What in the sacred name of strategy was going on with the Ferrari team in Monaco this morning?
Okay, so I’m by no means an expert when it comes to Formula One. But strategy, I have some experience with being that my job title – IRL – has the word in it. So when I say that I’ve been doing some serious head scratching at Ferrari’s tactics during the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix qualifications, know that it comes from a deep down place of confusion. These are just the ramblings of someone learning about the sport – a Petrol Pinky, but I think they are valid. And, I have some questions.
Charles grounded in the garage
Yes, only one-half of Ferrari’s drivers is Monegasques, but Charles Leclerc’s first F1 qualification in his home country should have been epic, right? Instead, we saw the young driver failing to make the cut for Q2, because Ferrari was “taking margin to leave a set of tyres for Q2 and Q3” – Mattia Binotto’s explanation, not mine. Binotto’s statement was further littered with words like “underestimated,” “misjudgment,”and “mistakes,” all things you don’t expect from one of the best teams in the world top Formula.
Did Ferrari throw away Leclerc’s home advantage with a strategy lacking urgency and – sense? I dare say, yes!
Have a little faith in your driver, Ferrari
Leclerc asked to be sent back out, a reasonable request given his precarious position toward the end of Q1. He had also been quickest in FP3 just a few hours before. Chances are the hometown hero felt confident enough to get a better lap – like many drivers on track today – in the few short minutes remaining in Q1. Instead, he was assured that there was nothing to be concerned about. I found the strategist in me shouting really in utter bewilderment as I watched the leaderboard and Charles’ name moving rapidly down towards the elimination zone.
Did the strategy guys at Ferrari underestimate the hunger of the other drivers on track? Did they misread just how quick the track would become in qualifying? It certainly looks like it.
Vettel strikes – again
You could have missed what followed if you blinked. Not only did Sebastian Vettel hit the wall at Ste Devote (his second crash of the day) he pitted and quickly returned to the track. With less than a couple of minutes left, Vettel got himself out of the drop zone. So determined was the German driver that he sped his way to P1 just in the nick of time, forcing teammate Leclerc into the drop zone.
Did the two Ferrari garages not communicate with each other during this vital time of qualifying? Did Ferrari have such confidence in their position in Q1 that they sincerely believed Charles was not at risk? What does it say about their strategy if their idea of ‘risk’ is – well – not taking a risk at all?
With a processional race expected tomorrow in Monaco, I’m eager to see what tactics Ferrari will use to ensure the best results. As it stands, Charles Leclerc will start the Monaco Grand Prix in P15 and Vettel in P4.