Vasseur: The end of the championship is never after race seven

Vasseur: End of the championship is never after race seven

Vasseur: The end of the championship is never after race seven

Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur insisted it is too early to make any predictions regarding the 2024 Formula 1 Championship after round seven, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Ferrari brought a major upgrade to what was their first home race this season at Imola, and while they showed improvement, it was McLaren that took the fight to Red Bull and Max Verstappen who did not enjoy the advantage they have come accustomed in recent times.

McLaren have had their upgrade since Miami, which meant more data and experience with it compared to Ferrari who despite that showed clear improvement.

Facing the media at Imola last Sunday, and with McLaren and Ferrari now close to Red Bull, Vasseur was asked whether a championship battle can be expected this year.

He said: “First, we did only seven races out of 24, it means we have 17 to go. At this point of the season last year, we were 100 points behind Aston Martin, and we finished 100 points in front of them.

“It means that the end of the championship is never after race seven, and it’s even more true this season, because the gap is very close. It’s not very often that you have six or potentially eight cars which could win a race. It means that when you are not in a good shape, you can move from P1 to P8, you are scoring almost zero. It means that the championship can change after one or two weekends. Imagine that you have a crash, a DNF, and so, it’s a game changer in terms of championship.

“Honestly, I didn’t have a look at the classification, and I don’t know exactly the delta of points, but I think that if one team is doing 1-2 and the other one is a DNF, then McLaren can come back or we can come back on Red Bull. It’s still 17 weekends to go.

“Let’s be focused on Monaco, don’t think about the championship – or at least that’s what I will tell my guys tomorrow morning – and be focused on what we have to do race after race. We have time.”

The gap is shrinking

While Verstappen was used to winning race with huge gaps, he was only seven tenths ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc seven seconds further down the road in third.

Asked whether that was good news for Ferrari, Vasseur said: “It’s good news for me, good news for F1, good news for the championship.

“You have three teams in seven seconds after seventy laps. It’s less than one tenth a lap,” he pointed out. “It was almost the same from the beginning of the weekend. We start from scratch next week in Monaco with a different track layout, different corners and so on.

“Overall, it’s a kind of mixed feeling for me because everything that we did a step forward, McLaren did probably the same as us. We compensate, we are not far away and now I’m a bit frustrated because I think that if we do 1-2 in quali, we do 1-2 in the race today.

“If we missed something, it was yesterday [last Saturday] in quali and not today [last Sunday] in the race,” the Frenchman lamented referring to Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualifying fourth and fifth.

It’s not only about car performance now

With tiny margins now separating Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, winning races will not be only about car performance, but the overall race weekend execution, something McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella pointed out.

When his McLaren counterpart’s comments were brought to his attention, Vasseur said: “I think that the competition will be everywhere.

“The set-up of the car will be crucial next week in Monaco, the performance of the driver will be crucial. What is true is that we are at the point now where we will have to speed up the development. Imagine that someone could bring an upgrade one race before when you have three teams in one tenth, you can jump from P5 to P1. It means that we’ll have to speed up the development. It will be crucial.

“But we also have to pay attention that we are now chasing the last hundredths. It’s not anymore a five-tenth upgrade. It means that you also have to be sure that what you are bringing is working. It will be the key factor for the next couple of events,” the Ferrari Team Principal concluded.

After Imola, Leclerc bounced to second in the 2024 F1 Drivers’ Championship, 48 points behind leader Verstappen, while Ferrari remain second behind Red Bull and 156 points adrift.

(Reporting by Agnes Carlier from Imola)