Ferrari admit trying to ‘destabilise’ Max Verstappen to help Charles Leclerc in title bid

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Ferrari have admitted trying to “destabilise” Max Verstappen to help Charles Leclerc win races. In a post-race debrief video, Ferrari’s strategy director Iñaki Rueda revealed the team’s main aim was trying to restrict the progress of the Red Bull star.

Instead of focussing on pace, the team instead opted to “put pressure” on the Dutchman to pit early. This idea was designed to force Red Bull to go onto a “suboptimal” two-stop strategy which would hand Leclerc and Ferrari an advantage.

It comes after the Prancing Horse threw away their early season advantage after a series of mechanical and strategy failures. Rueda said: “Come Sunday for the main race, we knew that one of the biggest problems would be tyre management.

“We knew that the soft would be too soft for the race, that left us with a race with hards and mediums, and we believed it would be in between a two and three-stop race. Our main aim for Sunday was to destabilise Verstappen. We were second and third [on the grid], and our aim was to put pressure on Verstappen and persuade him to stop very early for a suboptimal two-stop race.

“Charles put [on] enough pressure to actually overtake Verstappen, and Carlos was coming to overtake him. This persuaded Verstappen to stop very early, as early as Lap 13.” Rueda also added the team used Sainz’s engine blowout to their advantage towards the end of the race to secure Leclerc the victory.

He added: “Unfortunately, Carlos suffered an engine failure when he was about to overtake Verstappen, and this deployed the Virtual Safety Car. We had to make a choice with Charles at that point. Do we stay out on the brand-new Hard or do we come in for another newer Medium?

“The fact that Verstappen had very old Hards persuaded us to fit a new Medium because we were convinced he would do the same.”

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Verstappen now leads the championship from Leclerc by 38 points at the halfway stage of the championship. With Sainz now a further 37 points behind his team-mate after his mechanical failure in Austria, the Scuderia may now look to favour Leclerc to take on Verstappen.

The Italian marque looks to be back on form after picking up wins in the last two races. Rueda added: “Two more races to go before the summer break, we’re fully motivated to get the best possible result out of this.”

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