Fred Vasseur backed Ferrari to pin back McLaren at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, despite criticising a ‘tough’ Losail International Circuit after sand, wind and the sunset combined to produce a difficult Friday.
Ferrari are chasing down Mercedes for second in the constructors’ championship and only trail by 20 points, but a resurgent McLaren may be a bigger challenge in Qatar after the Woking-based outfit secured a double-podium at the Japanese GP.
Ahead of the sprint events, FP1 at Losail saw a low sunset and sand on the track enrage session leader Max Verstappen, with plenty of drivers struggling for grip on the slippy, dusty track and a high wind causing all sorts of problems on corner exit.
“This weekend, I think it’s quite difficult to read but we did FP1 on a tough track,” Vasseur told the media.
“We have to go directly now into quali but it’s very windy, conditions will completely change at night and the level of sand will change a little bit for the qualifying and it will be a tricky one. So far on this kind of format we did pretty well and we can be confident.”
Vasseur: Sainz self-confidence boosted in Singapore
Vasseur added how important Carlos Sainz‘s Singapore GP win was for the Spaniard, as he broke Red Bull‘s clean sweep of victories in 2023.
Sainz finished second in Qatar free practice after a late surge by the Ferraris, and has been the better driver for the Scuderia over the 2023 season.
He outclassed Charles Leclerc for his Singapore win after also endearing himself to the Tifosi with a battling performance for third at Monza, and Vasseur stressed it’s been a transformational few weeks for Sainz.
“It was important for the self-confidence, I was also thinking about Carlos,” Vasseur added. “It’s not just a win but it’s a popular win for me. With the good strategy in the last 10 laps he was able to stay calm, to stay cool to manage the situation and knew that it was in his interest to keep Lando in the DRS zone and he did very well.
“I think for him for sure it’s a step forward that to win is one thing but to win with the pole position and this kind of race it’s another step.”