Leclerc: Slow late-race stint "not our real pace"

Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc says his muted pace in the closing laps of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was not representative, dismissing suggestions that his SF90 was struggling on softs.

Leclerc: Slow late-race stint "not our real pace"

After crashing in qualifying, Leclerc charged from ninth place on the fresh set of mediums in the opening stages, snatching fourth from Max Verstappen on the ninth lap and assuming the lead once the three cars ahead pitted.

His pace advantage didn't hold up and, once he traded his mediums for a new set of softs with 16 laps to go, he emerged from the pits almost half a minute down on the race-leading Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

Despite running on a softer and fresher tyre than the cars in front, he made no inroads into the gap and instead dropped back – eventually pitting again for another set of tyres and making sure of the fastest lap point on the penultimate lap by over a second.

“I think a lot of people thought we were struggling,” said Leclerc when asked about his perceived poor pace on softs. “I don't think we were, because I just didn't push to try and close the gap, because I asked on the radio pretty early in this run whether there was any possibility to come back to the guys in front, and the answer was no, because the gap was too big.

“So then from that moment onwards it was just about trying to keep the tyres and try to push for the fastest lap when I had the opportunity to do so.

“So, yeah, don't look at the pace from when we put the softs, it's not our real pace, we were just trying to do the best lap.”

Leclerc said his early-race charge and overtake on Verstappen did not fool him into believing that a much better result was suddenly on the cards.

“Obviously in the car you're always optimistic, otherwise you lose hope and it's not good. You always hope for something better.

“But also realistically we were on a different strategy, it was not meaning anything at that stage of the race, I knew the race would be very long and I just focused on myself, to be as quick possible on this medium run.”

The Monegasque had begun to struggle on his mediums towards the end of his stint, having slipped behind Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and teammate Sebastian Vettel.

When he eventually pitted, he emerged behind the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly and lost time passing the Frenchman.

Asked about the timing of Leclerc's pitstop, team boss Mattia Binotto said: “Something we already discussed together in our, let's say, post-race debrief, certainly maybe yes, could've been a different gamble, maybe stopping earlier on that tyres or trying really to last very long on the medium.

“But I think you may always discuss different solutions at the end of the race looking back. I think overall what we did was nothing wrong.”

More from Azerbaijan GP:

shares
comments
Red Bull slowed Verstappen amid driveshaft failure fears

Previous article

Red Bull slowed Verstappen amid driveshaft failure fears

Next article

Azerbaijan GP: Post-race press conference

Azerbaijan GP: Post-race press conference
Load comments
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021
Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems Prime

Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening day of action for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, on the Istanbul circuit’s much improved track surface. But the Black Arrows squad’s position isn’t quite what it seems. Here’s why...

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021
The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower Prime

The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower

On 8 October 1961, Innes Ireland claimed victory at the United States Grand Prix to herald the true arrival of a new Formula 1 giant. While Team Lotus endured plenty of highs and lows until the team folded over three decades later, Colin Chapman's squad made F1 history and helped shape the championship.

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021