Leclerc defends call for extra pit stop which cost him second place

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc defended the decision to make an extra pit stop during the Russian Grand Prix, even though it cost him second place.

The Ferrari driver lost the lead of the race to Lewis Hamilton who was able to pit during a Virtual Safety Car period. That left Leclerc running second between the two Mercedes drivers but on older and harder tyres.

Following a discussion with his team on the radio, the decision was taken for Leclerc to pit again and fit a set of soft tyres. This dropped him to third place behind Valtteri Bottas.

Leclerc was unable to pass Bottas and ended the race in third place. Afterwards he said it had been a “tricky situation” for the team.

Not pitting would have meant “staying on medium [tyres] that had already [done] five or six laps, compared to softs that were new.” That would have left him at a disadvantage, Leclerc pointed out, “especially for a restart after the Safety Car.”

“We are, and I think everyone on the grid is, struggling to keep these tyres in temperature any time we are behind a Safety Car. If you are on a medium, already it’s a disadvantage, and if it’s a bit worn, then it’s another disadvantage.

“So we didn’t want to take the risk to lose more than one position. I think we did the right choice. Looking back, you can always think about a better scenario – but at that time I think it was the right decision for us.”

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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...
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12 comments on “Leclerc defends call for extra pit stop which cost him second place”

  1. If I’m not mistaken they gave Leclerc the option and he replied something like “Might aswell go for it”. It was their only chance to win the race at that point, even if it was a long shot. Worth the risk imo as at worst it dropped him from 2nd to 3rd and had more potential upside, and as he said less potential downside if he would have been vulnerable on the older mediums.

  2. I wondered something like that might’ve been behind this extra stop as well.

    1. Ferrari’s team leader Mattia Binotto is a manager and a engineer. And a good one, as we can see from the results.

      But in a situation like that, you need a mind reader, psychologist, used car salesman, or whatever you call people that can read people. The likes of Toto Wolff and Helmut Marko.

      You read into Vettel’s previous attitudes when put in that situation, you read into Leclerc’s eagerness to win, you read into Mercedes strategists. And you decide to go simple and tell Leclerc to protect his track position and let Vettel deal with the Mercedes.

      You don’t plot a complex plan that requires all players, including the adversarys, to make the right moves for it to work.

  3. all fair, but still I wonder why not do it the previous lap

  4. Don’t think there’s much to defend, it wasn’t a poor call… was the only way he was going to get a shot at winning the race.

  5. Ferraris strategies are top notch lately, it would’ve been another one-two if it wasn’t for the failure, regardless of the two alphas orders and wants.

    With Vettel finding his feet and joining the front with Leclerc, this will become a problem, but in the end its a good problem to have, the one-two was there so its a shame. As for the second pitstop, it gave Leclerc really the only chance to win the race, I was quite shocked he couldn’t blow by on the main strait with DRS. Never the less, they need to keep this up, Ferrari are doing much better lately.

  6. In f1 you always take the possibility of losing a position over the possibility of making it back… In this case they took a sure 3rd over the possibility of winning. it’s harder to overtake than to be overtaken. No defence for this one. Knee jerk call. Vulnerable to bottas at the start but he had Ham’s tow, he had a great chance of keeping it and down the line maybe challenge.

    1. No, I think they took the safe 3rd, and a hope of getting past both Mercedes cars and winning, rather than risk old tyres meaning Leclerc would be overtaken by Bottas on the restart, and maybe even by Verstappen as the old mediums went off at the end @peartree, it didn’t work out (and maybe that was predictable, but I can’t really see it as a bad call) as hoped, but at that point he was looking at finishing third anyway.

  7. Hard call. Leclerc sacrificed 2nd place on a SC restart, for a 3rd place on that same SC restart with fresher soft tires.

    I guess Ferrari thought Leclerc would certainly get Bottas and then stand a better chance at getting Hamilton. Bottas though showed he can get his elbows out when it matters, showing some decent pace behind Hamilton..

    Fastest laps in order was also telling: Ham, Lecrec, Bottas.

  8. I thought it made sense at the time. Ferrari looked faster, it’s a circuit with plenty of straights and DRS and fresh tyres. Didn’t expect the Mercedes to hold him of.

  9. Didn’t work out in the end but stilll I think irt was the best decision at the moment. It pretty much made a 3P sure and gave an (admittedly long) shot at the win; didn’t lose too much (a 3P is almost as good for them as a 2P by now, it’s not like he is going to need the 3 extra points for the WDC)

  10. Seeing how Leclerc was already unable to get close to Vettel, perhaps they should have anticipated that overtaking was very unlikely at this track. Leclerc was clearly faster than Bottas, but he simply couldn’t close up.

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