race that it didn’t have the speed or tire life to match Verstappen on the same strategy – so it had to try something different.

Looking back on the VSC call, Binotto said: “In retrospect, we think it was the right decision when the safety car came out at that point in the race.

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“We knew Charles had a good pace, but Max got better tire degradation and he was already faster for us. If he had just followed the same strategy of his, one stop, he would have beat us sooner or later.

“So the only chance for us was to somehow change the strategy. We were a bit unlucky because the VSC ended while we were still in the pit lane, so didn’t get all the potential benefits of the VSC, but still I think Max was faster overall today and impossible to beat.”

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Binotto said when teams compete against a faster car, they should try to do something different with strategy if they are to have the hope of coming out victorious.

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“It’s not hard to beat a faster car, it’s impossible,” he said. “Normally you win if you have the faster car and it can only go wrong with strategies.

“Whatever the strategy has been” [for Max] he would have won: that’s what matters. But getting into the pits with Charles and driving on the two-stop wasn’t a bad decision, because you never know what can happen later in the race. You never know what tire degradation can be on Max during longer stints.

“If you look back at the car behind it, for example with George, the gap Charles had on George at the end of the race was big and comfortable.

“So overall it wasn’t a risk, but let me say a gamble, which could have turned into a positive choice.”