Ferrari didn't look good on paper. Before switching to slicks, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz held a double lead. After that, they were second and fourth. Has Ferrari carelessly gambled away a certain victory?
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto was visibly tense. Another race that should have been won against Red Bull. A race in which the Ferrari was the faster car than the Red Bull, as in Barcelona. On circuits where maximum downforce counts, the Ferrari drivers can draw on their cornering speed. Top speed doesn't matter.
If you want to become world champion, you have to win your home games. In Barcelona, technology played a trick on Ferrari. Charles Leclerc was deprived of his lead due to a turbocharger failure. Carlos Sainz lost twelve seconds in the gravel bed. In the end it was 44:12 points for Red Bull. Both world championship leads were with the devil.
Ferrari's misjudgments & mistakes
Ferrari planned the counterattack in Monte Carlo. And got off to an optimal start with starting positions in the first starting row. In the race, the sun only shone for the challenger up to the 17th lap. Then everything that could go wrong went wrong. Positions 1 and 2 became places 2 and 4. The big favorite Charles Leclerc fell from one extreme to the other. Within six laps, a 6.2 second lead became 4.4 seconds behind new leader Sergio Perez. With Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen in between.
Binotto refused to talk about bad luck and unfortunate circumstances. "We could have won with both drivers today and made mistakes in our estimation and the timing of the pit stops." Binotto referred in particular to Leclerc's two tire changes. The first on intermediates came too late, the second on slicks too early. And in retrospect, like Sainz, you could have saved yourself the first change entirely.
Early on intermediates, late on slicks
On the drying track in Monte Carlo, a situation arose that only very rarely occurs. The track dried up so quickly that you could switch directly from rain tires to slicks without having to go through intermediates. Binotto revealed: "We had that on the screen. Hamilton practiced that in 2016 and won with it."
Some drivers only spent three laps on the mixed tyres. It doesn't have to be a mistake. Depending on the position in the race, it was better to make an additional stop or to accept extremely slow extra laps on the extreme weather tires to save yourself a stop.
It always depended on which gap you would fall into the traffic. If you had a slow driver in front of you after the stop, you burned off all the advantage of better grip.The stupid thing was that nobody knew what move your opponent would make, who was facing the same dilemma as you were.
In principle, the whole calculation turned out to be a golden rule: It was better to swap to intermediates a little earlier and a little later on slicks. Why? Because the intermediate got up to temperature a bit faster than the hard rubber compound of the slicks. And because you could switch to the wet track with the Intermediate if necessary.
Perfect window for Perez
Red Bull did everything right with Sergio Perez. With laps 16 and 22 he got the perfect window for a change. Ferrari did the worst with Leclerc on laps 18 and 21. Max Verstappen came into the pits at the same time as Leclerc to switch to intermediates, but like Perez with the slicks, he waited one lap longer.
The Sainz case is a good example of how much depended on chance. Sainz was the only one in the leading group to limit himself to one pit stop. That would have been enough to win if two factors hadn't spoken against the Spaniard. Factors that Ferrari's strategists could not anticipate. Perez had a clear run after switching to intermediates because Lando Norris turned into the pit lane in front of him. And Sainz had half a lap in front of the lapped Nicholas Latifi.
Leclerc had to wait 3.5 seconds
The Mercedes command post partly defended his colleagues from Ferrari: "When you're in the lead, you don't like to make the first move. You want your position on the track in Monaco don't give away." Red Bull had it easier with Perez. He could only win. And he was used as a decoy for Ferrari. What Ferrari also couldn't predict was how the opponents would react in the constantly changing conditions. Because actually everyone did the wrong thing from the 6th round. From then on, intermediates were faster than rain tires. Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel got the ideal time to switch, but got stuck in traffic because the others stubbornly continued on their rain tires.
The biggest mistake was definitely calling Leclerc to the pits at the same time as Sainz. The distance between the two was so small that Leclerc had to wait for the clearance. His pit lane time was 3.5 seconds longer than Sainz's. As a result, the fastest in qualifying also lost position to Verstappen, who was able to complete another lap on the intermediates without any problems. With a time of 1:27.259 minutes, the world champion was significantly faster than Leclerc in his first flying lap on the hard rubber.
Binotto justified the action with the plan to undercut Red Bull, just as Red Bull did when they switched to intermediates with Perez.But the effect of the earlier pit stop was only so strong on the eventual winner because Ferrari allowed two laps to react.
The engineers at Ferrari's pit stand noticed that the double stop couldn't work even before it was processed. Leclerc was asked to stay on track. "I was already in the pit lane by then," said the frustrated favourite. His bitter insight: "We are working on the problem and will learn from it."