The Austrian Grand Prix could have been the first true shot at redemption for the Prancing Horse. However, Ferrari proved fallible in both reliability and strategy. Let’s see what prevented the team from getting an even better result.
Ferrari ‘s dubious strategy
One of the main issues that Scuderia Ferrari has encountered in recent years has been the management of strategy during race weekends. The Prancing Horse has an astonishing record as the worst pole/front row lockout performer on the grid. Ferrari has won a race from P1 on the grid only 28.6% of the time in the past three years, with the percentage dropping lower for front row lockouts. In comparison, Mercedes has won more than 70% of the races when starting from pole. The instances of even worse race strategies are in plain sight, both in 2019 and 2018, Singapore being just an example.
Quite prophetically, Ferrari’s Head of Strategy Inaki Rueda had held a workshop on race management just one day prior to Charles Leclerc’s Monaco qualifying disaster.
My take on Austria
Austria should have been a favourable race weekend for Ferrari, and it ended up not being the worst. The temperatures were not smiling upon Mercedes. The track layout was favouring straight line speed over downforce. However, reliability put a halt to Vettel’s weekend twice. First the SF90, then actual walkie talkies played their part. However, the team could perhaps have managed Leclerc’s race better with a wiser pit stop strategy.
Charles came into the pits to preserve his position from an hypothetical Bottas undercut, underestimating the threat posed by Verstappen. In the end, Leclerc ended up with worn out tyres and came under fire of a fresher Red Bull. History is not made by “but” and “if”. We have no way of determining whether a later stop could have given Charles his first win. However, it’s pretty easy to notice a pattern in Rueda’s strategy management. Too much data, too little feeling, a slight lack of awareness of Ferrari’s surroundings when they are not directly attacked by the Silver Arrows.