Vasseur insists Verstappen will make mistakes - eventually

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in qualifying parc ferme with Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari. 04.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
© XPB 

Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur insists that Max Verstappen will start to make mistakes in 2024 - provided that his rivals are able to put him under enough pressure.

The Red Bull driver had a virtually immaculate season this year, winning 19 of the 22 races completed. His team mate Sergio Perez won two more, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was the one driver 'outside the family' to win in Singapore.

While huge credit has to go to the Adrian Newey-designed RB19, the fact remains that Verstappen barely put a foot wrong all season when it mattered.

But Vasseur suggested that Verstappen had been error-free all year in part because he had never been under serious pressure, and that this might quickly change if the other teams can close the gap and be more competitive.

"No one has any doubt on this, he did a mega season," Vasseur told the media when asked about his thoughts on Verstappen's current dominance of F1. "He was on another planet.

“Clearly he didn’t do a mistake all season," Vasseur continued. "When he struggled in qualifying, like in Jeddah, it was due to a mechanical issue. And then he was always there in the race, always making good starts, no contact."

“But I think we are getting a bit closer to him," he insisted. "We are ... I don’t want to say 'putting him under pressure', because it's not true.

"We were too far away to put this kind of pressure on them," Vasseur conceded. "[In Abu Dhabi] he wasn't under pressure, but he was a bit more under pressure than he was in Zandvoort, or in some other events when he was flying.

Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Ferrari Team Principal. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

“There is no doubt on the fact that he was dominating all the season," he admitted. "The only issue for us is that he will do more mistakes when he is under pressure.

"Nobody was able to put him under pressure this season, except us at the last two or three events, or except Carlos in Singapore," he said. "It’s where he started to make some mistakes, or perhaps Red Bull did in terms of set-up.

“Red Bull doesn’t have a silver bullet, they are simply well-positioned in every respect," he argued. “We have to stick to Red Bull’s heels and put them under pressure. We saw in the second part of the season that they can be wrong sometimes."

As for mistakes from his own team, Vasseur - who took over at the helm from Mattias Binotto at the start of the year - has one thing that he wanted to see Ferrari overcome in 2024.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18. 23.10.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Price / XPB Images

"I think the level of expectation was a bit too high at the beginning of the season," he said. "We understood quickly the situation after a couple of laps in Bahrain and even a couple of laps into the simulator before Bahrain."

Zandvoort was a particular low point for Ferrari, where they were almost lapped during the Dutch GP. "Compared to Zandvoort, we've collectively made a huge step forward [since then] and this is good for the future. It's on this progression that we can build for next year.

"I don't want to be too optimistic because it was probably one of the issues we had last season," he cautioned. "We just have to be focused on what we are doing and not think about the outcome of the championship before it is won.

“It’s a relative game. If you find one second, but your opponents find one and a half seconds, you look stupid. If they only find half a second, you’re suddenly the hero.”

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