Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020

McLaren keen to see if Ferrari’s “very impressive” pace was a one-off

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s strong showing in the Portuguese Grand Prix has left its rivals wondering whether they have made a breakthrough with their previously troublesome SF1000.

Charles Leclerc qualified fourth on the grid at the Autodromo do Algarve, as he also did in the previous round at the Nurburgring. But unlike in the Eifel Grand Prix, Leclerc was able to finish in the same position last weekend.

“It was an impressive race Charles did today in terms of pace,” admitted McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.

However he pointed out the event had some unusual characteristics, and it remains to be seen whether the result reflects Ferrari’s current potential or was a one-off result.

“As we always said, we never underestimated the ability of Ferrari to strike back already during this season,” said Seidl. “It will be interesting if they have solved the issues we have seen in previous races, where they had strong qualifying performance but then were dropping back quite quickly in the race with the tyres degrading.

“This obviously was special Tarmac here, special conditions. With the car they had they could put up a very impressive race pace with the medium and the hard tyre which I think no one else could do, at least in this fight where we are in.

“So therefore it will be interesting to see if this was just a one-off or if they have actually solved the issue they had in previous races.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes there was a mix of factors behind the team’s improve performance in Portugel. “I think overall track characteristics, weather conditions and the car itself is the reason why we had that performance in the weekend,” he said.

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35 comments on “McLaren keen to see if Ferrari’s “very impressive” pace was a one-off”

  1. I loved how people were dismissing this on Saturday because he was “obviously running a quali set-up”.

    Great race from him. He was closer to Verstappen than Verstappen to Bottas at some point.

    1. It was mostly in the begin of the race in the second part he was dropping of. The one stop was maybe too hard for the car if you look at his times at the end of each stint. With a 2 stop i think they would be much closer to max Verstappen

      1. @macleod A 2-stop would mean a stint on the softs, which didn’t work for most people in the race, especially later on (see Perez, Ocon). If instead he did a short stint on the hards it would have taken him at least 2 laps to switch them on (see Bottas post-pitstop). A one-stop medium-hard strategy was the only thing he could have done. There wasn’t anything better than 4th on offer on Sunday.

        1. @wsrgo Could he not use medium soft medium (i don’t know if he had a other set of medium) Then the lap times would be much beter.

          1. No they are simply not there yet to fight with Verstappen’s Red Bull. This 4th place was already great progress compared to the previous races where Charles had no chance to keep the Racing Point, Mclaren and Ricciardo behind him. If came in for the softs then Max could have gone for the softs too and rejoin ahead of the Ferrari but I doubt any of them were thinking about that because the soft was a horrible tyre this weekend. We saw it with Perez who stopped with like 10-15 laps remaining for fresh softs and he got passed by Gasly and Sainz who were on 30+ laps old mediums. And we saw that Perez had good pace previously because he was almost matching Verstappen and Leclerc while he was on the medium tyres and he came back from last place to p5.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th October 2020, 12:30

      What progress are we talking about? The Ferrari is quicker than the Red Bull but is being slowed down to abide by the FIA agreement. If they turned on Vettel’s car, he would have easily ended behind Lewis. Ditto for Charles.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        27th October 2020, 16:14

        What? Ferrari is NOT faster than RB and in no way, in this reality, will Vettel (nor Charles) be able to keep up with Lewis with this car. No matter how hard Ferrari tries.

        I think Ferrari at “some” tracks can get the car to function as the best of the rest (behind Merc and RB). Most weekends however, they are either at or just below the performances of Renault and McLaren (RP if they keep it together).

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          27th October 2020, 16:56


          I think Ferrari at “some” tracks can get the car to function as the best of the rest (behind Merc and RB). Most weekends however, they are either at or just below the performances of Renault and McLaren (RP if they keep it together).

          Ha-ha-ha You’re saying exactly what I’m saying only wording it in the most ridiculous way. The team can get this car to score P2 whenever we want but otherwise it tends to spin especially if the driver we don’t want to keep is driving it:-)

          1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 17:40

            What are you talking about? No we are not saying the same thing. You are saying Ferrari is capable of finishing P2… I am saying they are NOT capable of performing that well. I am definitely not saying Ferrari (or whom ever you are talking about) are purposely out to “spin” vettel. It is known that Vettel prefers a car that is more planted at the back end (why he did so well with the blown defuser era). Where as, Charles is a bit more like Max that prefers a car that is more pointy and responds better to their steering inputs. The reason I say Ferrari performs well on “some” tracks is that the car, weather, track, and driver characteristics match better at times than other times. Nothing to do with some bloke pulling strings to fabricate a specific outcome. Your just a conspiracy theorist!

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            27th October 2020, 18:10

            @flyingferrarim Oh, the “conspiracy theorist” label? What shall I do? That’s like a check mate:-) So you actually believe that the Ferrari which was a rocket over the past 3 years with nary a technical change, has simply dwindled in performance along with all Ferrari powered vehicles and you ascribe Leclerc’s success to weather related phenomena and driver characteristics? I rest my case :-)

          3. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 18:41

            The Ferrari cars of the past is built on a completely different philosophy than this years car. This years car a complete u-turn from what they normally did. If you follow F1 you would have known that. Ferrari this year went with a RB style philosophy that entails a high downforce car with a high rake philosophy. The idea behind this is so that they would be faster in twisty tracks helping them in places like Spain but hurts them at places like Monza. The problem is that this philosophy impacts straight line speed (its a high drag design). It also makes the car more pointy and responsive to a drivers steering inputs (rear tends to move a lot under power). In previous years, Ferrari focused on aerodynamic efficiency and top speed. This is a low rake and a car that is a little more balanced between the front end and back end. This is more inline with Vettels driving style. The PU is crap this year, but their car with the new design direction has not worked well thus far either. They obviously need time to develop this new direction. I personally, think they went too far from one extreme (last years car) to another (this years car) in terms of design philosophy.

            Your ideas are conspiracy theory like. I at least gave you a reasonable reason as to why we are seeing a difference between the drivers. I think the teams struggles are more related to the car design as a whole (the PU issue compounds on top of that). I think this is far more plausible reason than fabrication of results you are suggesting. I just don’t think Vettel is able to adapt his driving style to fit the new car design philosophy. I will agree Ferrari isn’t going out of their way to help him, but no way they are purposefully sabotaging him either. They have nothing to gain from it!

            With that said, it seems impossible to have reasonable discussion as you provide little to no facts to back your stances! For example: Stating the obvious that Vettel is .5 to .9 seconds adrift of Charles is not enough. You need to provide actual substance behind “WHY” this maybe the case that isn’t some hypothesis of someone sabotaging Vettel’s car! If you can’t do that then have a good day!

          4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            28th October 2020, 14:03

            @flyingferrarisim Providing a reason why there’s a difference between the drivers doesn’t mean you’re right. However, the likelihood of you being right is higher than I am – I’ll be the first to concede that my scenario is farfetched and less likely. That doesn’t invalidate the other theory.

            Here are other reasons. Leclerc’s faster but not consistently faster, Vettel’s unmotivated or getting old, the car doesn’t suit one driver (your reason). These are all reasons and they also apply to Kimi but Kimi wasn’t 1 second off Vettel, was he? While Vettel’s struggling, it’s very possible that Vettel could have scored a podium and win in an Alfa Tauri and running much faster in the Alfa Romeo but for some absurd reason he simply languishes behind all cars in a Ferrari, a car that was capable of winning races and poles easily last year. As Vettel himself said, it should be obvious what’s happening.

    3. Ferrari aced the weekend, very rare, quick to realise the c3 was graining heavily so they put leclerc on c2 and the c1, ferrari has been eating tyres so for once it worked for them for q and race down in Portugel.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Leclerc’s poor race pace at the Nurburgring down to them not being able to switch their tyres on in cold conditions? I’m struggling to believe Leclerc’s tyres were degrading from lap 2, or the first lap after the restart, which led to him being passed by Gasly. I don’t think degradation has been that big of a factor on the Ferraris this year. Owing to the fact that they’re low on power, their traction out of slow corners is poor and this means they put less strain on the tyres. Combine this with the fact that less downforce means you put less load on the corners, and you see why they had the best tyre life in Silverstone and Barcelona. A car low on downforce would struggle with tyre wear mainly in slow-speed corners due to sliding. However, even in Russia, Leclerc’s tyre life was very good.

    Apart from Nurburgring and Hungaroring, both races held under extraordinarily low temps, Ferrari’s struggles haven’t been that much down to tyres at all. It’s generally been that having been down on power, they’ve been easy meat to clear under DRS. Not sure what Seidl is getting at.

    1. Owing to the fact that they’re low on power, their traction out of slow corners is poor and this means they put less strain on the tyres. Combine this with the fact that less downforce means you put less load on the corners, and you see why they had the best tyre life in Silverstone and Barcelona.

      @wsrgo Perhaps someone can correct me, but I would have thought less downforce would equal more sliding, hence wearing the tyre more. It might have to do with thermal degradation versus the surface shearing off due to sliding. Mercedes suffered more with blistering in Silverstone but can usually run the tyres for longer and faster than most people in cooler conditions when it is about sliding as less as possible.

      1. Your comment is correct

      2. @mashiat Mark Hughes of The Race mentioned that the reason the Mercs suffered delaminations at Silverstone-1 was down to the fact that the higher downforce of the car means they’re going faster in the long-apex fast corners, leading to the outside tyre facing greater load, compared to a car that doesn’t have as much downforce. Sliding becomes an issue only in the slower corners when the lateral rotation angle is greater. Also, it still doesn’t explain why Leclerc was on course to perform a comfortable one-stop strategy in Spain and also went long in Russia and Portugal. Once again, there hasn’t been a single race (bar the exceptionally cool Hungary and Eifel races) that Ferrari struggled with tyres, and in those two races I’m sure it was down to cold-graining and the tyres not switching on fast enough.

        1. @wsrgo There are different characteristics that might make the Ferrari kinder to its tyres, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with downforce or power. Look at Ferrari in 2017, they had more corner speed than the Mercedes in 2017 and suffered less tyre wear. Back in 2012, the Mercedes used to eat up its rear tyres more than any other car, while the Lotus was extremely kind to its tyres. Both cars had similar pace for a chunk of the season, yet handled the tyres completely differently.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th October 2020, 12:37

      They can’t perform well at all gran prix. Their max position in the WCC has already been determined before the season started. They are trying to maximize the results of one car to hit those points. Once they go over the points, Vettel’s car will start spinning and have all kinds of mechanical issues. They’re in purgatory and I wouldn’t be surprised if it applies to 2 seasons since finding Ferrari guilty of cheating would have wiped out at least 1 year’s worth of points and money and also put a blemish on the brand that would have stayed forever. Anything is better than that and Vettel is collateral damage.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        27th October 2020, 15:42

        Lets put away the tin foil hats, yeah?

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          27th October 2020, 16:14

          @flyingferrarim Grazie Mattia!

    3. I reckon the ferrari is pretty good on traction and braking, they struggle on downforce and clipping, the one straight helped them not clip so ridiculously soon.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    27th October 2020, 12:26

    Ha-ha-ha everyone at the paddock is wondering how Leclerc’s pace can vary depending on the result the Scuderia wants for the weekend. Of course, the message is aimed for the FIA to keep a close eye on Leclerc’s eye which is interfering with other teams’ battles. I think a penalty for the FIA would solve that especially in view of the way the Scuderia is divvying up the results between Vettel and Leclerc. Hamilton will never wear red after seeing this, and Sainz is crapping his pants wondering if he’ll also get an Alfa Romeo when he drives for the Scuderia.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th October 2020, 14:38

      Hmm, upon further reflection, I do wonder if Leclerc’s performance at Alfa Romeo was genuine and not manufactured by Ferrari. If we question that then we also need to question last year’s performance deficit between Vettel and Leclerc – was it a genuine advantage or a manufactured one a la Alfa Romeo? Why would be the reason for Ferrari to do that other than to attempt to create their own Verstappen? You take a great young driver and then glorify the results by beating a 4 time WDC who nearly won 2 championships at Ferrari. It would certainly fool the masses and folks like Brundle.

      If that were the case, it would mean that Vettel’s exit from Ferrari was already underway in 2018. Scary stuff and I’m almost not sure that Ferrari possesses that sort of intellect but, then again, they were cheating big time and managed to get away with it so there is a master of the chessboard there for sure. Binotto appears like too much of a dufus to be a team principal – which actually should be very alarming.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        27th October 2020, 15:56

        Ferrari has the power to tinker with the Alfa Romeo cars? Your really digging deep here. If Ferrari was already phasing Vettel out in 2018, why not just move on from him earlier? Why invest so much into the F1 program to purposefully handicap the second car? Not to mention to put the constructors championship at risk (aka money lost by running 5th instead of 3rd)? None of what you are talking about makes any logical sense what so ever. Also, we are talking about a Ferrari team that never took risks on taking young talents, like Charles, in the past. Why would they put all their money down on Charles so earlier (2018 per you post)?

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          27th October 2020, 16:12

          @flyingferrarim Doesn’t Ferrari provide engines for them? Why are Kimi, Charles and Giovinazzi all driving for Alfa Romeo? What do they share in common other than being Ferrari drivers…

          What money??? They are probably on the hook for paying back $125-250 million and untold damage to the sport and the Ferrari brand from cheating. You think Ferrari cares one bit about finishing P5 or P6 this year? P5 is Christmas time at Ferrari – Santa (Todt) came early this year.

          The entire paddock is wondering how Ferrari is changing the car’s pace as they please and these complaints are obviously towards the FIA. Usually a car’s performance is maxed out but this is the odd scenario where a pole winning car can choose any position on the grid the team wishes to finish in as long as they comply with the settlement.

          Even Toto said that it took Herculean efforts for Mercedes to match the performance of the cheating Ferrari of past years and it took a huge toll on his team. That’s the car Leclerc is driving :-)

          1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 16:26

            Yes, Ferrari supplies engines to Alfa Romeo and in turn has the ability to fill the second Alfa seat with a Ferrari Academy Driver! That is the deal they have with Alfa. To think that Ferrari can tune down or has authority over Alfa Romao on a day to day operational level, is quite frankly ludicrous.

            Ferrari looses out on a lot of money finishing P5 or P6 in the constructors championship if capable of finishing P3. LMAO on your untold damages. Your too funny!

            Facts on this please! I have heard nothing of this and no one knows what is or isn’t in the Ferrari/FIA settlement. You do not stand on any factual ground in the world we call reality.

            Are you implying Leclerc is driving last years car and not this years car? You are just anti-ferrari sprouting non-sense with no facts to back what you claim!

          2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 16:29

            My quote box didn’t take in my above response.

            The entire paddock is wondering how Ferrari is changing the car’s pace as they please and these complaints are obviously towards the FIA. Usually a car’s performance is maxed out but this is the odd scenario where a pole winning car can choose any position on the grid the team wishes to finish in as long as they comply with the settlement.

            Facts on this please! I have heard nothing of this and no one knows what is or isn’t in the Ferrari/FIA settlement. You do not stand on any factual ground in the world we call reality.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            27th October 2020, 16:49

            @flyingferrarim You obviously didn’t watch F1 over the 3 seasons or are conveniently tuning it out. Go look at the points over the past 3 seasons. Max was P2 last year by 14 points over Charles and the years before that he was way behind.

            The Ferraris trounced Red Bull over the past 3 seasons.

            You can try and do as much damage limitation as you want for Ferrari but they did have a secret settlement and they suddenly were slow as molasses (all 3 teams paid the price) except for Leclerc’s car which can miraculously score P2, P3, P4, P4. Oh I forgot, it’s because Charles is at a minimum 0.5-1.0 seconds faster than a 4 time WDC.

            Unless you believe that Leclerc is suddenly 0.5-1.0 seconds quicker than Vettel at an absolute minimum…

            You have to be an amoeba not to wonder how the pace of Leclerc’s Ferrari alternates.

          4. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 18:18

            Are you talking Ferrari’s performance last season or this season? I’m talking this season as per the topic of the article! And the fact you mentioned the settlement gives Ferrari the ability to choose a position on the grid in terms of today.

            If you are talking about last season. All teams had the ability to change power modes last year. Most did not have a qually mode like Ferrari and Merc did. So no, the cars performance isn’t “maxed out” during the race. The part that strikes me, maybe you misunderstand… the settlement happened well “after” last season was over. This settlement has nothing to do with their performance last season nor this season. The purpose behind the “settlement” was that Ferrari promised to stop what they where doing and the FIA wouldn’t divulge “proprietary” information. Right or wrong, that is how it was handled. No performance metric applied in that settlement, unless of course, you have that settlement document to prove it?

            The performance hit was dealt after the technical directive applied toward the end of last season. This did have a lasting impact to the Ferrari’s PU performance. That is no secret and there is no secret that whatever Ferrari was doing, the directive impact has impacted them into this season as well. Obviously Ferrari was doing something that exploited a specific area of the rules. FIA couldn’t say one way or another that it was flat-out illegal but took steps to eliminate that loop hole to make it illegal.

            As far as the time gap between the two Ferrari’s…. there is no smoking gun. Other than it coming down to this years car characteristics. The two drivers have very different styles and it looks like Ferrari is using more of Charles input(s) as he IS in Ferrari’s future. That should be of no surprise. The other fact is that Charles has been a driver that has been able to adapt to the cars he drives. Vettel does not have a good history when it comes to being an adaptable driver. He likes a rear that is well planted as Charles likes it more pointy and responsive. Lets face it, Vettel ISN’T adapting to this car this year. I think you are searching for a conspiracy as you must be a huge Vettel fan!

          5. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 18:47

            Also, tell me…. What are your thoughts behind the time gap between Max and Albon at RB or Max vs Gasly the previous year at RB? That is proof that a car can suite one driver much better than the other. OR one driver adapts better to a challenging car than the other. Whether Vettel is a 4 time WC is not relevant tbh.

          6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            27th October 2020, 20:01

            @flyingferrarim The difference between Max and Albon and Charles and Seb is that Seb was already at Ferrari and was doing fine last year. Your explanation about the changes in the car’s design suggest that Ferrari took a pole and GP winning vehicle and changed it 100%. I seriously doubt that.

          7. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
            27th October 2020, 20:16

            Teams are known to change philosophies from time to time, correct? Ferrari had a lot of issues with tracks last year that required a nimble car to navigate tracks like Hungary. Their only advantage was tracks with long straights (aka power tracks). Ferrari I think was in search for a car to be a little more consistent from track to track. With them thinking they had PU advantage over everyone, they may have assumed they could take a hit on a more draggy car going with that in mind. Then with the new philosophy they also had a learning curve in how to best setup the car from track to track (I think they are getting to grips with that some). Ferrari has also been struggling with correlating what they see in their wind tunnel to the race track (hence why they are investing a lot of $$$$ into a new wind tunnel). But I think the RB comparison is a reasonable one. Ferrari can be a very reactive group and can over react… I think they did with the car philosophy for this year.

  4. I think Ferrari are finally getting to grips with the car and making some good in season development, Im sure they will be regularly mixing it with mclaren/renault/RP by the end of the season.

    But it does seem awkward the difference between the drivers… I mean I dont hold vettel much regard tbh, but he cant be THAT slow… Ferrari mentioned that Leclerc and Vettel will get equal treatment (with a tiny bias to Vettel due to his experience if I remember when Leclerc joined them. I guess Leclerc’s stellar performance last season really swung any preferential treatment to him big time

  5. “I think overall track characteristics, weather conditions and the car itself is the reason why we had that performance in the weekend,”

    Always nice to be a Ferrari driver.. the recognition is always clear..

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