Ferrari Is Back On Its Bullshit

Photo: AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Photo: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

With two consecutive wins under his belt and a pole-position start to work with, Charles Leclerc had every reason to believe he had a shot at his third straight victory. He had the pace, he had the consistency, he had the pit strategy over his competitors. But, in a disappointing return to form, Ferrari handed the win to Sebastian Vettel Again.

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Vettel was winless in 2019 up until today, while Leclerc managed two consecutive wins leading up to Singapore. Some may have wondered if the team had a new star driver. Ferrari sent a message today: when the choice is there, Ferrari picks Seb.

In this case, Ferrari’s opportunity came with the pit strategy. They brought in Vettel first and used Leclerc’s pit stop to position Seb in the lead, undercutting his own teammate.

Ferrari made a habit of this kind of strategic nonsense earlier in the season, like in the Chinese Grand Prix when they forced Leclerc to move aside for Vettel because Vettel thought he was faster. A weak point, considering that if he were really significantly faster he wouldn’t be behind Leclerc in the first place.

It’s also hard to pretend that this is a selfless, “for the team” mentality and not Seb’s ego. When given the same order during his Red Bull days, he was ordered not to pass teammate Mark Webber for the lead. He passed him anyway.

But Vettel is the veteran, the superstar, the golden boy. And Ferrari makes sure that Leclerc knows it. Even though he got overtly annoyed on the team radio and in post-race interviews early in the season, Ferrari still prioritized Seb. After all, he was their best driver and the one who had actually won a race.

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That’s no longer an argument they can really make. While Vettel has a longer history with the team, Leclerc has proven that he is one of the most talented drivers out there and brought more wins home this year than Vettel, despite the team politics.

Leclerc himself probably thought it’d be different after he won two races. Two races, we should note, that Vettel was so far behind that Ferrari had no chance to give him preference over Leclerc. But as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Ferrari undercut Leclerc.

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He understandably seemed annoyed with the strategy and angry in interviews. He has every right to be. If Ferrari wants to keep one of the best drivers in the world racing for them, maybe they shouldn’t make him defer to Vettel whenever the entitled veteran “feels faster.” Or, at the very least, don’t make him give up a three-win streak just to feed Seb’s ego.

Mack Hogan is Jalopnik's Weekend Editor, but you may know him from his role as CNBC's car critic or his brave (and maligned) takes on Twitter. Most people agree that you shouldn't listen to him.

DISCUSSION

wheelerguy
Wheelerguy

NO.

Not really, not as egregious as all the other bone-headed, self-sabotaging strats Ferrari employs. Seb’s undercut guaranteed a 1-2, the maximum points hauls, and while I reckon Seb could have just let Charles by out of delicadeza and we’d be all partying twice (Seb you don’t need this win, you need to be the Kenobi), a win is a win, especially when Ferrari could have just as easily pissed this race away at the third safety car or the two prior, which has a higher chance of happening.

I don’t really think Charles got fucked over, but Charles himself has immense reservations to Binotto himself, so clearly he got shafted and I won’t dispute it. Seb’s not in good form, and while I think this is the best morale boost he can have, no one can really tell if this is just a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come. Leclerc’s the challenger to Bottas at most, so Ferrari should rightfully put their eggs in his basket now, with their upgrades actually being that, more than ever. Vettel’s 5th; he’s a no-hoper this late.

What’s more shocking is that Mercedes somehow pulled this bullshit. In the context of the points race, they can get away with it—Lewis is the champion—but their strat calls this race is so baffling I say Binotto was wearing a Toto mask, and I wonder what Mercedes really want out of Bottas if they want him to go as slow as they say he should (Bottas has no killer instinct, I suppose? Does that make his wins a fluke, then?). I’m starting to think that Ocon or Hulkenberg probably wouldn’t want to play ball in the “protect Lewis” system, but now we see Mercedes may have few options if they race from behind.