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13 | 10 | 2019 GP JapanScuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow leaves Suzuka and the Japanese Grand Prix having picked up a second place with Sebastian Vettel and a seventh with Charles Leclerc. That definitely did not live up to expectations given the front row lockout in qualifying held at 10 in the morning because of the Hagibis typhoon. Sebastian paid the price for a hesitant start, while Charles had to deal with the after-effects of a coming together with Max Verstappen at the first corner. The Dutchman spun, while the Monegasque had to pit after three laps to change his damaged front wing, which meant he had to fight back from last place.

Start. For both Ferraris, the race got complicated right from the start. Sebastian hesitated when the lights went out and Valtteri Bottas got ahead of him and Charles got wheelspin so he was slow off the line and Verstappen came around the outside of him. Bottas led into turn 1 followed by Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. It was here that the Ferrari and Red Bull tangled and that would complicate Leclerc’s race. He worked his way up from 20th to seventh before his second pit stop and was sixth before making a third visit to the pits on lap 46, when it was clear he would not lose any places. After the race, the stewards reviewed the incident between Leclerc and Verstappen and imposed a 15 second time penalty on our driver, which thus drops Charles from sixth to seventh place.

Two stops. Sebastian was able to match Bottas’ pace and manage Hamilton who was behind him, but as from lap 14, he began to lose ground to the leader. Two more laps and the team called him in for his first stop, fitting another set of Softs so he could keep attacking. On the following lap, Bottas pitted and got out ahead of Vettel, while Hamilton waited until lap 21 for his stop, at which point Sebastian moved back up to second. The German came in for his second stop on lap 31, his SF90 now running on Mediums as he rejoined in third place. Five laps later, Bottas made his second stop, handing the lead to Hamilton who then pitted on lap 42, rejoining right behind Vettel, but the German managed to fend him off for six laps to the chequered flag, with a skilful drive that made use of all his car’s performance.

Next stop North America. This was Scuderia Ferrari’s 17th podium of the season, the eighth for Sebastian. Now the World Championship has a weekend off to charge its batteries before heading off for a double header in North America, starting with the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday 22 October followed by the USA race on 3 November.

Sebastian Vettel #5
“We had a very good morning, but the afternoon was less good in terms of the result we were able to achieve as a team.
The start wasn’t good for either me or Charles and without that, we could have had both cars fighting at the front. It was difficult today and to be fair. Our rivals were simply quicker, Valtteri was just flying.
I had a poor start, I was a bit early with the clutch initially then clutched in again and lost a bit of momentum. Usually our starts are very good but not this time. After that we were missing out a little bit in terms of speed in the race compared to our rivals. We went through the tyres more than Valtteri and Lewis. Especially at the end of the stints they were dropping off a bit more, whereas our rivals kept the pace throughout.
Towards the end my only target was to stay ahead of Lewis. I knew that down the straights he struggled to overtake, so I just tried to have clean exits in the places where it mattered.”

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Foto © www.motorsportpics.de | Jerry Andre

11 | 10 | 2019 GP Japan  It was a busier Friday than usual here today. Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, along with the nine other teams had to make the most of today’s track time, given that the circuit will be closed tomorrow and free practice 3 is cancelled while qualifying is postponed to Sunday morning at 10. All this is because of the imminent arrival of typhoon Hagibis which is meant to hit the Mie Prefecture overnight and last throughout Saturday. By Sunday, sunny and dry conditions are expected.

FP1. The first session ran pretty much as normal, with work focussing on set-up and tyre evaluation. Sebastian Vettel completed 26 laps and Charles Leclerc did 20. The German’s best time was a 1’29”720 while the Monegasque did a 1’29”912.

Programme change. Before the second session, the organisers announced the change to the timetable for Saturday and Sunday. It meant that the 90 minute afternoon session took on greater importance than usual because, if for any reason, it was not possible to run qualifying on Sunday morning, then the FP2 timesheet would decide the starting grid.

FP2. Therefore it was an intense afternoon, with two attempts at a quick lap, one at the start and one towards the end when the track was more rubbered-in. In between those runs, the team worked towards the race with long runs to analyse the Medium and Soft compounds.

65 laps. Charles started off with a 1’29”686 on the Medium tyres and got down to a 1’28”392 on the Softs. At the end, on new Softs he stopped the clocks in 1’28″141. Sebastian started with a 1’30”203 then did a 1’28”424 on the Softs before getting down to 1’28”376 towards the end, when he was slowed by the high volume of traffic on track.

Back on Sunday. Right now, the paddock is busying itself with ensuring that all equipment is safely stowed and dismantling much of the infrastructure that could be in the path of Hagibis. Tomorrow, the track will be shut down, with only personnel essential to the manteinence of critical systems allowed to be on site. The new timetable means qualifying will now take place on Sunday at 10 (3.00 CET) and the race starts as planned at 14.10 local (7.10 CET).

Sebastian Vettel #5 “Today, was not too bad, at least it was better than it looked. We are in reasonable shape, but maybe we are lacking a bit of pace overall. Our rivals looked very comfortable right from the start of practice and they confirmed that pace in FP2. I think we have a bit of room for improvement as it wasn’t an ideal session, in terms of how we made use of our tyres. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow: relax and maybe do some indoor sports. On Sunday there will be a big question mark over the state of the track as tomorrow’s wind and rain will have an effect.”

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Foto © www.motorsportpics.de | Jerry Andre

10 | 10 | 2019 GP Japan Thursday at the Japanese Grand Prix featured clear skies and pleasant weather, which should continue into tomorrow, when free practice takes place. However, a drastic change is expected as from Saturday, with the possible arrival of the Hagibis typhoon in the Mie Prefecture, with very strong winds and heavy rain.

Meetings and track walk. This morning Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who yesterday was in Tokyo for some events involving sponsors and the local market, went for the usual track walk to check the condition of the track surface and get a first look at one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar. Back in the paddock, the two men met with their respective engineering groups to prepare the work plan for tomorrow. That could turn out to be more important than usual as it might be the only opportunity to run in the same dry conditions that are currently expected on race day.

In the hospitality. As for Sebastian, he met the media in Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s hospitality suite, claiming he was pumped up for what is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the year. “I feel the fans are special here and it’s particularly enjoyable to meet them as you can sense their affection and passion.” In fact, it was the fans that were uppermost in Seb’s mind when the topic of Saturday was raised. “I think if there are 80 mile an hour winds and it’s raining sideways, it’s unthinkable that we can go out on track. It’s not so much a problem for us as for the fans in the grandstands and everyone working at the track. However, it would not be the first time that the forecast has been too pessimistic and, in the end, we have managed to run without too many problems.” The topic then switched to Sebastian’s own performance. “Following the latest updates, I’m getting positive feelings from the car and I think the pace we had in recent races, in Singapore and also in Sochi, shows that I have more confidence. I have to improve things in qualifying, because I’m still not getting all the potential out of the SF90. I hope I can manage it, starting this weekend.”

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Foto © www.motorsportpics.de | Jerry Andre

29 | 09 | 2019 GP Russland / GP Russia Sochi – It was a frustrating Russian Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari. Charles Leclerc finished third, but Sebastian Vettel had to retire because of a problem with a hybrid component of the Power Unit. The outcome of the race at the Sochi Autodrom was particularly annoying for the Italian team, because what caused Charles to fall back behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas was the Virtual Safety Car period called to deal with Seb’s SF90 parked at the side of the track. During this time, the others were able to pit for tyres, losing around half the time that it cost those, including Charles, who had pitted during normal race conditions.

Early stages. At the start, the team strategy worked perfectly: Charles had a great getaway from pole and Sebastian was in his slipstream, which pulled him past Hamilton. The towing effect was so powerful that the German even went into the lead going into the first real corner at the track. Seb then started to push on at a cracking pace and pulled away from his team-mate, who was leaving the pack behind.

Key moment. Charles was the first of the two Ferraris to pit, coming in on lap 22 and switching from Soft to Medium tyres. Four laps later, Sebastian came in, to run behind his team-mate. However, in the third sector, a problem suddenly occurred on the SF90 linked to the hybrid part of the Power Unit and he had to park the car at the side of the track. The Race Director called a Virtual Safety Car, which gave those who had not yet changed tyres the opportunity to do so, losing only half the time of a normal stop, as the Mercedes went from Medium to Soft. This left Hamilton leading from Charles and Bottas. At this point, the Monegasque driver decided to go for a win or bust move, coming in again to switch to the same Soft tyres as his rivals, even though it meant dropping being the second Mercedes.

Closing stages. Over the last 21 laps, Charles tried to attack Hamilton and Bottas, but the performance levels of the cars were so similar that, even with DRS, Leclerc was unable to try an overtaking move, thus crossing the line third, five seconds off Hamilton and under one and a half behind Bottas.

On to Japan. Charles’ third place is his ninth podium finish of the season, the team’s sixteenth. He picked up 15 points today, which puts him ahead of Max Verstappen in third place in the championship, with a total of 215. Scuderia Ferrari is still second in the Constructors’, behind Mercedes and ahead of Red Bull. The next round, the 17th of the season, takes place on 13 October in Japan.

Sebastian Vettel #5
“Today, we are very disheartened. We wanted to finish first and second, but all we got was a third place. It’s not the result we were hoping for. I got a good start and the first stint was pretty quick which allowed me to open up quite a gap.
After the pit stop, I rejoined in second place but shortly afterwards the team asked me to stop the car because there was a problem with a hybrid component on my Power Unit. I hope the engine will be okay for the coming races.
It has definitely been not our day today.”

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Foto © www.motorsportpics.de | Jerry Andre

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