Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur concedes that it was “not the good choice” to place Charles Leclerc on a one-stop strategy in the United States Grand Prix.

Starting from pole position, Leclerc immediately relinquished a place to Lando Norris before being demoted down to fourth by Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

However, the Monegasque was comfortably running in fourth, approaching 4s clear of team-mate Carlos Sainz directly behind when Ferrari elected to pit the Spaniard first.

Leclerc would have to wait six laps before stopping for the only time, which dropped him into the clutches of Sainz and Sergio Perez in the closing laps on ageing tyres.

Prior to Leclerc being disqualified from the race classification, Vasseur acknowledged that Ferrari made a mistake with his strategy.

“Clearly we have mixed feelings,” Vasseur reflected. “Because on one side of the garage with Carlos, we did pretty well. Starting P4, finishing P4, we finished two or three seconds behind Norris, and I think everything went well.

“With Charles, who was 10 seconds in front of Carlos after 12 laps, we committed for one-stop, and it was not the good choice, it’s obvious.

“Probably the issue is that we didn’t have a clear picture about this before the race, we were a bit hesitating, and he was a bit hesitating into the first stint, pushing or not pushing. And we made a mistake.

“It was not very clear before the race, as you can imagine. We had the two options. In terms of numbers, it was very, very close.

“I think where we made the mistake is that we anticipated that the field will be 50-50. And it was not at all.”

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.

Expanding on that last comment, Vasseur admitted that Ferrari was caught out when the competition avoided a one-stop strategy.

Mercedes potentially lost the chance to beat the two-stopping Verstappen with Hamilton when the side dawdled on abandoning an apparent initial attempt to only pit once.

The Brackley squad would also divert George Russell onto a two-stop, but Vasseur contends it was “easier” for the Briton as he was running a net last in the front pack.

“I think that Hamilton was not far away to do one-stop, Russell, I think he went for one stop clearly, but as he was the last of the group, it’s much easier to change if you are last and you are in the same strategy as the others. It’s better to change and take risks.”

“It’s not just a matter of tenths of seconds on the tyres, it’s a matter of what the others are doing also.

“Because what was even more difficult with Charles was that everybody committed for the two stops.

“It means that you have much more traffic around you, because it’s not that everybody’s doing the same race as you, and you have a clean race, as you are not in the sequence, the guys are overtaking you one or two times.

“And each time that someone is overtaking you, you are losing two seconds. It means that when you have these two times, four guys, you are losing eight times 1.5 seconds, it’s 12 seconds for the traffic, and the picture of what users are doing. But it’s a mistake.”

Sainz revealed that trying to retain pace with Hamilton and Verstappen in the early exchanges led to him heavily wearing his starting tyres, prompting his early first stop.

Vasseur has concurred with Sainz’s comments, citing that the decision to stop twice was more clearcut with the Spanish driver than it was with Leclerc ahead.

“I think the main issue was that we were a bit in-between,” he added. “We moved quickly on the two stops with Carlos, because in the fight with Max, I think he had a bit of deg, and we decided to commit quite early on the two stops. Charles, it was less obvious.”

Meanwhile, Vasseur also refused to speculate on the outcome if Leclerc, who had been the faster of the two Ferraris, had been on an identical strategy to Sainz.

Amid Norris encountering late trouble with his tyres, Sainz closed to within 5s of his ex-McLaren team-mate by the chequered flag.

“For sure you can redo the race and imagine that he was six or seven seconds ahead of Sainz, and Leclerc would have done this or this,” Vasseur recognised.

“But I think it’s not the right approach, we have to be focused on the mistake, to try to understand why you did the choice, because we were convinced that it was the good one, with the elements that we had at this stage.

“It means that the numbers that we had on the pitwall, and at the factory at this stage of the race, were not good ones.”

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