Safety Car, Miami International Autodrome, 2022

Ferrari “let us off the hook” by failing to pit under Safety Car – Horner

2022 Miami Grand Prix

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Ferrari missed an opportunity to win the Miami Grand Prix when they chose not to pit their drivers during the Safety Car period, says Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

Max Verstappen claimed Red Bull’s third win of the season yesterday after passing pole-winner Charles Leclerc. However Horner believes Leclerc could have got back ahead had Ferrari changed his tyres when the Safety Car was deployed.

The race was interrupted when Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris collided at turn eight. A Virtual Safety Car period was initially triggered, then the Safety Car was deployed.

Verstappen, leading the race, stayed out, as did Leclerc behind him and third-placed Carlos Sainz Jnr. Red Bull brought Sergio Perez in from fourth place for a fresh set of tyres in time for the restart.

“Ferrari let us off the hook slightly when it went from a Virtual Safety Car to a full Safety Car,” said Horner. “Max had already passed the pit entry whereas Ferrari would have had a free stop, and they didn’t take it with either of their cars.

“So we’re grateful for that because I think if they’d put the soft tyres on, that would have been a P3 today.”

Race start, Miami International Autodrome, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Miami Grand Prix in pictures
Perez, who had lost power due to a sensor problem, wasn’t able to pass Leclerc after changing tyres and finished fourth. Leclerc briefly attacked Verstappen for the lead, but followed him home in second place.

Horner said Verstappen’s victory was a remarkable turnaround after his disrupted start to the weekend.

“Having lost the track time on Friday, especially at a new circuit, I think that hurt us in qualifying,” he said. “But in the race there were several key moments.

“One was the start and then looking after the tyres, putting Charles under pressure, making that pass and then really controlling the race until the Safety Car. And because the three DRS zones were so powerful it was very, very hard to break the tow.”

Verstappen’s win means he has reduced Leclerc’s lead in the championship to 19 points.

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28 comments on “Ferrari “let us off the hook” by failing to pit under Safety Car – Horner”

  1. Didn’t Horner add that it was probably mostly timing. Verstappen was already past the pit entrance when the safety car came, but Ferrari only had a short amount of time to do it with Leclerc, if at all; and, though the VSC with that crash was very likely to go to full SC, the moment of when exactly it came was a guess and possibly provided enough uncertainty that certainly Verstappen, but likely Leclerc, didn’t risk it.

    Also, Sainz had Perez behind him who whould have done the opposite of what he did for either track position or, as he ended up doing, go for fresh tyres. In the end track position won out for the top four I think, and even with Russell it wasn’t as clear cut apparently as one would think.

    1. @bosyber I agree. On the other hand, it was inevitable that the VSC would become a regular SC, due to Norris’ car on the track and the debris. Red Bull was ready (as shown on tv) but the call for SC was too late for Verstappen. Leclerc was 7 seconds behind at the time and we don’t know if Ferrari had 6 or 1 second to react to the SC-call. That makes a huge difference. The split-second decisions are always the most difficult.

      1. @matthijs the problem there is that it shouldn’t be a split second decision in the sense it requires any time to decide. The teams should have a strategy team looking out for these opportunities and making the call. As soon as the VSC came out there should have been an instruction to Leclerc to box opposite Verstappen if the full Safety Car came out. That can only happen though if you let the strategy team make the call without question from drivers or engineers.

        Mercedes used to be very good at these calls but became too risk averse over the previous 3 years or so. Red Bull are still very good at these opportunistic calls and Ferrari are probably still getting that side back up to speed with their new found performance level.

        1. Binotto already clarified in an interview that the Ferrari heats up the tyres a lot more due to their downforce. They would have pitted if they had mediums.

          They were afraid that the softs would overheat considerably in a couple of laps and leave them vulnerable to those behind whereas the fresh hards would take time to warm up.

          Hence, leaving them out on the worn hards was the best option.

          1. That makes quite a lot of sense @f1g33k, didn’t read/hear that bit so thanks! Yeah, in the end Ferrari just lost a lot at the end of that first, medium, stint so I suppose going for either used mediums or softs with a good 10 laps to didn’t feel like a solid plan for Ferrari.

      2. Exactly, I don’t know what race direction had in mind, vsc was going to turn to sc and uou had to like perez take advantage of both, pit under vsc and get a restart.

    2. Safety car plays to big a role in the outcome of races. Rules should be change to stop giving cars that are behind an advantage by banning free pit stops during a safety car period

  2. Only Leclerc could have pitted. He was more than 16 seconds ahead of Perez. Sainz was just 7 seconds ahead of Perez. Then Ferrari would have swapped Sainz and Leclerc around.

    1. @nin13 Yes, but with Sainz you would trade a 3rd place at best for a 4th place with the possibility of more. Difficult decision.

  3. Maybe, but not much time to decide & track position was generally quite critical, so understandable.

  4. Not sure the tyre situation was favourable for Ferrari though. I stand to be corrected but think they had no new softs and no new mediums. Used ones would have faded before the end and the hard would have taken a while to warm up while not offering that much of a pace advantage over the already warmed up ones.

    1. Exactly, Ferrari only had a fresh set of hards and used sets of softs, but no more mediums. Pitting for new hards would have made little sense as tyre wear wasn’t an issue on the C2 and as you pointed out, used softs would’ve likely worn out by the end of the race.

    2. Good point Emma, it was probably a key factor that they just did not have a good tyre option to switch too. Those old softs wouldn’t have worked and going to the hards would not give the advantage they were seeking

  5. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    9th May 2022, 9:21

    Well I would actually say that Red Bull made it more difficult than needed for Verstappen.

    If Max pitted himself he would have had fresh mediums and just behind Leclerc like maybe 5 seconds if VSC never became SC which was very very likely given all carbon pieces on track.
    If Leclerc also pitted it would be a fight on mediums on which Red Bull was stronger, if Leclerc didn’t pit it would be likely Max could overtake Leclerc again on fresher tires a compound softer.

    Sainz was no threat as much further behind Max (25 seconds by lap 40 before VSC) so Max would easily get out ahead of Sainz.

    1. @jelle-van-der-meer I’m not convinced that Max having to hold back CL, both of them on their old Hards, with Max’s a couple of laps fresher, was a more difficult thing than had he pitted for new Mediums but having to catch and re-pass CL. Perhaps your option would be one they would have gone for had their hards been close to done, but it would seem they had enough confidence in them that keeping track position was the more important thing. Perhaps even just the very fact they were able to give the tires a break during the VSC and Safety Car laps swayed both RBR and Ferrari towards confidence in keeping them on.

  6. Horner said the same at Abu Dhabi 2021 – Lewis should have pitted like Max!

    For Sainz, It was simply not an option as Perez would have not pitted and taken track position.
    For Charles, he could have taken but that would have meant he would have fallen behind Carlos. Given that there won’t be any team orders this soon in the championship, I am sure Charles would have himself said no to this option.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      9th May 2022, 9:42

      There should be team orders though. You don’t do team orders to simply say “let the other driver through because we want him to finish ahead of you” but if it’s best for strategy then that’s the call you make.

      I’d have pitted Leclerc in order to give him a run at Verstappen. You could have told Sainz that he hasn’t challenged Leclerc all race and he’s gained a position due to a strategy call by the team. He therefore has to give the position back to Leclerc so he can go for the win. Sainz keeps 3rd position and Leclerc keeps 2nd position but has fresh tyres to attack Verstappen with.

      Mercedes should have done the same with Hamilton – Russell is on fresh tyres and can attack Perez. Let him by. Instead, Hamilton fought a battle he was always going to lose, cost Russell a huge amount of time and the end result was he still finished behind Russell but he stopped George from having the opportunity to finish any higher than he did.

      1. There was no way Russell was going to challenge Pérez. Even with his duff PU he was all over Sainz. The best on offer was to beat Bottas and that’s what they got.

  7. It was a sensible decision from Ferrari. They had track position and it was difficult to predict how the softs would have behaved for the rest of the race. Pitsops need to improve for the team as the championship closes up.

  8. The reason why Ferrari didn’t pit Leclerc was their tyre situation. They only had one set of fresh hards and three sets of used softs remaining. Tyre wear wasn’t a factor on the hards, so pitting Leclerc wouldn’t have made much sense. If Ferrari had a fresh set of mediums available, then they would’ve certainly pitted Leclerc, as that would’ve created a big enough performance delta for them to attack Verstappen. I guess Ferrari anticipated more tyre wear at this circuit, which made them save two sets of hards for the race.

  9. It seems to be the process this season, to put the VSC out immediately when there’s an incident then change to SC. It was obviously going to be a full SC, so I was very surprised that hardly anyone in the top 10 rolled the dice. Especially Hamilton and Leclerc. Even if the softs or used mediums would have faded, they were very unlikely to be finishing below where they ended up finishing, but could have finished higher.

    Mercedes are lower down the grid now, these are the sort of gamble calls they need to take. They’re still making cautious strategy calls based on winning titles, whereas they should be looking to gamble and capitalise on unusual circumstances to try and pick up podiums/wins while their car is still sub-optimal.

    1. I’m fine with them using the VSC before the full Safety Car to confirm there is definitely a need for it. We’ve had safety cars in the past thrown too early for incidents that end up bunching up the field when it’s not needed. At the end of the day it’s better to neutralize all racing, take a look and then release the safety car or not rather than wait a minute trying to control it under double wave yellows while you decide if it is a full safety car required. It’s a fairer process imo.

      You’re absolutely right on the Mercedes front, still playing their cards too conservatively but I think they were hoping that they’d get on top of their car by now and start to come back into the title battles hence they’re been on damage limitation. If it becomes apparent they’re clear of the midfield but not on Red Bull and Ferrari pace for the rest of the year they may start throwing the dice more. I’d say 2-3 more races and then they’ll be resigned to just consolidating 3rd place and working towards next year.

      1. Well said @slowmo, have to agree to all of that. I think it also in some ways make the SC moment a bit less of a gamble safety-wise when done right, with the VSC first ‘stabilising’ the field first before the full SC then brings the cars together.

      2. I agree about the process of VSC to SC, it’s a good idea to neutralise initially then slow it down fully. My point was that it was obvious that it was going to do that as that’s what’s happened before this season, and there was no way that could be dealt with under just a VSC. So the strategists should have been fully prepared for it – eg Mercedes could have brought Hamilton in on the same lap as Russell as it was obviously going to turn into a full SC.

  10. That’s exactly what baffled me watching the race. I thought at least pitting Sainz and risking losing the place to Perez with fresh tyres was the minimal thing to do under the SC. Verstappen was a sitting duck giving his racing position just like Hamilton in Abu Dhabi last year. Were they considering a red flag ?

    They always prefer to be conservative and not gaining anything instead of being aggressive and risking something. I have the feeling that they are so heavily dependent on data, AI, software… where sometimes common sense and average racing IQ are sufficient to make the right call.

  11. grapmg (@)
    9th May 2022, 15:54

    People forget that teams have to predict the outcome if they stop under VSC. with hindsight is is easy to make the call. There was also the chance that it would only be a VSC. Also older tyres don’t always make you a sitting duck you still can defend as Carlos proofed. On top of that there is also the risk of failure during the pitsstop and losing additional places. Ferrari made a clear call to Leclerc to stay out so it sounds to me that it was not a mistake but a decision based on the info that moment and play it safe.

  12. I agree I thought that after these quotes comments Horner on the broadcast said in essence that he wasn’t sure ferrari had passed the line already.

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