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4 - GP MESSICO F1/2023 - DOMENICA 29/10/2023 - credit: @ Ferrari Spa fred vasseur Charles Leclerc

Vasseur: We’re not far away, but lucky it wasn’t a panini for us!

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 29: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 and Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 battle for track position into the first corner at the start of the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 29, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) ferrari sandwich panini

Ferrari surprised the Formula 1 world, themselves included when Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz annexed the front row of the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix prompting Fred Vasseur to declare that the Reds are not far away.

The Ferrari F1 team boss was of course referencing runaway F1 World Champions Red Bull and Max Verstappen. However, it is worth remembering that the points are dished out on Sunday, and while they may have outpaced Max in Qualifying they were nowhere close in the race a day later.

Verstappen was easily faster than his rivals, and may have won the race by over half a minute had it not been sliced into two. He led by 16 seconds when the first stanza was nullified by Kevin Magnussen’s big shunt, in the Haas, halfway through the race.

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With Lewis Hamilton second in the Mercedes on Sunday, Ferrari’s best was Charles Leclerc in P3 and a subdued Carlos Sainz behind him in P4. Once again the Italian team were unable to convert their Qualy high ground into a victory. Not the first time over the years past two seasons.

Fred: With the physiognomy of the race as I think we were in good shape

4 - GP MESSICO F1/2023 - DOMENICA 29/10/2023 - credit: @ Ferrari Spa fred vasseur Charles Leclerc

When asked to rate the Mexico City GP weekend, Vasseur was candid in his appraisal: “So, so… I would say that P3 and P4 is not a bad result, with the pole on Saturday, the front row. I would say on performance it’s not a bad weekend.

“For sure, we are disappointed starting from the first row to finish third and fourth, and also with the physiognomy of the race as I think we were in good shape in the first part with the car of Charles a bit damaged.

“And then when we fitted the hard, we were not able to have the same pace at all compared to the others, so relatively so, so. But let’s focus on the fact we got a fourth pole position out of six races and at least in the first stint we were good to fight,” added Vasseur.

If Perez’s ill-fated lap one, Turn 1 lunge was unlucky for the Mexican, third place for Leclerc was lucky for him and Ferrari as it was he, with whether to go, got tagged by the errant Red Bull. There was damage to the front wing, but Leclerc continued, apparently not seriously hindered by the missing bits.

Fred: Sandwich is a good word

fred vasseur Charles Leclerc 4 - GP MESSICO F1/2023 - DOMENICA 29/10/2023 - credit: @ Ferrari Spa

Perez and Red Bull exonerated Leclerc, but not the crowd at the podium who foolishly (and cluelessly) booed Leclerc. Brushing away the boos directed at his driver, Vasseur joked: “Sandwich is a good word, watching those three on TV, we were lucky it was not a panini for us.

“What can you do, when you are three side by side like this? I think Charles had nowhere to go and Checo had to turn also, Max was close to the kerb, I think there is no one to blame for this.

“Let’s continue the pole positions, try to have the same pace we had on the medium [tyre]… and I think we are not far away, we just have to put everything together,” concluded Vasseur.

With three GPs and a Sprint Race still to go, Ferrari are third on 349 points in the 2023 F1 World Championship Constructors’ standings, 22 behind Mercedes in second place. Red Bull long ago wrapped up the 2023 F1 teams’ title.

Big Question: Are Ferrari closer to Red Bull?