Ferrari was hurt by being too “scared” to push in the British Grand Prix rather than by its pitstop strategy calls, according to team principal Fred Vasseur.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz started the race fourth and fifth but ended up scraping just three points from ninth- and 10th-place finishes.
Ferrari left Sainz out on hard tyres when others, including his team-mate Leclerc, pitted under the virtual safety car (which then became a full safety car) for softs and mediums.
It allowed Sainz to move into seventh place but he had to hold off a group of cars on fresher and faster tyres behind. He was unable to stop Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, the Williams of Alex Albon and Leclerc from passing him, leaving him 10th.
Sainz was split on what to do at the time of the call and that was reflected in a series of frantic team radio messages during which he urged for the information “quickly, quickly” before ultimately leaving it to his team. “You decide!” he told his engineer heading into Stowe.
“I genuinely think I was 50/50 that’s why I left it to the team to decide,” Sainz explained.
“I really thought, ‘What do I prefer? To be on a soft in P10 knowing I’m against same-pace cars on soft and medium tyres which I’m not going to have a tyre delta to pass, so I’m P10, or a P7 trying to hold onto a hard tyre?’
“At the end we tried the riskier one, tried to hold on a hard tyre against them which I think was risky, but I nearly made it work so it is how it is.”
Team boss Vasseur agreed with Sainz’s assessment, believing that strategy was “the right call”.
He instead pointed to a different weakness of Ferrari’s race: the fact it was haunted by the degradation suffered during previous 2023 races, likely including the Bahrain season-opener where Ferrari was forced into a “game-killer” strategy of using two sets of hard and one soft tyres, rather than two softs and a hard.
That prompted Ferrari to call Leclerc at the end of lap 18 at Silverstone, some 11 laps earlier than McLaren would bring in Oscar Piastri, who was running just ahead of Leclerc at the time of Ferrari’s pitstop.
“Starting from P4/P5 we had a feeling after quali that we could have done a much better job than this, we can’t be happy finishing P9/P10,” was Vasseur’s assessment.
“But now we need to have a deep look on the weekend. We didn’t do a long stint on Friday on the soft compound and Charles was stuck in the garage.
“And we were a bit scared with the deg. Probably somewhere in our mind we had the first races of the season.
“Today we were far too conservative on the tyre management and we didn’t push enough.
“Then we are a bit unlucky with the safety car – this is not in our hands and we don’t have to think about this, we have to think about what we can manage.
“Honestly I think that we could have pushed much more.”
Ferrari’s logic for Leclerc’s early stop was also that it was racing a soft-tyre shod Russell who it believed was about to pit. Instead, Russell didn’t pit until lap 28, 10 laps after Leclerc did.
“It was a misunderstanding on the degradation,” Vasseur added. “But this is coming from Friday [when Leclerc missed FP2]. It’s not coming from the race.”
Sainz was satisfied that he was even able to rescue a point from the position he was in at the safety car restart.
He initially held the cars behind at bay for the first five laps but Perez dived down the inside at the Vale chicane and subsequently got the cutback into the final corner. That opened the floodgates, with Albon following him through via a pass at the Abbey right-hander and Leclerc passing Sainz around the outside of Village.
Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll looked to be shaping up for a chance to follow them through – Sainz had rebuffed an attack from Gasly at Copse – before they came to blows at Club a couple of laps later.
“I was trying my best to hold onto that position, in the end I was always going to be dead meat on the used hard tyres against fresh mediums and softs,” explained Sainz.
“I actually think I did pretty well to stay ahead until a Red Bull [Perez] on a soft passed me and then once they pass you, you get a bit of dirt in your tyres and it’s always getting a bit tricky with all the cars on softer tyres.”