Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Leclerc didn’t try to catch leaders after first pit stop

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says he backed off after his first pit stop in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix because his team told him he wouldn’t be able to catch the front runners.

The Ferrari driver took the lead by running a long first stint on the medium compound tyres, then switched to a new set of soft tyres after half-distance. However the team realised he wouldn’t be able to make an impression on the race leaders despite have fresher, softer tyres.

“I think a lot of people thought we were struggling which I don’t think we were,” Leclerc told media including RaceFans after the race. “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.”

Leclerc left the pits behind Pierre Gasly, who he overtook. Shortly afterwards he asked the team: “Have I got any chances to catch up the front?” He was told: “No, negative. Slippery track.”

He therefore concentrated on bringing the car home and taking the opportunity to pit again for more fresh tyres and score the bonus point for fastest lap.

“From that moment onwards it was just about trying to keep the tyres and trying to push for the fastest lap when I had the opportunity to do so,” said Leclerc. “So 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 was quickest in all three practice sessions but crashed during qualifying. He admitted he was disappointed to come away from the weekend with only a fifth place.

“Even though obviously FP1, FP2 and FP3 is not very representative, I am disappointed because I felt great in the car. I completely agree with Mattia [Binotto, team principal], I think in the car there was definitely the potential to do pole position.

“I threw all our chances away by touching the wall yesterday. So it’s my mistake, I take responsibility, and today basically it was the best we could do from there. It’s a bit disappointing.

“On the other hand I think there are some positives to take away from the weekend. I think quali pace was definitely stronger than China and race pace was also very close to Mercedes. Now we look forward and I’m pretty sure we’ll come back even stronger in Barcelona.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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...

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35 comments on “Leclerc didn’t try to catch leaders after first pit stop”

  1. Well, at least he got the extra point for FL, as well as, the official lap record to his name.

  2. Absolutely bizarre. You never know what might happen in a race, so always push until the end.

    1. It was a suggestion that Charles agreed with and made the choice in the car.

    2. @shimks

      You’re reading too much into a few words. He still pushed, because in F1 they push every lap. It’s all relative, though. There was no point taking big risks and pushing all out, because the difference between that and normal race pace wasn’t even close to the gap he had to make up.

      1. BlackJackFan
        29th April 2019, 4:38

        But this little ‘fact’ is just your assumption… ;-)

    3. It might not be the case, but it certainly looked like they wanted to make sure Leclerc was not in a position to challenge Vettel. I think they over did it and stuffed up a higher point tally but leaving him out so long on what were clearly dead tyres seemed strange. He however would have come out very close to Vettel if they had brought him in when they should have.

    4. Unless you know you need to make your engine last another 3 races and that avoiding overstressing it on a futile gesture here could help improve your situation in Spain, Monaco or Canada. Then you might do what is more likely to yield the most points – in this case, just leaving enough gap to go for the pit stop at the end without losing a place.

  3. TBH people are blaming Ferrari for their decision to pit Charles too late, but truth be told, their only hope after yesterday’s shunt was to hang on the deal and hope for a Safety Car or something to bring them into play. I guess the main mistake by the team was giving their drivers the job of trying a lap in cool conditions on the medium tyre in Q2, which resulted in Charles having to start the race on those and having to pit waaaay too late. Because that was basically their only option of making the 1 stopper work.

    1. @fer-no65 Actually nobody used the hard tyres and it would have been an option available to Charles. They could have pitted him so that he exits in front of Verstappen. Medium seemed to work better than soft, thus hard shouldn’t have been such a bad choice (except that they probably didn’t run them during the weekend and didn’t have data).

      I really don’t see the advantage in having 3 compounds if all teams (almost) always stick to the softer 2… Especially when it became clear that soft was not the way to go.

      1. @jeanrien

        Why do they have to use two different compounds? Is that still a good rule? Clearly soft-medium and medium-soft were the only viable strategies, but medium-medium could have been an alternative.

        1. Dave, it’s because Bridgestone persuaded the sport that the teams had to use two different tyre compounds back when they were providing tyres – they wanted to introduce a gimmick to ensure that their name was mentioned more, and the rules have remained unchanged since then.

      2. @jeanrien I was also surprised no-one used the hard tire, as the soft tire was really horrible. That’s the main reason Leclerc wasn’t able to attack the front-runners after his stop. Perhaps Ferrari were expecting the soft tire to perform better at the end of the race, otherwise Leclerc’s strategy didn’t make much sense.

  4. Ferrari is just like big government lead by carrier politician. Hoping for them to give you creative solution is not going to happen. Charles should try to communicate with his own race engineer more to discuss strategies before and on the races like Lewis always did. That’s the only way to broadcast your concern not telling is was a team decision to slow down but still saying Binotto was right after. I rate Charles highly but he became too Politically Correct.

    1. He did say on the radio they should pit as they are loosing too much time. Also at this stage of his career he does not carry the currency Hamilton holds. 2nd year in F1, uncharacteristic early Ferrari appointment, few races in Ferrari, he cannot berate them or could end up knowhere.

  5. Really think Ferrari messed up with this one.

    The fact that Leclerc wouldn’t be able to catch up wouldn’t exactly be new information when he pitted – they would have known for a while that catching up was unlikely.

    This meant that, with a little foresight, it would be obvious that he would go for a second stop to get fastest lap as he was destined for 5th anyway.

    In which case, why not commit to a proper, aggressive 2 stop? If they timed his first stop well he would have come out near the top 3 and, with the benefit of new, soft tyres, could quite well have taken the lead again. With a bit of luck (especially with a pit stop under the VSC near the end, but I can’t remember quite when that was so whether it would have been viable) I dont think a better finish was unobtainable.

    1. I agree, I do wonder if Leclerc could have gotten 4th place if Ferrari had played their cards better.

    2. @minnis

      Agree. Ferrari could have either gone for an aggressive 2 stop race, where Leclerc was pushing flat out from the start of the race on mediums, then pit around lap 20 for another set of mediums and push flat out, and maybe do the last 8 to 10 laps on a set of softs. The worse case scenario for this strategy would have been Leclerc finishes in P5, with a slim chance of finishing in P4 or P3. Alternatively, they could have pitted Leclerc 5 laps earlier for softs, and he would have a 10 second gap to Verstappen with 20 laps to go. Even if the softs wouldn’t last, he could make another stop and finish in P5.

      But, Ferrari chose the worst possible strategy for him. He came out behind Gasly with over a 20 sec gap to Verstappen in front.

      In the words of Charles… That was just stoopid from Ferrari.

      1. @todfod Leclerc doesnt have any more mediums

        1. @siegfreyco
          Yes, he did have a fresh set available for the race.

          1. @srga91 which he used at the start because his other mediums were too damaged by quali crash

          2. @siegfreyco
            I highly doubt that. They would have had to replace it with a tyre of similar wear, i.e. the set he used in FP1. It would have beeen very weird to allow him starting on a new set. Mercedes & Red Bull would have definitely protested against that decision.

          3. @srga91 its with pirellis and they do not give those tyres back. Besides, all those tyres were already quite used during practice for race runs and such. Even the commentators mentioned that itd a new one. Other teams cant do anything about it really because there are no other mediums that have done 1 qualy run and it was the fia who allowed them those tyres and not just a decision made by ferrari. That’s why its kind of a blessing but you would ne er want to bin you car during quali just to sneak past the q2 tyre rule, do you?

  6. They should have committed to a two-pit-stops strategy, which they did in the end but for a different reason. Leclerc lost a lot of time to Verstappen by delaying his first pit stop. It seems to me that they gave up and settled for 5th.

  7. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    28th April 2019, 19:12

    Still think being nearly 60 second behind Vettel is very poor given the hype he gets. Take off the final pit stop and take off a generous 25 seconds. Then even if you take another 15 off for his different strategy and the fact he wasn’t always pushing as hard as he could. That would still be nearly 20 seconds behind Vettel. He also gained 2 places at the start due to other penalties and only started 5 places behind Vettel on one of the easiest overtaking tracks of the year in what seemed to be the the 2nd best car. His pace was decent to start with, or maybe it was only because vettel and the others were struggling a bit. But when he switched to the softs, he was slower and got stuck behind Gasly for a bit who had been on the same tyres since the start of the race. And from then on, his time just seemed to go backwards.

    For any driver, I would have to say this wasn’t a good weekend for them, given his hype, i think it was extremely poor indeed. I don’t think he’s quite as good as people are suggesting. Vettel showed he was far better when it counted today and yesterday too and he wasn’t at his best either.

    I think it is Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen who are have overall been the best drivers so far this year. Now both Vettel and Leclerc have had poor races (although Leclerc admittedly has had one superb weekend). Mercedes may have been quicker most races, but their drivers have kept things clean and been very reliable. I think the turn around from Bottas this year and how he is doing so far is more impressive than Leclerc has been given the expectations towards both drivers. And Bottas is now leading the championship.

    1. I always appreciate your input. Always a well put and refreshing insight.

    2. @thegianthogweed

      Huh Leclerc woulda been about 25 seconds behind, do u forget he pitted 2 laps from the end? Also his pace was very good early on he was bascially about to pass Vettel on track. Ferrari fault they left him in no mans land, Should have just went a different strategy and went onto hards what would he lose, he could just pit if they were so bad coulda been a good enough tyre i remember at one point he did a lap that was 4 tenths off Vettel on same tyres that was 25 laps old.

      Leclerc has no way been overhyped he is going against a 4x WC had a win stolen from him, has had a pole and could have had 2. Lets be honest he had a good 3 tenths on Vettel around here. Vettel has looked genuniley faster once this season and that is China, even then he needed a team order. Leclerc Should be ahead of Vettel in the championship.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        29th April 2019, 9:05

        It seems ike you read just my first sentence?? I mentioned the last pit stop and that even if we take a good 40 seconds off his time for the pit stop and bad strategy, that is still a large distance off Vettel which there isn’t much of an excuse for… He was good in the first stint, but so was vettel when he was on these tyres, and overall vettel was far better and that was my point.

    3. Don’t forget a driver needs to be given a good strategy, and that only the team have the bigger picture, so one can’t blame a driver if their team gives them a poor strategy. If you give someone a task that they can’t complete, and they don’t complete it, then I guess you’ve achieved your goal. It looked to me like Leclerc was left out far too long, and was only told to pit when it was guaranteed he’d come out of the pits behind Verstappen.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        29th April 2019, 9:10

        As I said, i took away a generous 40+ seconds factoring in his final pit stop and poor strategy… That still will have left him in 5th nearly 20 seconds behind Vettel on one of the easiest overtaking tracks in a very strong car. A slightly poor strategy, extra pit stop and starting 5 places lower than Vettel does not explain a 58 second gap…

    4. @thegianthogweed Leclerc wasn’t very good indeed, but I think his strategy made him look worse than he actually was. The medium tire was much better than the soft tire, but because he started from the midfield, he couldn’t make use of this tire advantage. When he finally made his first stop, he was a full pit-stop behind and on the weaker tire. Having said that, in retrospect, his pace on the mediums wasn’t that great.

  8. I was enjoying the race right up until the point that Leclerc fell behind the Mercedes. Till that moment, the grands prix was interesting, afterwards not so much. As it stands the championship is a battle between the two Mercedes drivers, with Ferrari doing everything in their power to pacify Sebastian Vettel via strategy.
    It’s a pity, but that’s the vibe I’m getting four races into the season.

    1. I will only watch replay of the race and only because of beautiful city Baku. F1 again proved predictably booooring! WRC Argentina, now that s exciting to watch.

  9. BlackJackFan
    29th April 2019, 4:45

    In that case rebellion seems a slight possibility… ;-)

  10. Garbage team that doesn’t want to win

  11. Leclerc did what he could, crashed during quali but ending fifth with a fastest lap is not bad. He is a Ferrari child but maybe he could have been better off in a RB or Merc team. Something is going really, really wrong at Ferrari.

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