Ferrari discussed the idea of asking Sebastian Vettel to relinquish the lead of the Singapore Grand Prix to team-mate Charles Leclerc after the pair swapped positions through strategy.
Vettel was running third on the road as Leclerc maintained a slow pace early on, but was then forced to pit to ensure he emerged into a gap ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who was going quickly on new tires after picking up a first-lap puncture. With Leclerc pitting one lap later, the stop resulted in Vettel gaining two positions and emerging in the lead but Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto considered asking the German to move over for Leclerc before settling for protecting the one-two finish.
“I understand Charles somehow is a bit disappointed because he was trying to do his best to win the race, and I think he did whatever he could to win the race,” Binotto said. “Did we consider the swap? Yes, we did. I think we thought at that stage at least it was the right choice not to do it, and obviously now, we are still discussing with the drivers if that was the right choice or not — internally we still have different opinions to discuss. But yes, we thought about it.”
Binotto says Ferrari was simply caught out by how much quicker Vettel was able to go on his first lap with new tires, having expected the timing of the pit stops and the gap between the drivers at that stage of the race to be enough to keep Leclerc in the lead.
“The undercut was effectively more powerful than expected — it was 3.9 seconds,” he said. “We were not expecting such a big number. As a matter of fact, when we stopped Sebastian, we thought when Charles stopped the lap after, he would be ahead of Sebastian. Sebastian drove well, got the undercut of 3.9 seconds, that’s the difference.”
Leclerc wanted an explanation for the way he had seen Vettel take the lead and go on to win, and accepted Binotto’s reasoning as Ferrari secured the first one-two for a team in the history of the race in Singapore.
“I think we have been surprised by how powerful the undercut was,” Leclerc said. “As I said, in the car it was very frustrating, but now out of the car I understand a lot more the whole situation. I’m extremely happy for the team, very happy for Seb too — he deserves it, and yeah, now I will move forward. Obviously I wish I was one step higher, but it’s part of life. Sometimes it goes that way, and I will bounce back stronger in Russia.”