The SF90 started to surprise both experts and fans since yesterday’s maiden third pole in a row from Charles Leclerc: the clean and low-drag configuration of the 2019 Maranello car made it unlikely to succeed in the twisty roads of the Equator’s metropolis; indeed the best lap time of Sebastian Vettel early in Q3 was a big surprise too for the Tifosi: then the second row placement brought again the sensation of Vettel’s condition of the last weekends.
Starting with the Soft compound, he bit Lewis Hamilton right on the first corners: the race didn’t reserved much more action until the first waltz of pitstops. The German himself was the early pitter of the Scuderia at lap 19th, one round before Leclerc: with the set of Hard, team managed to race until chequered, as it really happened, thanks to three Safety Car deployments.
“The last couple of weeks have been not the best, but it’s been incredible, to be honest, to get so much support, so many letters, so many nice messages, people telling their own stories when things might not go well and so on so it gave me a lot of strength, belief, and I tried to put it all into the track today, into the car and it’s nice when it pays off.
“It was a very late call obviously [to pit]. I thought it was a bit early because I wasn’t sure whether we could make the tyres last in the second stint but obviously I gave it everything in the outlap because I saw the two cars in front of me not pitting.
“The car was getting better and better, was tricky at the restarts with cold tyres but as first car you have a bit of an advantage”
The 21yr old Monegasque, on the other hand, did everything as perfectly planned into his mind: a clean start in order to avoid contacts like the three-car clash back in 2017, a first couple of laps of hard pushing for securing to be out of the DRS gap from Hamilton and then on the required tyre management for Singapore race. Then, at lap 20th he got stopped from the pit wall for having his new set of Hard tyres for completing the rest of the race: when re-joining the track, he didn’t hide the surprise and anger of being second to Vettel:
“I obviously did not expect Seb to pass me and it was frustrating from the car, but I also completely understand that if this decision has been taken it’s for sure for the good of the team… The only answer I need really is that there was no other way for us to be first and second in the same order before the pit stop. This is the only answer I need.
“I’m happy for the team anyway.”
Team Principal Mattia Binotto is now responsible to calm down the atmosphere back in Maranello, as he already explained after race:
“I think when we stopped Sebastian at first, Verstappen was ready to stop so we had to protect his position. It was the best opportunity for us to try to overtake [second-placed Lewis] Hamilton and as well later on we would’ve stopped Charles and the pit crew would’ve been free for him.
“That was the right time to stop Sebastian, no discussion. I think then when going out [Sebastian] drove very well on new tyres and simply that’s racing, and he [was] ahead of Charles. We could not have stopped, at that stage, Charles. Because if you are leading the race you will not stop from first and it was simply the proper window for Seb.”