Ferrari can’t “bull**** ourself” about gap to Red Bull after podium – Vasseur

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s first podium of 2023 was the product of a well executed weekend in Baku, but it also highlighted how large the team’s deficit to Red Bull is.

Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole for the sprint race and Sunday’s grand prix in Azerbaijan. But he was helpless to resist the Red Bulls in the races once DRS was enabled.

Sergio Perez breezed past him to win the sprint race, with Max Verstappen only finishing behind due to sidepod damage he incurred in a collision with George Russell. Then in the grand prix both Red Bulls overtook Leclerc within a few laps of DRS being made available. By the end of the race, Leclerc had fallen over 20 seconds behind.

Ferrari’s team principal Frederic Vasseur after the grand prix took some encouragement from the team’s performance. “On one lap the pace was okay all weekend, and also thanks to Charles,” he said.

Vasseur also believes the performance difference between the teams was exaggerated because Ferrari were aiming to pit once while Red Bull planned a two-stop strategy.

“If you have a look on the last stint of the race, I think – but I’m not sure – that Red Bull was not planning to do two stints. They were pushing like hell from the beginning to the end.

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“We were convinced from the beginning that we will do one stint, and we are managing a lot at the beginning, it meant that we had probably a tyre advantage at the end. But overall they were faster than us, we don’t have to bullshit ourself.”

The area of car development that deficit stems from is not entirely clear to Vasseur, but he saw a trend with his cars around Baku, a track characterised by long straights and slow right-angled bends.

“So far what was of use [for building understanding] is that we are struggling with consistency. It’s a bit true this weekend, and all over the lap and all over the corners, and all over the race. I think the car was much more consistent this weekend and we are going in the right direction.”

Vasseur says Ferrari “have to pick up the pace and the confidence of the team” off the back of their first podium of 2023, four rounds into the season, and to continue in the development direction they have chosen. “We made the important choice in terms of technical approach over the last couple of weeks and it’s paying off today.”

However, even with upgrades that can bring improved pace, the deficit to the dominant Red Bull may not decrease.

“We were expecting to be in a better shape at the beginning and I don’t want to bullshit you. But what I’m very pleased with the reaction of the team, because we are never in a panic mode. After the first two events when it went [badly] – Jeddah was tough for us. But the reaction between Jeddah and Melbourne was a very good one.

“And the approach even on the development was never really in a panic or to change everything on the car. A complete ‘B car’ was not the plan, we were always focused to bring small update by small update to understand what we are doing first, to understand where we can improve the potential, reach the potential of the car first.

“I’m more than pleased with this kind of reaction, but for sure I would love to be in a better shape.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Ida Wood
    Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
    Claire Cottingham
    Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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    13 comments on “Ferrari can’t “bull**** ourself” about gap to Red Bull after podium – Vasseur”

    1. 1 second a lap, likely more.

      Yet somehow they still waste time on glory runs in qualy.

      1. I would say quali is supposed to be a glory run.
        As opposed to the quali on race fuel in the mud 00s.

        1. Plus it’s pretty normal for some cars to do better on one lap soft runs while others are superior on long hard runs. It’s just a consequence of the characteristics and quality of the car, with a bit of setup work to make adjustments either way.

          If it was easy to put it on pole in a “glory run” teams would be doing this all the time.

          1. True, for plenty of teams starting on pole would end up being a huge advantage compared to their rivals for the purpose of scoring some points.

    2. Good to see this kind of reaction. It’s going to take some time to change the operation after so many years, but these comments and some recent personel changes do give a positive impression.

      Depending on the track it might be close with Aston Martin, but they are still comfortably ahead of everyone else.

      1. Agreed. The biggest problem I had with Binotto was that he would never admit the team’s mistakes. Admitting you’ve messed up is the first step towards improving things.

        1. @drmouse Definitely, Binotto’s attitude was too often reminiscent of Domenicali’s mantra of ‘we forget this and focus on the next race’, as if somehow the problem with Ferrari in those days was a lack of focus on the race.

    3. This guy won’t last on this job.

      1. I’d say give him some time, it’s not like it’s an easy job, if you keep replacing team principals and keep failing you don’t go anywhere.

        1. I’d agree with MichaelN below and @esploratore1, Fasseur isn’t new in the sport, and has had quite a lot of contact with(in) Ferrari for years, so when he started he had at the least a reasonable idea of what he was getting into. That means that he surely got some (time and power) guarantees (for as much as they are worth, at least that gives him a bit of backing for now) to be able to do the needed job, otherwise he’d likely wouldn’t have taken it.

          So, sure if he also can’t turn around the tide, just as most others haven’t been able to at this team, they’ll try another, but for now I’d say he has at least until the end of next season, when clear progress needs to be visible and a hope that 2025 could deliver a title before the new engine regulations of 2026 start.

          1. @bosyber You’re probably right that he’s made some solid arrangements with Ferrari’s bosses about how he’d like to tackle this project. The man has a lot of other things he could be spending his time on, so it’s not like he was desperate for the job; even if it’s one few would turn down, just because of what Ferrari is in the world of motorsport. If he didn’t think he’d get the backup and room to do things his way (to a degree, of course, he can’t decide all on his own) he probably wouldn’t have taken the job.

            just as most others haven’t been able to at this team

            That goes for most teams, though, whether or not they change their team principal. F1 has a rather rigid pecking order. And while Red Bull and Mercedes have traded the top spot and won 76% of all races from the start of the 2009 season (the big regulation change), Ferrari has usually been right behind either of them.

            It’s actually surprising that despite their huge successes in the past decade and a half, there has only been 1 season where Red Bull and Mercedes went up against each other (2021). It’s usually been either outright dominance for one, or a challenge from Ferrari that tends to peters out halfway through. The exception of course being 2010 and 2012, where McLaren/Ferrari/Red Bull had a good fight between the three of them.

    4. It’s kind of obvious already that this isn’t the guy.

      1. Because? Vasseur has a long history of success in motorsport that few current team principals can match.

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