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In a candid discussion, Ferrari’s team boss Frederic Vasseur recognizes the challenges of surpassing Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship during 2024, but remains hopeful. Despite acknowledging the slim odds, Vasseur, during an interview with Rai, expressed his ambitions for Ferrari, pointing towards a strategic aim at the constructors’ title following a remarkable performance in Melbourne where Carlos Sainz led Ferrari to a spectacular one-two finish, capitalizing on Verstappen’s unexpected brake mishap. Vasseur’s ambition was clear: “This is the objective,” he declared. “But it’s also to fight for the drivers’ title, even if this year it is perhaps a little early for that. But we’ll see.”

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko, a key figure within F1’s dominant team, also weighed in, signaling a notable shift in the competitive landscape after the race in Australia. Writing for Speed Week, Marko observed, “The great balance of power was confirmed in Australia,” acknowledging Ferrari’s solid position just behind Red Bull and highlighting the erratic performances of Mercedes and McLaren’s fluctuating success across different circuits. “Ferrari is the clear number 2 behind us, Mercedes is inconsistent, McLaren works better or worse depending on the track.”

The term ‘Vasseur effect’ has been making rounds within the F1 community, alluding to Ferrari’s uplift in performance and morale since Vasseur’s takeover from Mattia Binotto. The new leadership has brought about a palpable change, as Vasseur notes, the car’s enhanced drivability and predictability, alongside its reduced tyre wear, facilitating a more aggressive racing strategy. “The new car is easier to drive,” he said, “it’s easier to understand its behaviour, it doesn’t give surprises, it wears the tyres less and allows us to attack.”

Nevertheless, Vasseur remains pragmatic, tempering expectations with a reminder of the challenges ahead. “The weekends will not all be like Melbourne,” he cautioned, setting a disciplined path forward for his team: to eschew errors, to progress steadily, and to keep up the fervor.

Speculation abounds regarding Ferrari’s strategic decisions following Sainz’s victory in Melbourne, with La Gazzetta dello Sport suggesting that Ferrari may expedite certain car upgrades for Suzuka, although the majority of the changes are slated for Imola. Vasseur, when probed about significant advancements for the Japanese race, maintained a cautious stance, emphasizing the current focus on maximizing the car’s potential. “No, it’s too early,” Vasseur clarified. “The task now is to understand the car well and get the most out of it, because we haven’t achieved that yet.”

Sebastian Vettel, a former Ferrari driver and four-time world champion with Red Bull, acknowledged Red Bull’s supremacy but hinted at a tightening competition. “It seems to be closer,” Vettel observed, yet reaffirmed Red Bull and Verstappen as the favorites for Suzuka, despite the unpredictable nature of motorsport as evidenced in Australia. “But I think that Max and Red Bull are still the favourites again in Suzuka,” he reflected to Sky Deutschland, appreciating the competitive spirit displayed by Sainz and Ferrari. He concluded, wishing for a spirited comeback from Max in the upcoming races, “So I’ll be happy if Max comes back to the top in Japan.”

 MAY 19, 2024

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