Today’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was the last of three races to be held on Italian soil in this unusual season and Scuderia Ferrari leaves Imola with a fifth place courtesy of Charles Leclerc, while Sebastian Vettel’s 12th place is not a fair reflection of his performance. He would have finished in the points, but for a problem at his pit stop that cost him several places. Overall, the SF1000 showed further signs of gradual and continual progress, even if the points haul does not truly show it.
Start. At the start, Charles managed to pass Alex Albon in the Red Bull, to go sixth. Sebastian was involved in a collision with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and he lost a place to Antonio Giovinazzi. Apart from that, there was not much going on in the first part of the race. Charles moved up one spot when Pierre Gasly retired the AlphaTauri and he pitted slightly earlier than planned to try and undercut Daniel Ricciardo. But the Renault driver managed to stay ahead, even though his pace was not that quick. Because of that, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez who had started on the Hard tyre, managed to get ahead of the two of them after his pit stop, to be fourth.
Fight-back. After the early collision, Sebastian had a strong pace on the Mediums and he was able to work his way right up to fourth, as those running Softs pitted. The German was in a battle with Carlos Sainz for tenth, when he was called in for his pit stop. Unfortunately, a stripped wheel nut meant the stop took over 13 seconds and Seb thus lost several places, dropping down to 14th.
Final stages. With just over 10 laps to go, a tyre failed on Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, after he drove over some debris, while he was lying second. The Dutchman was stuck in the gravel at the Villeneuve corner which brought out the Safety Car. Given the difficulty of overtaking at Imola, the team decided to leave Charles out on track, despite the fact he was on Hards, even though that meant he might struggle to defend from others on softer tyres. However, as Sebastian had nothing to lose, he came in for a set of Softs to try and make up some places.
Restart. Thus, when the race resumed, Charles was fourth behind the two Mercedes and Ricciardo, but on that first lap, he had to give best to Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) who had the benefit of Soft tyres. However, once Leclerc managed to get his tyres back up to temperature he did an excellent job of fending off Perez to bring home an important fifth place. Vettel made up two places but that still saw him only 12th. Sainz, with whom Vettel had been fighting in the first part of the race, finished seventh, therefore, but for the problem at the pit stop, Seb should definitely have finished in the points.
A pause. After two back-to-back races, the Formula 1 World Championship will be back on track in a fortnight’s time at Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit, last used back in 2011, when Sebastian Vettel was the winner.
Charles Leclerc #16
"P5 feels quite good today, I think we did the maximum. We expected a very difficult first stint, but in fact, we were quite competitive. Then we switched to the Hard and we were probably a tiny bit quicker than Daniel (Ricciardo) in front, but not enough to overtake, so we were stuck behind him. Then, at the restart after the safety car I struggled more than Daniil (Kvyat), who was coming up behind me on new tyres.
I was really pushing from the beginning to the end and I feel we were quite competitive during the whole race. Also, we did a good job in managing our tyres."
Sebastian Vettel #5
"We started on the Medium, which was the right thing to do as it was still working very well, even after a good amount of laps. Today the pace was good in the first stint, then we lost time in the pit-stop, which is a shame. We tried to come back with the Soft tyre at the end, but it was very difficult to make progress in a train of cars. This is clearly not the result we wanted and for sure not the one we would have deserved today.
I was comfortable in the car even if this year the problem is more severe in qualifying, where I struggle to get a feel for the car. We have to remain patient and continue to make gradual progress, as we have been doing, given that we missed Q3 by just two tenths yesterday. If we can start from a bit higher up the grid, the next races could bring us better results."
Mattia Binotto Team Principal
"It’s clear to see that we are consolidating the progress we have made in recent races, especially in terms of race pace at a variety of tracks with very different characteristics. That’s important for the rest of this season and for the next one. Once again, Charles did a very good job, both in managing the tyres and when it came to defending position in the closing stages.
Seb also had a strong race and we are very sorry for the problem at the pit stop that robbed him of a top ten finish, thus losing the chance to pick up valuable points.
Finally, I wish to congratulate Mercedes for winning the Constructors’ championship. We know we have a very long way to go to be fighting once again for those same goals, something we have achieved so often in our history, but we firmly believe we can do it."