Vasseur: Momentum with Ferrari in Mercedes F1 battle for second

Ferrari Formula 1 boss Fred Vasseur said the “momentum is for us” in the battle with Mercedes for second place in the world championship ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Ferrari is only four points behind the Brackley-based team, having gained a further 16 in Las Vegas, helped by Charles Leclerc’s last-lap pass for second on Sergio Perez.

Carlos Sainz backed his team-mate up with sixth, the Spaniard having overcome a grid penalty and a first-lap spin to add eight points to the team's rally.

Given the high stakes in terms of both prestige and the share of the prize fund, the battle for second in the constructors’ table will add an extra dimension to the Abu Dhabi season finale.

“If you consider that we were 60 points behind them couple of races ago, we are on a good path,” said Vasseur. “But Abu Dhabi will be another story, four points it's nothing or a lot.

“And again we were able to perform in Monza, in Singapore, in Mexico during this weekend on different tracks with different weather conditions, different compounds, and we can be more than motivated before Abu Dhabi. The momentum is for us, and let's see what happens."

Vasseur admitted that there were mixed emotions in the camp after Leclerc had led the Las Vegas race, with the safety care just after his pitstop having done him no favours.

“For sure on our side it's a strange feeling,” he said when asked by Autosport to sum up the team’s Vegas race. “You do the pole position, you overtake three times Red Bull in the race, and you do P2. It's not usual!

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

“But I think also the timing of the safety car was the worst case scenario for us, four laps after our pitstop. Okay, it is like it is.

“Charles did a mega good job. But even Carlos, and if you consider the Thursday story, the FP1 story, plus the incident in Turn 1, he was P20 or P18, and he was coming back P6. For us overall it's a good weekend.”

Vasseur admitted that he didn’t think Leclerc would be able to pass Perez on the final lap.

"It was on the limit,” he said. “But the lap before, at one stage I said the lap before we will try to do it, but I had the gap on my [pitwall] dash, and said 'wow, no, it's too far away'. But the lap after…

“I was a bit surprised, probably less than Checo! But it was a mega good move and I think he was so motivated.”

Vasseur acknowledged that Ferrari did a good job on tyre management in Las Vegas, where the low temperatures saw drivers struggling to get heat into their Pirellis, but stressed that the performance wasn’t a one-off.

"It was also the case on some other occasions,” he said. “But again, for almost nothing you can [go] on the wrong direction now on the tyres, it's not so easy that if you have to put in energy or not into the tyres.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Erik Junius

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

“It's difficult for everybody, perhaps a bit less for Red Bull over the season. If you have a look they were performing in every single condition, but for the other teams it's a bit up and down. But we'll try to stay on the up.”

He added: “If you have a look at the Mercedes, last week [in Brazil they] were absolutely nowhere on the tyre management and they did a decent race this weekend.

“From track to track, from compound to compound, it's a different story. Today the conditions were quite cold compared to the rest of the season. And we had a good management.

“I think it was really the case, not the last race, but a couple of races ago. But it's always on the edge on the tyre management.”

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