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F1 | Austrian GP | Ferrari’s Iñaki Rueda says Ferrari’s main aim in Austria was to destabilise Verstappen and put him on a suboptimal strategy

Sporting and strategy director at the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team, Iñaki Rueda, gives his race analysis of the Austrian Grand Prix that saw an unexpected engine failure for Carlos Sainz and a much needed win for Charles Leclerc.

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F1 | Austrian GP | Ferrari’s Iñaki Rueda says Ferrari’s main aim in Austria was to destabilise Verstappen and put him on a suboptimal strategy
Fuente imagen: Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari’s Iñaki Rueda gives a fascinating insight into the strategy that goes into a race before lights out, and also during, when the unexpected occurs.

“We are back from Austria, and back with another victory, the fourth victory for Scuderia Ferrari this season - a great event for Charles and a heartbreaking race for Carlos.

“We had the Sprint on Saturday. We started P2 and P3 and we managed to finish in the same positions giving us a good starting position for the main race. 

“Come Sunday for the main race we know that one of the biggest problems would be tyre management. We knew that the Soft would be too soft for the race. That left us with a race with Hards and Mediums. And we believed it would be in between a two and three stop race.

“Our main aim for Sunday was to destabilise Verstappen," Rueda continued. The plan worked out perfectly.

“We were second and third and our aim was to put pressure on Verstappen and persuade him to stop very early for a suboptimal two-stop race. Charles put enough pressure to actually overtake Verstappen and Carlos was coming to overtake him. This persuaded Verstappen to stop very early, as early as Lap 13. This was too early for an optimum two-stop race so we had reached our first objective.

“With Verstappen in a suboptimal two-stop race, now our game was to offset ourselves, to go longer, to give Charles and Carlos a tyre offset to Verstappen. We managed to stop 13 laps later with Charles and when he emerged out of the pits he had over a second per lap pace delta on Verstappen. This allowed Charles to catch up to Verstappen and overtake him.

“With Carlos we did a similar strategy. We stopped a lap later and he was also coming with over a second a lap pace delta to Verstappen. He caught Verstappen on Lap 36 and was about to overtake him but at that point Verstappen stopped again.

“On the last stint we were playing a similar game. With Verstappen having stopped early on Lap 36 for a last stint, we offset ourselves. We stayed out 12 laps further than him. This enabled us to stop and come back at Verstappen with over a second of pace delta. We had 20 laps to go, both cars on the road we were confident that we would be able to catch Verstappen, overtake Verstappen, and pull away to finish one and two.”

In a highly dramatic end to Sainz’s race, his engine spectacularly blew on Lap 58. The Spaniard, looking like he was attempting to stop the car from rolling back towards the track, just managed to jump clear as the flames licked higher into the air, threatening to consume him. 

“Unfortunately Carlos suffered an engine failure when he was about to overtake Verstappen, and this deployed the Virtual Safety Car. We had to make a choice with Charles at that point. Do we stay out on the brand-new Hard [tyre] or do we come in for another newer Medium? The fact that Verstappen had very old Hards persuaded us to fit a new Medium because we were convinced he would do the same. 

“Our pit crew delivered five very good pit stops this weekend and the last one was no exception. Another sub-three seconds.

”With only twelve laps to go though, we suffered that small throttle problem. This raised the heartbeat of everyone on the pit wall and I’m sure it did the same for all the fans watching from home. Charles managed to nurse the car all the way to the last lap and this enabled him to bring an amazing win.”

“Two more races before the summer break. We’re fully motivated to get the best possible result out of this.”     

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