MONZA, Italy — Ferrari’s decision to let its drivers fight over third position at Monza was the team’s way of thanking its fans for their support this weekend, according to team principal Fred Vasseur.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc went wheel to wheel on multiple occasions during the final five laps of the Italian Grand Prix and nearly made contact on the final lap as they fought over third place.
Sainz, who started the race from pole position but was unable to hold off the two Red Bulls that finished first and second, came out on top but had to defend hard to ensure he claimed the last remaining spot on Monza’s famous podium.
Vasseur, who made the call not to use team orders, said the battle between the drivers was a way of thanking the team’s home fans for their support this weekend.
“For sure, it’s much easier to comment when you have a happy end, but it was also the best way to thank everybody for the support of the tifosi,” he said. “I was not very comfortable to break something five laps before the end, but I told them no risk at all.
“Of course, ‘no risk’ is always relative but I am quite proud of the decision and the job done by the drivers today.”
Despite the close call on the final lap, Sainz said he never felt like the two cars would collide.
“I never felt too much of a risk,” Sainz said. “With a teammate you are always a bit more tense, [you leave] a bit more space, because it’s the last thing you want in Monza in front of the tifosi, the two Ferraris to touch.
“But I think we had a tough battle, we managed to keep it clean and it was good fun. I had fun with Charles, but I also had fun with Max [Verstappen] and Checo [Perez].
“I would prefer to be the one attacking than the one defending, I’m not going to lie, but today it was my turn to defend and I think I did that well. “
Leclerc said he was smiling after the incident on the final lap, in which he had both front tyres locked up and ran wide trying to out brake Sainz.
“I mean, I was around the outside, I did not expect Carlos to come back a little bit on the left, but it was part of the fight,” Leclerc said.
“Honestly, I really enjoyed it, I cannot complain. I was fine — I mean, I think I had a smile in the car. It was exciting, tiring at the end with a lot of reaction but it was fun again.
“I’m sure many people did not enjoy that, the guys on the pit wall perhaps had one heart attack or two, the tifosi probably also, but this is what… for me, this is Formula 1, this is what it should be all the time.
“With Max, I’ve had these kinds of fights in the past, today was with Checo and Carlos. We, I think, were always at the limit of the regulations, whether it was defending or attacking and that’s exactly how I enjoy racing.
“So it was fun. Congrats to Carlos, he’s been really on it since the first lap in FP1, but I’m happy today.”