Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Singapore, 2019

Hamilton doesn’t understand why Leclerc didn’t speed up sooner

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t understand why Charles Leclerc didn’t speed up earlier before Sebastian Vettel jumped ahead of them in the Singapore Grand Prix.

Leclerc led Hamilton and Vettel during the opening stages of the race. The Ferrari driver said he ran a slow pace at first to deny his rivals the chance to make a pit stop.

But Hamilton said Leclerc didn’t speed up early enough to ensure they had enough of a gap over Vettel to stay ahead of him. “I don’t really know why he drove as slow as he did,” said Hamilton.

“Now, you could say that he was probably studying my race last year, or how I did what I did last year, and drove off the pace and then picked up the pace and made the gap. But he ended up never making the gap. He just kept everyone bunched up.”

Vettel was the first of the three to pit, which meant he was the first to run on fresher tyres. He immediately lapped four seconds quicker than the race leader, which left Leclerc and Hamilton unable to stay ahead of him when they pitted.

Hamilton suggested one explanation was that the outcome had been “premeditated” by Ferrari.

“Whether that was predetermined by the team, that could have been how the team worked it with first and third [positions], stopping one car earlier – maybe they knew, maybe it was premeditated. If they did, they did a great job with that.

“Or they just left him either way: Obviously Charles lost the position. But he didn’t really have great pace in that first stint.

“I was expecting him to light it up and get quicker. But I could keep up with him. But then coming around the last corner once he gets to a straight, even if I’m in DRS [range] he’s going away from me.”

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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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34 comments on “Hamilton doesn’t understand why Leclerc didn’t speed up sooner”

  1. Charles non stop moaning was unbearable. Lewis might get help from James to stay ahead but at least we knew he would still fight for it.

    1. +1: Charles LeMoaner

      1. love the creativity behind the anon names.

  2. Fantastic! Throw the cat among the pigeons.

  3. My thoughts exactly. If this was planned (premeditated) then it was a great job. Hamilton had the fastest car, yet Ferrari turned a first and third into a first and second; and in the process negated the Ham threat.

  4. Instead of questioning Ferrari’s strategy, Lewis should ask James why didn’t Mercedes go for an early pitstop like VET did? If Seb, who was 2 seconds behind Lewis before his pitstop, was able to find a gap and take advantage of the undercut, why didn’t Mercedes think of that? Maybe they were just scared of a SC, but in that case there was no chance of getting Leclerc either.

    1. He already knew why mercedes didn’t do it. They made a mistake not doing it. Why Ferrari did it, was a good question. Maybe Leclerc had faith in the team, to do the “right” thing?

      1. Why Ferrari did it, was a good question.

        @jureo I believe Ferrari brought Vettel in to cover for Max pitting, who was beginning to struggle and it seems that his crew were out already in the pits. So they just lucked out on a great strategy in the end, as no one in their right mind can actually believe Inaki Rueda could have masterminded such an outcome for the scuderia.

        1. And that was a real threat. Like i said so many times. Ferrari for once did a sensible strategy. Nobody told Leclerc to pick up the pace, Vettel did some blisteringly fast laps and then drama ensued.

          And like you said, after this years many strategy debacles, it is hard to believe Ferrari masterminded this.

        2. @gechichan

          So they just lucked out on a great strategy in the end, as no one in their right mind can actually believe Inaki Rueda could have masterminded such an outcome for the scuderia.

          COTYEAR

        3. @gechichan Totally. Ferrari practically never get any strategy right, and typically just react to others. Lucked in this time.

      2. Right to do being what? Give VET a strategy in order to be sure he keeps it behind LEC, not upset LEC etc? That’s what a no.2 does. Until this year many said RAI is not given the chance to race VET (in almost all cases = false), but know many want to see VET playing 2nd to LEC… although he proved he can be a better no.2 than RAI ever was.

    2. Lewis did ask to pit on lap 19 I think which would have been the best option with ‘hindsight’ but the team dithered.

      1. It was pretty obvious Lewis’ comment of “lets under cut him” should have been the way to go. Not the first time Merc or any team have dithered, but this was a colossal blunder. Or at least with hindsight it was. At the time, it was dumb.

    3. I don’t think anyone’s strategy should depend on the timing of a possible safety car unless they need to take the gamble, because it’s impossible to predict if/when it will happen. Also if it doesn’t happen on the first lap, it more often happens in the 2nd half of the race due to driver fatigue/lapses in concentration (particularly at Singapore) or mechanical issues.

      But really I would have thought that before the race the question for Mercedes would be “How early can we pit and still make it comfortably to the end of the race?”. Given that Mercedes had better race pace and was better on tyres they surely could have pitted before lap 19, forcing Ferrari to pit before they wanted to in order to cover (which they likely couldn’t given the 4 second pace advantage). So really it depended on finding a gap behind to come out in clean air. When Vettel pitted he was just in front of Hulk and had 10 seconds clear in front of him, so there was a gap available for probably a few laps before he pitted.

      I don’t see why Hamilton couldn’t have pitted on lap 15 or 16 to force the issue, probably gaining track position and then possibly having to defend at the end of the race on older tyres, which should have been manageable. Mercedes already acknowledged that they screwed up but what is difficult to justify is that they screwed up to something that could easily have been predicted before the race.

  5. The TV commentators (Brundle & co) suggested Leclerc’s being slower than normal compromised Mercedes (and others) strategy. So while it meant he ended up second, it also meant the team walked away with 43 points vs Mercedes 22 points.

    1. @drycrust in monaco and sing teams have run slower to make the 1 stop feasible, track position is key and easy to maintain therefore the leader can crawl, the side effect of crawling is that anyone behind the lesder can’t find a gap to force early pitstops and also undercut, generally merc and rb would pit one of their drivers very early or keep him on track to block, spain 2016/spain2017

  6. I’m still flabbergasted by the whole thing. They saw the Ferraris lapping slower than 14th place for christ’s sake. They saw Ferrari’s times start to drop and thought staying out would be better? This is a major tactical screw up and they need to learn from this fast.

    It really didn’t help that Pirelli massively dropped the minimum tyre pressures that weekend down to 17psi. I’m pretty convinced that the lack of pressures also helped slow Merc down.

    1. @franton merc love low tyre pressures, they have always pressured pirelli to drop the psi.

  7. Lewis does tend to overestimate Ferrari’s strategic and implementation capabilities while trying to substantiate a conspiracy theory that cost him.

    1. @bulsie yes, that’s the only thing that annoys me about Lewis, when he wins he is blessed when he loses someone robbed him of it.
      Hamildon, yes I noticed that too. the ferrari was hitting the apexis getting no understeer, lewis got a very bad run there, but he was spotless on exits no wheelspin.

  8. This Ferrari have huge straight speed advantage idea is strange. If you watched qualification lap of Charles and Lewis (head to head) on the F1 website, you will notice the difference in the first sector is not about straight speed advantage of Ferrari. Leclerc maneged turn curve number 4 much better than Hamilton, which brought 0,2sec advantage to Charles in return.

    1. You should watch the quali lap comparison of Hamilton and Leclarc again. At the start of the straight Hamilton is ahead and by the end he is behind quite a bit. Clear proof of Ferrari engine power advantage.

    2. Hamildon making things up in desperation as usual lol. Clearly didnt watch the head to head or did and just likes to lie.

  9. If it’s a conspiracy Charles was definitely not in on it. It worked out perfectly for a 1-2 so well done to Ferrari.

  10. I thought during the race that Leclerc didn’t speed up earlier because doing so would potentially have allowed Hamilton to pull a gap to Vettel. They needed Vettel right there – either to use as a ‘pawn’ to force Hamilton to pit earlier if that had been their wish, or to give him the opportunity to undercut and gain second. I don’t think there was ever a plan to put Vettel into P1 – in their best-case realistic scenario they probably had him ending up between Leclerc and Hamilton.

    But now the data’s out I’m leaning more towards the idea that Leclerc’s tyres were shot and he couldn’t really go much quicker at that stage even if he wanted to. Immediately before his stop Leclerc did two 1:49 laps at the time when you’d expect a driver to have one last push… for comparison, once Leclerc pitted, Hamilton did a 1.47.0.

    1. I suspect that is exactly why. He was given the message to push on lap 15 to build a gap to Hamilton, but he never got farther than 2 seconds ahead before Hamilton clawed it back all the way to less than a second. By comparison, Vettel’s in lap was a second quicker and he likely didn’t know it was his in lap until the third sector. Verstappen complained about grip shortly before this, and I suspect there was a radio call we didn’t hear for him to come in because RB were pulling tires off the rack. Ferrari couldn’t let him get the undercut on Vettel, so Vettel got called in first right before the end of the lap, which he said was very last second during the interview. He made the most of his out lap doing 1.45.4 and got the undercut not only on Hamilton, but Leclerc as well. I seriously doubt Ferrari planned this outcome from the beginning, but it was their best chance of getting a 1-2 instead of a 1-4 or worse than if they had left Vettel out when Verstappen got called in.

      1. I think if Vettel was called in very late, Ferrari probably hadn’t made the decision until after Leclerc passed the pit entry.

        From a team perspective, it was the right call to bring Vettel in while they had the chance. That’s just how racing goes sometimes; another time it might be Leclerc who benefits from being behind.

  11. Finally it was a perfect strategy from Ferrari as they reached 1-2 win.
    But I think Leclerc would have won this race because he slowed down Hamilton and gave Vettel the chance to overtake Hamilton during pit stop.
    I have to say again street tracks are bad race tracks because they are often too narrow and dusty so overtaking is too difficult.

    1. Perhaps, and much more likely if Merc had pitted Hamilton when he asked them to on lap 19. But Vettel was well ahead of Hamilton rejoining and had 2 seconds a lap advantage on him on the hard tires at the start of that stint. If Leclerc had been able to pull a gap in front of Hamilton, Vettel would have slotted in between them as I suspect Ferrari had intended. I think by the time they had the gap for Leclerc, his tires were too worn to maintain the gap and the result was Vettel under cutting both of them.

  12. I mean, we know from the previous few races that Ferrari are not good on their tyres at all, so maybe they were partly just trying to keep the field fairly close to negate the undercut (look how that worked out, Grosjean being a roadblock kinda ruined that idea) while also keeping enough grip in the tyres to not allow Lewis a chance to overtake.

  13. It must be very difficult for the teams to follow a planned strategy when you have such a high risk of a safety car at any time in Singapore. One safety car also increases the risk of another as the cars resume bunched up and the risk of a collision is high especially if fatigue is setting in. Hamilton had more life in his tyres which he may have been able to use to his advantage later in the race but this was negated by three safety car instances.

  14. Lewis is media savvy enough to raise these questions so that the Italian press and Charles may bite.
    I suspect Charles is media savvy enough to resist the bait.
    Sebastian gets a win, Ferrari look good, and next year will be more interesting.
    Everybody wins!

    1. yes, we’ll see… unwittingly or not, Vettel also revealed one of Leclerc’s weaknesses to the others; that he is still learning & is focused so much on driving the car that he can’t keep up with where everyone else is on track & the condition of their tyres too. Hamilton is calling that out, because, that’s what they do, exploit each other’s weaknesess. Charles’ moaning aside, he’s likely most upset at himself for his lack of competitor awareness in letting Vettel squeeze by & then not having the right strategy to do anything about it.

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