16 October 2019:
The team started off Sunday morning in Suzuka very positively as both cars locked out the front row in Qualifying, Sebastian taking his second pole position of the season just ahead of Charles as the team geared up for the race in the afternoon.
However, there was some unfortunate incidents during the race, as Sebastian briefly got caught out at the start, leading to him losing the lead to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas on the run down to the first corner. Charles also had an unfortunate incident as he made contact at turn two with the fast starting Max Verstappen, causing the Red Bull driver to spin and Charles to get damage to his front wing.
Sebastian continued chasing Bottas as Charles was eventually forced to make an early pitstop and be faced with a tough fight back through the field. Sebastian pitted for another set of soft tyres on lap 16 but was unable to undercut Bottas as the Finn made enough ground to pit and retain the lead. As it became evident that the race was going to evolve into a two-stop strategy, Sebastian made the call to pit on lap 31 for fresh medium tyres, and managed to hold off a charging Lewis Hamilton to cross the line and take a well earned second at Suzuka.
Charles faught hard through the field with some amazing overtakes and was looking on course for a solid sixth position after dropping to twentieth and last with his early pitstop. However, a post-race investigation on the Leclerc/Verstappen incident by the race stewards saw Leclerc handed a combined 15 second penalty, dropping him to seventh overall.
Despite not having both cars at the front of the field, Suzuka showed some very improved and positive running with both cars as Sebastian took his eighth and Ferrari’s seventeenth podium of the season so far, as the team looks ahead to the Mexican Grand Prix on the 27th of October.
Charles managed an eventual seventh after a first lap incident with Max Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel #5
“We had a very good morning, but the afternoon was less good in terms of the result we were able to achieve as a team.
The start wasn’t good for either me or Charles and without that, we could have had both cars fighting at the front. It was difficult today and to be fair. Our rivals were simply quicker, Valtteri was just flying.
I had a poor start, I was a bit early with the clutch initially then clutched in again and lost a bit of momentum. Usually our starts are very good but not this time. After that we were missing out a little bit in terms of speed in the race compared to our rivals. We went through the tyres more than Valtteri and Lewis. Especially at the end of the stints they were dropping off a bit more, whereas our rivals kept the pace throughout.
Towards the end my only target was to stay ahead of Lewis. I knew that down the straights he struggled to overtake, so I just tried to have clean exits in the places where it mattered.”
Charles Leclerc #16
“It was a tough race. I made a mistake at the start and made contact with Max (Verstappen) in turn 1, which unfortunately compromised both our races and my front wing was damaged.
I tried to make the best of it going forward. After the first stop, when my front wing was changed, I gave it my all. I tried to make up as many positions as possible. Although it was quite fun to overtake other cars and fight my way up the field, P6 is not our target or a result we are satisfied with. It was a different weekend overall, and I look forward to the opportunity of bringing home better results once again at the upcoming races.”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal
“Congratulations from all of us to our rivals and friends for nailing another well-deserved Constructors’ Championship today. Over the course of the season, they simply did the best job and that’s exactly what you need in this business.
For our part, I’d like to highlight a positive aspect, namely the performance of our car, which was good enough to secure the front row in qualifying this morning – an exceptional result here at Suzuka. As for the race itself, we are disappointed that we did not reap the rewards of what we had sown. A shame. The start compromised the rest of the race, although it has to be said that our rival’s pace was very strong and we suffered more than them with tyre degradation. We made mistakes and now we just have to look to ourselves to improve.”