How Ferrari’s successful Safety Car “gamble” was prompted by their drivers

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s decision not to pit during the Safety Car period early in the Canadian Grand Prix had the potential to be another strategic mis-step by the team.

But it paid off, helping Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr climb six places each from their midfield starting positions and finish just outside the podium places.

Not coming into the pits when the Safety Car was deployed meant passing up the opportunity to fit tyres with minimal time loss. Team principal Frederic Vasseur admitted that wasn’t an easy call for them to make.

“You always have some hesitation,” he said. “But what was quite obvious for us is that the both of them told us that the pace was probably much better for them than when they were stuck in the traffic.”

While Leclerc gained one place from Alexander Albon on the first lap, Sainz maintained his place, and neither driver was able to make an impression on the car ahead over the next 10 laps. Instead of joining the rush for the pits, Ferrari stayed out, and their drivers picked up places from the McLaren pair, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.

“The potential was there,” said Vasseur. “They said ‘just give us some clean air’ and the best way to do it was to not pit.”

However he acknowledged the decision not to pit could have hurt them. “For sure it was kind of a gamble because then if you have another Safety Car 15 laps later it’s a bit more difficult. But it was also for us the best way to recover.”

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As most of the drivers started on the medium tyre compound, those who came in under the Safety Car largely switched to the hard rubber, and found it did not perform well. Ferrari’s mediums held up well and they looked capable of running even longer than they did.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, and Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Canadian Grand Prix in pictures
But when Sergio Perez behind them pitted the Scuderia had no option but to react in order to preserve their track position. This was managed well: Sainz was brought in first, despite it giving him the advantage of fresher rubber before Leclerc ahead of him, who came in the next time around and maintained his position.

Perez, on the same compound as his team mate albeit five laps older, lapped up to a second off Max Verstappen at this point and dropped back from the Ferraris. However, with Alexander Albon behind him holding up a train of other cars, enough of a gap opened up behind Perez for him to pit for soft tyres for a last-gasp bid for the bonus point for fastest lap, which was successful.

So while the first three cars home three-stopped, the next four one-stopped (to all intents and purposes as far as Perez is concerned). The last of these was Albon, who found his car a handful on 58-lap-old hard tyres by the final lap, but held on to claim a result which lifts Williams out of last place in the constructors’ championship.

The Ferraris were the first cars home to make a one-stop strategy work and the only cars in the field to do it after starting on the medium tyre compound. For a team which has had some criticism for its pit wall operation in recent races, and just the day before had seemingly failed to pay heed to Leclerc urging them to fit slicks during qualifying, this was an excellent example of them taking their drivers’ feedback on board and making a tactical call which paid off.

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 Canadian Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank No. Driver Car Lap time Gap Average speed (kph) Lap no.
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’14.481 210.79 70
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’15.396 0.915 208.23 47
3 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’15.594 1.113 207.68 68
4 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’15.779 1.298 207.18 62
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’15.907 1.426 206.83 47
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’15.911 1.430 206.82 47
7 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’16.126 1.645 206.23 55
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’16.374 1.893 205.56 65
9 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’16.425 1.944 205.42 67
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’16.564 2.083 205.05 58
11 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’16.598 2.117 204.96 59
12 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’16.625 2.144 204.89 52
13 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’16.656 2.175 204.81 52
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’16.666 2.185 204.78 68
15 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’16.782 2.301 204.47 63
16 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’16.917 2.436 204.11 68
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’17.090 2.609 203.65 58
18 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’17.097 2.616 203.63 44
19 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’17.232 2.751 203.28 37
20 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’18.437 3.956 200.16 4

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank No. Driver Team Complete stop time (s) Gap to best (s) Stop no. Lap no.
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 23.218 2 68
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 23.281 0.063 1 37
3 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 23.436 0.218 2 37
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren 23.57 0.352 2 35
5 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 23.644 0.426 1 12
6 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 23.646 0.428 1 1
7 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 23.698 0.48 2 36
8 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 23.711 0.493 1 11
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23.749 0.531 2 40
10 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 23.786 0.568 2 50
11 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 23.839 0.621 2 27
12 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 23.91 0.692 2 42
13 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 23.928 0.71 2 41
14 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 24.031 0.813 1 12
15 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 24.038 0.82 1 36
16 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 24.117 0.899 2 33
17 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 24.133 0.915 1 38
18 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24.161 0.943 1 12
19 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 24.2 0.982 2 31
20 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 24.339 1.121 1 12
21 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 24.343 1.125 1 39
22 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 24.402 1.184 1 12
23 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 24.515 1.297 2 53
24 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 24.828 1.61 1 12
25 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 24.88 1.662 1 11
26 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 24.909 1.691 1 35
27 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 24.96 1.742 1 11
28 23 Alexander Albon Williams 25.064 1.846 1 12
29 4 Lando Norris McLaren 25.862 2.644 1 12
30 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 27.509 4.291 2 32
31 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 27.515 4.297 1 10
32 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 27.523 4.305 2 34

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “How Ferrari’s successful Safety Car “gamble” was prompted by their drivers”

  1. Ah, so at last Ferrari listened to what their drivers were saying, and it worked. I hope that is a lesson for their strategists – the drivers do know what they are talking about, so use their imput.

    1. The drivers shouldn’t be responsible for these calls though… I mean.. they can get it right once in a while, especially in changing track conditions, or gauging their pace in traffic vs clean air.. but the strategists have all the data. Honestly, its another epic fail from Ferrari’s strategy department if they made another wrong call that was just overridden by the drivers who have zero faith in them.

      1. Actually gauging pace in clean vs dirty air is something the team should be good at. They have all the Friday runs data and the first 7-8 laps data.

        This was exactly the decision to make this time. Is clean air in older tyres better or dirty air with newer tyres.

        If you see the lap charts, you can see that Ocon was able to dispatch Bottas and Magnussen in just 2 laps. After that, he wasn’t hindered by dirty air but he was still almost second a lap behind Ferraris.

        It is a serious problem that Ferrari engineers did not see this clear pace advantage. Red Bull engineers clearly saw that and made Perez stay out.

        When is Binotto going to clean up this department? I hope soon.

        1. Binotto was kicked to the kerb in the offseason because the team has a lot of trouble making these decisions. Apparently, nothing changed since Binotto left and now the drivers need to call the shots. I have no problem with the drivers making decisions but the team has access to all sorts of data and video the drivers can’t see, and the drivers are also driving the cars at high speeds while making these decisions. No one’s embarrassed???

          1. As a Ferrari fan I’ve been embarrassed for a long time.
            The hesitation in the decision making is astonishing, it has been like this for many years.
            What’s also amazing is that these 2 driver engineers still have their jobs.
            Their english is mediocre at best.

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