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01 | 11 | 2019 GP USAAustin – On a Friday when all the teams had to deal with a very bumpy track surface, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were second and fourth fastest overall in free practice for the United States Grand Prix, setting their best times in the second session, by which time the track had rubbered-in and when the temperatures had risen compared to the 10 degrees air and 17 on track in the morning, which was more like the conditions seen in winter testing.

FP1. At the start of the first 90 minutes, the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers took to the track with the 2020 test tyres supplied to all teams by Pirelli. Sebastian had a trouble free time, but Charles had a throttle pedal problem, after hitting a bump in the track surface quite hard. It meant he lost around 30 minutes of track time while it was repaired. After that, Leclerc did one run on the 2020 test tyres, before switching to the Softs, which both drivers used to set their best times: Vettel a 1’34”226 and Leclerc a 1’34”126. However, the Monegasque’s time was deleted by the Race Direction as he was deemed not to have respected the track limits so his best time stood at 1’35”380 set on the 2020 test tyres.

FP2. In the afternoon session, Leclerc and Vettel began in qualifying trim, setting their best time of the day: Leclerc 1’33”533 and Vettel a 1’33”890. Then in the second half of the session, the cars ran in race configuration, carrying out the usual long runs and an evaluation of the different tyre compounds. Seb ran the Hard and Soft compounds, while Charles was on the Medium and Soft ones. As mentioned earlier, drivers had to deal with a very bumpy track surface, slightly worse than last year, so the teams had to adjust to this, advising the drivers how to tackle the braking and gear change points.

Sebastian Vettel #5
“It is always good fun here in Austin. The track is not in the best shape because of its bumps. But it is what it is and that makes it a bit special and more tricky for us. But I don’t think they can do anything to fix it now.
The car was good to start with, which is positive, but then we tried some things that did not seem to work so well. But we understand what we need to do so, hopefully for tomorrow we can improve in terms of our one lap pace. But I think that in race trim we have a bit more to do.
We know our strengths and weaknesses and in quali trim, we can mask the weaknesses a bit, whereas that is harder for us to do in race configuration. All the same, I’m quite confident we can improve the car. We will focus on that and see what we can achieve.”

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27 | 10 | 2019 GP Mexiko / GP Mexico  Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow was hoping for something better than the second and fourth places for Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc respectively, with which it leaves the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. In what was a very closely contested race, the SF90 drivers found themselves having to come from behind, but were unable to overtake Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages.

Start. At the start, Charles and Sebastian both got away well off the front row although for a moment the German found Lewis Hamilton coming alongside having got a tow of the SF90, but he had no trouble in tucking in behind his team-mate. At first the Ferrari men managed their tyres, before gradually starting to push.

Pit stop. On lap 14, Alex Albon pitted in the Red Bull and Leclerc came in next time round, fitting another set of Medium tyres with a two stop strategy in mind. Hamilton stopped on lap 23, fitting Hards, gambling on a one stopper. On the new tyres Charles seemed to be able to run at a good pace, but after a few laps his times got worse until he was running at the same pace as Sebastian, who had yet to stop.

Only stop. Looking at Charles’ pace and the fact Hamilton had made an earlier stop, data from Friday and Saturday suggested the Englishman might be in trouble with tyre degradation in the closing stages. Sebastian and the team therefore decided to stay out until past half distance on lap 37, before fitting a set of Hard tyres to run to the flag, hoping to find their rivals struggling towards the end. Charles made his second stop on lap 43, which took three seconds longer than it should have done when the right rear wheel proved difficult to fit. Hamilton was now leading with just under four seconds in hand over Vettel, five on Bottas and 16 on Leclerc.

Final stages. Over the closing laps, the anticipated degradation for the early stoppers did not materialise and so Sebastian got within a second of Hamilton, but was unable to attack him for the lead. The top four finishers crossed the line within just six seconds. In under a week’s time we are back on track in Austin for the US GP.

Sebastian Vettel #5
“We didn’t get is so wrong today. It was simply a case of not believing that the hard tyres could last so long, considering how early in the race Lewis pitted. He took a risk and it paid off. For our part, we tried both strategies; two stops for Charles and one for me and the final result proves that both of them were good.
On Friday, we had a lot of graining, while today there was none and that made the difference, helping those who decided to take the risk.
Obviously, we can’t be pleased with this result, because when you start from the front row, as a team, you expect to win. In the closing laps we lacked the speed to try and go for the win. For Lewis and Valtteri, everything went really perfectly, while maybe we were just a bit unlucky.”

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26 | 10 | 2019 GP Mexiko / GP Mexico Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow’s Mexican Grand Prix from the front row when it gets underway at 13.10 local time (20.10 CET.) It was not as easy as it sounds however, as the final minutes of Q3 were chaotic. Sebastian Vettel was not able to fight for pole all the way to the end, because of yellow flags waved after Valtteri Bottas crashed. In fact, the German had to abort his lap just when he was improving his time and might have been able to beat the quickest time set by Max Verstappen, or at least beaten his team-mate Leclerc to second spot. However, after qualifying, the Dutch Red Bull driver was given a three place grid penalty for failing to slow for the yellow flags. Therefore, Charles now starts from the number one slot with Sebastian alongside him.

Q1. Both Scuderia Ferrari drivers comfortably got through the first phase. Sebastian’s first attempt was a 1’16”859 followed by a 1’16”696. Charles opened his account with a 1’16”692 improving to a 1’16”364.

Q2. Sebastian and Charles only needed one attempt to make it through to the final 12 minute top ten shoot-out and they used the Medium tyre, thus ensuring they can start the race with this compound. Vettel stopped the clocks in 1’15”914, while Leclerc’s time was a 1’16”219.

Unlucky in Q3. Both drivers had two sets of new medium tyres available for the final part. Neither man got a perfect lap on their first attempt. Vettel crossed the line in 1’15”170 while Charles did a 1’15”024. The two SF90s then pitted to change tyres and set out to attack the time set by the leader at the time, Max Verstappen. Charles made a mistake in the third sector, while Sebastian was up on the clock. But at that point, Valtteri Bottas crashed into the barriers and that brought out the yellow flag. It meant Vettel was really out of luck as he could have challenged for pole position, or at the very least, a place on the front row and indeed in the end, that’s what came his way after the Red Bull driver was penalised.

Sebastian Vettel #5
“I am not entirely happy with today, because I could have had a better result if it had not been for the yellow flags for Bottas’ accident. On the first run I was probably a bit too cautious in sector 2 after a very good first sector, then I lost my rhythm a bit and was too aggressive in the final part of the lap and had a big snap in the last corner. I felt quite confident that I could find more time on my second run, but then the yellow flags came out. That can happen some times.
The key tomorrow will be to have a car that works well, to look after the tyres and to choose the right strategy. The top three teams all start on the same tyre, but it will be a very close race.”

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Foto © www.motorsportpics.de | Jerry Andre

25 | 10 | 2019 GP Mexiko / GP MexicoThe highest track of the year, at 2300 metres above sea level, hosted the first day of practice for the Mexican Grand Prix and it all went according to plan for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, getting through the full job list without any particular problems. After the two sessions, Sebastian Vettel was fastest in 1’16”607 and Charles Leclerc was third in 1’172”072.

FP1. At the start of the first session Charles and Seb both took to the track on Intermediate tyres, given that the track still had some damp patches after heavy overnight rain. The first half hour was therefore given over to practice starts and installation laps without setting times. When the track was dry enough, both SF90s were fitted with the Medium tyres, the only compound the team ran in the morning. Charles did a total of 23 laps, the quickest in 1’17”446, the second fastest of the session. Sebastian was sixth, doing 20 laps, the best in 1’18”218.

FP2. Both drivers began the 90-minute afternoion session still on the Medium tyres: Sebastian posted a 1’18”697 getting down to 1’17”960 on a second run. Charles did a 1’18”183, with lap times coming down as the track got rubbered-in. Once the session resumed after it was red flagged when Alexander Albon went off track, the SF90s went back out on Soft tyres for the first time, as they ran a qualifying simulation. Vettel was quickest at this stage in 1’16”607, with Charles fractionally slower in 1’17”072.

Long run. In the final third of the session, the programme as usual switched to race preparation, doing runs with a high fuel load. Sebastian started on Medium tyres, before finishing on the Softs, running at a pretty consistent pace, while Charles did the opposite. By the end of the day, the team had got through all its programme without any problems. Vettel did 35 laps, Leclerc did 34.

Programme. The third free practice session begins at 10 local tomorrow (17 CET) useful in terms of preparing for qualifying at 13 (20 CET). The Mexican Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 13.10 local (20.10 CET).

Sebastian Vettel #5
“This morning I was the gardener of Turn 1, in terms of going through the grass. I like mowing the lawn and I did it this morning a couple of times but didn’t need to do it again in the afternoon, since I was able to find the rhythm and everything went smoothly from then on.
Charles and I split the work today. I did most of the work on the Medium tyre, which was ok. We don’t look that bad, but I don’t have the full picture yet. I did only two laps on new Softs so it’s difficult to say, but I don’t think I had the worst tyre today for the long runs.
However there are still some areas where we can improve tomorrow in terms of the general balance and the feeling I have with the car. Max (Verstappen) looks strong, but all the three top teams are very close, so .”

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