Ferrari defend decision not to pit Leclerc and Sainz under Safety Car

Charles Leclerc finished second behind Max Verstappen at the 2022 Miami Grand Prix.

Ferrari have affirmed that it was not worth pitting onto a fresh set of tyres during the late Safety Car at the Miami Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen was comfortably leading Charles Leclerc heading into the closing stages of the race when the Safety Car was deployed following a crash between Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris, allowing the Monegasque to put pressure on the reigning champion.

However, he had done so on old Hards, leaving question marks as to why Ferrari opted to keep their two drivers out on track.

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But the Safety Car was deployed several moments after a Virtual Safety Car was initially declared, meaning that the Scuderia’s Safety Car pit window had all but diminished.

Further, getting the new 18-inch tyres into an operating window has been notoriously difficult so far this season, so team principal Mattia Binotto thought it best to stay out on track.

“We believe that, in terms of format, our used tyres would have been stronger to a new one,” he said. 

“So we decided simply to stay out because we believe that was the best chance for us to have a good warm up and try to attack in those first laps, which is what happened.”

Sainz was running in third for much of the race after being passed by Verstappen on the opening lap of proceedings, and he defended well from Sergio Perez towards the end as the Mexican tried to use fresh tyres of his own to clear the Spaniard.

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The 27-year-old agrees that track position at that stage of the race was preferable to gambling on new tyres.

“I would have lost position to Checo,” he stated.

“Our alternative was I use soft or a new hard, which for me, both of them were not good enough for 10-12 laps to go.

“So we were better off staying out on a used hard, which I think was the right call because in the end we managed to keep him behind.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was a relieved figure after the conclusion of the race after a transition from the initial Virtual Safety Car to a full Safety Car ultimately denied Ferrari, as well as Verstappen, the chance to pit.

“Thankfully they [Ferrari] missed it with both of their cars so we were effectively still on the same strategy, or they would have had a significant advantage,” he said.

“We were let off the hook by Ferrari just through timing. They could have put a soft on and they had a free stop.

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“That’s the frustrating thing. You just don’t know when it’s going from a virtual to a full and that’s your risk at the front of the field. Thankfully it was all neutralised.”

Verstappen conceded he was “not very happy” when the Safety Car was deployed but, nonetheless, was able to go on to take a victory that leaves him 19 points adrift of Leclerc in the Drivers’ Standings.