Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020

“Somebody took off my rear wing”: How Ferrari’s race ended in 26 seconds

2020 Styrian Grand Prix

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From the moment the starting lights went out it took less than half a minute for Ferrari’s Styrian Grand Prix to go disastrously wrong.

Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari while making a speculative attempt to overtake team mate Sebastian Vettel on the first lap of the race. The pair made contact, leaving both SF1000s with race-ending damage.

Before the race began, Leclerc revealed he had run an “aggressive” set-up on his car during the very wet qualifying hour, expecting the race to be dry. While Vettel started on the medium compound rubber, Leclerc began the race on softs, and was no doubt eager to clear his team mate as quickly as possible.

His last-second dive down the inside of Vettel at turn two went spectacularly wrong, however. Leclerc apologised profusely for the incident after the race, but in the heat of the moment he wasn’t initially aware how he’d come to hit his team mate.

Leclerc’s car was receiving attention from Ferrari in the pits when Vettel arrived to retire his car. Yet Vettel appeared unaware that his assailant with his own team mate.

“I was taking it easy into turn three and then somebody went completely on the inside rear of myself,” he explained on the radio.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Ferrari said Leclerc lost 100 points of downforce
Meanwhile Ferrari were busy evaluating whether Leclerc’s car was able to carry on with extensive damage to his rear floor. Leclerc, who was initially under the mistaken impression that he’d been hit from behind in the collision, repeatedly asked the team to let him know how bad the damage was.

When they estimated he’d lost around 100 points of downforce – a very significant amount – Leclerc initially tried to continue, perhaps hoping the race would eventually see as many retirements as had occured a week earlier. The team soon decided to retire the car, however.

On a weekend when nothing went right for the team, the last thing to go wrong was the radio instruction for Leclerc to retire, which came just as he’d passed the pit lane entrance.

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Leclerc’s team radio

Leclerc: Check the car please.
To Leclerc: Copy will do.
Leclerc: I think I have to box. Someone touched me in the back.
To Leclerc: OK stay positive.
Leclerc: Box this lap, box this lap.
To Leclerc: Safety Car deployed.
Leclerc: Box.
To Leclerc: OK box now, box now.
To Leclerc: Slow button on.
Leclerc: Check the car [unclear] someone touched me quite hard in the back.
To Leclerc: We are changing the front wing.
Leclerc: What about the rear? It’s minus five clicks if it’s something at the rear. Or minus seven, I don’t know.
To Leclerc: OK, you can go.
Leclerc: Is everything fine on the rear?
To Leclerc: OK track is clear, track clear. Slow button on.
Leclerc: Is everything fine on the rear?
To Leclerc: So we see some damage on the floor.
Leclerc: Big damage, no?
To Leclerc: Stay on the right after turn three.
Leclerc: Ah no guys there’s something wrong, no? Can you please tell me? Is it big damage, small damage? What is it?
To Leclerc: We still don’t know. We saw some damage on the left-rear of the floor, was what we saw.
Leclerc: It really feels like huge damage. The car’s very difficult to drive. I’ve closed everything I have here, the diffs and things like this and I’ll try to continue but…
To Leclerc: Copy, understood. BB plus two.
Leclerc: No, I…
To Leclerc: Brake shape plus one.
Leclerc: Ah, even in fourth gear I’m struggling.
To Leclerc: Copy, understood. I will come back to you as soon as possible.
Leclerc: Is the suspension fine?
To Leclerc: We’ll come back to you.
To Leclerc: So Charles we are missing downforce on the rear, we have seen that.
Leclerc: How many points?
To Leclerc: I will come back to you on that.
To Leclerc: Around 100.
Leclerc: Fuck.
Leclerc: I want to finish this race. I mean, you never know. Let’s try at least. I’ll go slow. I’m not going to try to overtake with 100 points lacking. But… I don’t know.
To Leclerc: Copy. We are checking everything. I will come back to you as soon as possible.
To Leclerc: Copy, box now, bow, and we’ll retire the car.
Leclerc: Leclerc has already passed the pit lane entrance
Ah… yeah, well, you told me too late.
To Leclerc: Copy.
To Leclerc: Turn three
So box this lap, box.
To Leclerc: Turn eight
Charles box now. box, we’ll retire the car.
Leclerc: Copy.
To Leclerc: And P zero, please.


Vettel’s team radio

Vettel: OK I have damage. Somebody took off my rear wing.
To Vettel: OK, box.
Vettel: Copy, box, I don’t know who that was, box box.
To Vettel: Safety Car, Safety Car and box.
Vettel: Yeah I’m coming in. I’ll slow down.
To Vettel: We are retiring the car.
Vettel: Is that for sure?
Vettel: Yeah it’s probably for sure.
To Vettel: It’s for sure, yeah, too many damages I’m afraid.
Vettel: I don’t know what that was. I was taking it easy into turn three and then somebody went completely on the inside rear of myself. Ah…
To Vettel: Understood.

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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...

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39 comments on ““Somebody took off my rear wing”: How Ferrari’s race ended in 26 seconds”

  1. Is there a radio transcript of Verstappen and Bottas available? Both were carrying damage and very curious to find out what they were talking with the team.

    1. I believe Verstappens damage was due to curbs, I’m not aware of Bottas having damage.

      1. Bottas was warned on radio of damage to floor, which is why curious to find out what was going on behind the scenes.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th July 2020, 15:34

        The teams message was broadcast on the main coverage for Bottas’s issue. They said he had damage to the rear deflector and that it was 10 points down. If anyone with more technical knowledge could explain that, we may know what it is. But they both certainly had issues.

  2. How can Leclerc think he was hit in the rear if he wasn’t?

    Is there a genuine reason he might think that’s the case or was he just getting his excuses in early, like Grosjean’s “Ericsson hit us…”

    1. It seems like that is what Leclerc thought at the time. He seems like a very straight forward guy, not really looking for excuses. He also admitted guilt right away.

      :D still a bad mistake. To much sim-racing for him.

      1. I’m sure you’re probably right.

        Having never crashed in a single-seater I just wondered whether it was feasible to think that you had been rear-ended when you hadn’t.

      2. “Sim”racing with damage off…

        Lando did a better job. In that last lap he was realy managing both his safetyscore as well as his iRating ;-)

    2. DAllein (@)
      13th July 2020, 14:50

      I tell you, it was Ericsson!

    3. He had damage in the rear part of the floor.

    4. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      13th July 2020, 15:39

      This widespread mistake into thinking Grosjean said this is getting so tedious the number of times it is said. It isn’t specifically aimed at you just so you know. Grosjean never said what so many seem to claim… The voice wasn’t the same, the accent was completely different and it was a member of his team, not Grosjean! I don’t even know what made people seem to think what the vast majority remember it as.

      1. Yep, it was his Engineer.

      2. Bur gro never reacted to the “excuse”, he seemed to agree with the observation.

    5. @sonnycrockett

      I think the way he was launched by the curb confused him. Perhaps being lifted on the nose of another car feels similar.

    6. Watch the video again. LeClerc was not launched by the curb, but by his rear wheel riding on top of Vettel’s. This likely gave the sensation of being hit in the rear.

    7. Might have been the jolt as his rear tire climbed up onto Vettel’s rear.

      A sudden thump, and the back of your car goes airborne, I could see that being mistaken for a rear impact.

  3. Is it just me or is luck just trying it’s best to avoid Ferrari!?

    1. More like Ferrari doing their best to avoid luck….

    2. Ferrari hasn’t been lucky for a long time. Often, what other teams would have brushed off, cost them the race.
      This, however, is meaningless. Luck comes and goes–kinda like the time Hamilton won Monaco BY hitting a wall.

      Luck will give or take a few points, a few wins, but won’t change a season. Ferrari’s problem is in leadership. When you’re scrambling to catch up, you make mistakes, you run beyond your capabilities, and you make your own pot luck.

      Some mistakes, like Leclerc’s, are inexcusable… but would never have had a chance to happen had the team been proprly in control, launching from further up the grid and in the correct order.

      In the end, luck does happen from time to time, but you are the one who must be able to catch it.

  4. Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari while making a speculative attempt to overtake team mate Sebastian Vettel on the first lap of the race.

    What he lost was all sense of judgment, the red mist descended and he went for a gap that could only close.

    1. It’s a rubbish statement by @keithcollantine he didn’t lose control of his car he drove into a place he should not have been and caused an avoidable accident.

      Even after all the replays a line like this was written.

      1. Both things are true. He made a very bad mistake–terrible judgement call–AND that lead to him having to try a foolish recovery, which is where his car did lose control over the kerb and bounced causing maximum damage.

  5. DAllein (@)
    13th July 2020, 14:52

    How many people are having regrets right now for signing new 5-year contract?

  6. What does it mean when an F1 car loses x amount of points from downforce? How many points of downforce does a modern F1 car have?

    1. yes, great question! Verstappen was told he lost 10 points of downforce on his frontwing. Keith, could you do an article about this topic?

    2. @huhhii

      Found this quote. Not a full explanation but it’s a start.

      “When we discuss downforce or drag, we try to normalise results so that ambient conditions are irrelevant. If we simply talked about how many newtons of downfroce were produced at, say, 200mph, this would vary between a hot day when air density is low, and a cool day when air density is high. Aircraft pilots know about this and adjust take-off speeds depending on ambient conditions as the lift their craft experiences also varies with temperature and air pressure.

      To eliminate this ambiguity, we express downforce by means of a term we name the ‘lift coefficient’. Of course, since it is downforce we are interested in, the number is negative. This coefficient is a number that, when multiplied by air density and the square of the speed as well as a reference area, will tell is the actual downforce. The reference area is generally the frontal area of the car but, although many teams express this as 1.5 square metres, there is no hard and fast rule and so the way one team expresses the lift coefficient may be slightly different to another.

      Let’s say a car has a lift coefficient of -3.50. The gains made in the windtunnel will often be of a magnitude shown only by the second decimal place of that coefficient and, for convenience, aerodynamicists talk about this being a point. Therefore if we improved our downforce by one point we would increase the coefficient from -3.50 to -3.51. In fact, downforce gains are so hard come by that we often use the third decimal place as well and this increment is termed a ‘unit’.”

      — Pat Symonds

      (Transcribed from “Pat Symonds’ Pitpass Tech”, F1 Racing issue 213)

      1. @keithedin
        Interesting! Thank you for that quote. And yes, I agree with the comment above. @keithcollantine Maybe you could write a full article about this some day?

      2. Piotr (@piotrzukowski)
        14th July 2020, 8:53

        @keithedin very interesting. Thanks.

  7. I’ve never been in a situation where adrenaline and stress is through the roof but that was such an amateur move by Leclerc. Sure, he’s a young guy and bound to make mistakes but I don’t know what Ferrari was thinking giving the keys their F1 machine to such a young cat. Seems like they should be a team of master craftsmen only.

    1. The current ferarri team is ruled by panic.

    2. Ferrari is for sure the team where pressure is at highest level, but I don’t understand what’s the problem in giving the n1 status to Leclerc. Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Verstappen were all given the keys of the team after one year only.

      1. The guys you mentioned were/are exceptional talents. I’m not qualified to rate an F1 driver but I’ve always heard great things about the guys you listed. Is Leclerc in the same league as those guys? Maybe he is, I don’t know. I think Vettel is talented and luckily was in the amazing RB cars in the beginning. I imagine his RB championship years had way less stress than Leclerc’s time at Ferrari so far. Leclerc may be equally talented but he’s in an underperforming Ferrari. Trying to wrestle with developing a car to be where the world expects a Ferrari to be is a lot of weight to carry for a young inexperienced guy. I don’t think making moves like he made Sunday is something that one of the top 20 drivers in the world should be doing, especially in a Ferrari.

        1. @prime I think you’re being too harsh here. Vettel was mistakes that were as bad during his first years at Red Bull. Senna was not the flawless genius it might seem like with rose-tinted glasses, he made his fair share of stupid mistakes. Same goes for Hamilton. McLaren last won a title with two sophomores in their team, so it proves that it can be done.

    3. Jockey Ewing
      13th July 2020, 17:15

      I dont’t know, I would not admit that I used to be scatter-brained more often than the average. That would make me worth less sooner than that comes to sunlight in a natural way.
      If he has “built in” errors like that then he will be called “idiot” by many, unless he turns out to be a great genius. Senna said he sometimes felt like he not driving the car consciously but in a trance like state, and realising that frightened him, despite of he had been ultra fast while that happened. Likely many would be unhappy loosing some of their consciousness, and only being driven by no matter how perfect instincts, when at the same time they should gather, evaluate and use as many information as they are capable of.
      Leclerc rushed that overtake too much, as he had everything to do that just a bit easily at a moment when opponents are not everywhere around in a tenth. He had a faster tyre compound, likely lower downforce agressive setup, likely equal treatment, so he could overtake Vettel, even if Vettel goes yolo for some laps, but seemingly holding off him, because the team has no interest wasting the faster setup, and softer tyres behind Vettel.
      Some guys break under pressure, some break if allowed to be bored, but not really under pressure, everyone is different.

  8. What are downforce points?

    1. Keith quoted a great explanation in one of the above replies.

  9. Leclerc’s engineer seems very incompetent at the radio, he even has to ask repeatedly the same question.

  10. Not defending Leclerc here, but Vettel had a terrible start and lost several places, that put him in line for the reckless attach down the inside by Leclerc.
    If Vettel had done a better job of his start, Leclerc would have taken someone else out and Ferrari would have only lost one car.
    Just pointing out how a bad start added to the impact. But Leclerc still to blame, he should have avoided it.

Comments are closed.