Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Leclerc told 50 times to save his tyres in Sauber’s extreme Mexico strategy

2018 Mexican Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Sauber’s tyre-saving strategy in the Mexican Grand Prix was so extreme Charles Leclerc had to be told 50 times to slow down to preserve his rubber.

The team’s messages to Leclerc were so persistent he suspected his car had a fault the team didn’t want to tell him about over the radio. “Do we have a problem on the car?” Leclerc asked towards the end of the race.

Leclerc ran a one-stop strategy and was one of just five drivers who started the race on the softest, hyper-soft tyres. He kept these on for 13 laps then switched to super-softs for a 56-lap run to the chequered flag.

Sauber gave Leclerc his first instruction to save his tyres as he accelerated out of turn 11 on the first lap of the race. Except for a brief spell towards the end of his first stint, and a few occasions when he had an opportunity to gain a position on a rival, Leclerc was repeatedly told to protect his rubber throughout the 71-lap race.

To ensure he made his second set of tyres last to the end of the race Leclerc was given a lap time target of 1’25.5. His fastest lap of the race indicated he was capable of lapping at least five seconds quicker than that.

Despite his slow pace, Leclerc had consistently strong acceleration out of the final corner which, combined with his Ferrari power unit’s performance, made him hard to pass. “Leclerc is unbelievably strong in turn 16 exit,” commented Kevin Magnussen on his radio, “so I’m not going to overtake.”

Sauber also used Leclerc’s team mate Marcus Ericsson to delay rival cars by extending his first stint. “More management, keep position, save brakes, it’s not a nice call guys,” Ericsson complained.

Leclerc was frustrated by the repeated instructions to slow down and asked his team on several occasions whether he could push to catch Nico Hulkenberg ahead of him. “Charles, forget Hulkenberg,” he was eventually told, “our target is to stay ahead of [Stoffel] Vandoorne. You can slow down, slow down. We need more tyre saving.”

Leclerc finished the race in seventh, 11th seconds behind Hulkenberg and two laps behind race-winner Max Verstappen.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Charles Leclerc Mexican Grand Prix team radio excerpt

To Leclerc:Look after the tyres, look after the tyres and try to keep Perez behind.
To Leclerc:But remember we need tyre saving.
To Leclerc:You can use overtake button to defend.
To Leclerc:Behind Perez is Bottas, blue flag for him.
To Leclerc:So let him go and focus on tyre saving. Focus on tyre saving.
To Leclerc:Back to spark four.
To Leclerc:Brake saving, stage two.
To Leclerc:So now it’s again Magnussen behind and maximise focus on tyre saving.
To Leclerc:36 laps to go.
To Leclerc:Tyre saving sector two.
To Leclerc:Increase the gap to Perez to four seconds. We need more tyre saving.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

41 comments on “Leclerc told 50 times to save his tyres in Sauber’s extreme Mexico strategy”

  1. That race engineer better not try that with Leclerc’s replacement next year, unless he wants to be told off “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!”

    1. @phylyp

      Antonio Giovinazzi Wont say that!

        1. Kimi is replacing Erricson

          1. Love when people are pedantic

          2. And you know already for sure it is his engineer for Antonio?

          3. @muralibhats Technically, Leclerc, though. Leclerc announced at Ferrari was followed almost immediately by Kimi’s Sauber-return announcement, so that was the first race-drive for next season sorted. Then Giovinazzi was later declared as the team’s 2nd 2019 race-driver confirming that Ericsson will lose his drive after this season in the process, so basically it’s Raikkonen-Leclerc, Giovinazzi-Ericsson, meaning that in theory, Kimi should get Leclerc’s current race engineer and mechanics group, and Gio, on the other hand, Ericsson’s equivalents.

          4. @coldfly – ha ha, that’s a cheeky bit of URL trickery :-)

    2. There once was a joke. Not quite rich. Not at all. You could even say it was a poor joke. It found solace and happiness in just existing, even if it didn’t give pleasure to many people (or even anyone).

      One day, a bunch of people came by, dragged that poor joke out, clubbed it, beat it, shot it, and trampled it to death.

      Moral: Don’t do poor jokes. Not even once.

      1. Officially, Giovinazzi is taking Leclerc’s place at the team, according to a statement: “Following its tradition of discovering and nurturing young talents, the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team has appointed the Italian driver, who has worked with the team for the past two years, to race in place of Charles Leclerc.”

        1. @muralibhats, you’ll probably have to repeat this 50 times before @phylyp will stop posting poor jokes :P

        2. @muralibhats – it’s called artistic license, taking liberties with the truth in the pursuit of art, in this case, the creation of a joke. Sadly, it seems to have fallen so flat on its face that it can’t be called a joke, and hence neither art. Thank you for educating me on the driver succession in Sauber.

          @coldfly – aww, I know you secretly like them; they’re your little sin ;-)

      2. For what it’s worth: I like your joke.

  2. Leclerc had consistently strong acceleration out of the final corner which, combined with his Ferrari power unit’s performance, made him hard to pass. “Leclerc is unbelievably strong in turn 16 exit,” commented Kevin Magnussen on his radio, “so I’m not going to overtake.”

    Was KMag running a turned down PU? Otherwise, the PU shouldn’t have mattered, should it, only the chassis and driver.

    1. Yup, that doesn’t make sense since they are both on the same PU. The Haas struggled a lot in Mexico as they tend to do for some reason.

      They might however turn down their PU due to cooling, I don’t know if their problems are related to that

    2. Sauber tends to be one of the faster cars (fast as in highest top speed) but apart from that I agree there should not be much difference in acceleration since both Haas and Sauber are using same PU spec. Maybe they use different engine maps to cope with the different characteristics of the car…

      1. Theres a world of difference in “acceleration” that doesnt stem from then engine. Mercedes has surprisingly often not been at the top of the speedcharts even though they had the best engine for 5 years.

      2. The acceleration and top speed characteristics are also dependent on what ratios the team is running. If I remember correctly, those ratios are chosen at the beginning of the season and can’t be changed.

        1. @twiinzspeed – very good point – that might be the key factor, apart from the Haas chassis setup not suiting the circuit.

    3. I think that a lot of Haas’ struggles in Mexico were tire related, and it could be that the Sauber simply had much better grip accelerating out of the corners.

  3. To ensure he made his second set of tyres last to the end of the race Leclerc was given a lap time target of 1’25.5. His fastest lap of the race indicated he was capable of lapping at least five seconds quicker than that.

    Oh yes, the pinnacle!

    1. There are much more brighter people than me, or at least more knowledge in managing a race and with access to more data, but considering that he could probably be 4 seconds faster that the targer for a bunch of laps, it means he would recover the time lost in around 6 laps. And with the advantage of having a new set of tyres to allow be faster for some more laps.
      It sometimes seems to me that teams play too conservative.
      OR the biggest issue, as in many races Singapore being the blatant example this year, is track position and teams don’t want to risk getting stuck behind “much” slower cars ruining the tyres and loosing everything…
      I can understand that but it is very hard to understand how can a driver that has the potential to be several seconds quicker per lap, sacrifices that since he’s not able to pass in case it falls behind a (much) slower car…

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        2nd November 2018, 13:07

        Which means the problem is not so much the tyres – it’s the aero, that we’ve been suffering, higher or lower, for 20 years, at least since 1996.

        1. So it’s tires.. Aero…. fuel limits… cooling problems..
          It looks like F1 ;)

      2. You’re assuming he had another set of fresh tires to use. He may have had only another hyper-soft set or used tires remaining.

    2. @johnmilk, The pinnacle of motor-farceing !

  4. If one needs to be told 50 times to slow down in a race… then something is wrong with the race.

    1. It’s like when I need to be told 50 times not to stare at other women… then something is wrong with the other women.

      1. Yep… you’ve got it! :)

      2. @coldfly, Funny !? I used to be told there was something wrong with the other women, but often I couldn’t see it.

  5. Since we have been talking F1.5 all week, could the tyres also exacerbate that gap between teams. They are so sensitive and not forgiving, therefore it makes sense that teams who spend more on how their cars treat the tyres will have a performance advantage, basically making the tyres a performance differentiator when they shouldn’t be.

    On the other hand if we have tyres that are constructed to enhance performance instead of hindering it that aspect of tyre preservation would be reduced and would make the midfield teams a bit more competitive.

    This makes me wonder that when a top team is conserving tyres they are for example running at 80%, but for a smaller team to achieve the same level of conservation they have to run at 60%. The difference in performance seen in the Mexico GP could be connected to this.

    1. @johnmilk – that makes a lot of sense. Earlier this year, Mercedes had problems with tyre management, and we saw how they fixed it by throwing resources at the problem, resources that many other teams don’t have (ditto for Singapore). I’m sure Mercedes are crunching the data to avoid a repeat of this year’s Mexican GP in 2019.

      Definitely ties in to your comment, and what we see at Mexico.

    2. You make too much sense, @johnmilk; next you’ll have a CotD :P

    3. could the tyres also exacerbate that gap between teams

      I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. All teams need to manage the tyres but Mexico showed that Formula 1.5 needs more extreme tyre saving.

      José Lopes da Silva summarises it well: the problem is not so much the tyres – it’s the aero. Yes, pitting twice or even three times is faster, but because the midfield is so close and overtaking is so difficult it’s more productive to stay ahead and drive seconds slower than you can. Others won’t overtake you. People can’t blame Pirelli for it.

    4. And the top 3 teams get to do their own tyre testing. Unmarked Pirellis, of course, so the teams don’t get any advantage.
      Yeah, right.

  6. Terrible to hear a driver is running 4 or 5 secs below his capability during a race, with nothing wrong with the car…

    1. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Tyre management is an important aspect of most motorsports and Mexico is a challenging course in that regard for most teams and setups.

      This is real life racing, not an arcade game where you just hit the accelerator 100% all the time and win races anyways. There are a million things you have to manage to be faster in the end.

      You’re also wrong in one other regard, the tyre issue IS a problem with the car. What do you think the cars use to make contact with the road?

  7. What we’re forgetting is Leclerc’s finishing position.

    Sure, it sounds like his tyre management was excessive, but the teams are in a competition and points count. Why would they allow him to drive 5 sec faster to destroy his tyres and end up out of the points or 10th when they knew they could keep 7th.

    At the end of the day, for Sauber, that was the point. They set a strategy to maximise points. Can’t really argue with that given it’s not likely they could have done better than 7th. Let’s remember they were dead last in 2017.

  8. So exciting F1 nowadays!
    It’s like buying expensive ticket to a world class ballet and watch the ballerinas walking slowly on stage saving their ballet shoes.

Comments are closed.