“Inter would be much quicker”: Why Leclerc made the “very wrong” pit stop Sainz avoided

2022 Monaco Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc said Ferrari made multiple mistakes with its strategy in the rain-affected Monaco Grand Prix, starting with his first pit stop.

Having led the early stages of the race, Leclerc slipped to fourth place at the finish.

His day began to go awry as the track started to dry and Ferrari brought him in to fit intermediate tyres. The team was reacting to Sergio Perez, who had pitted two laps earlier to switch from full wets to intermediates and was immediately quicker.

Leclerc’s race engineer Xavier Marcos Padros had already suggested the possibility of waiting for the track to dry more fully and going straight from full wets to slicks. However after Leclerc was told Perez had switched to intermediates he drove a full lap then told his team: “Inter would be much quicker, for sure.”

Later on that lap, as Leclerc exited the chicane, Marcos Padros told him to pit. Leclerc did not question the decision, and Ferrari put him on intermediates.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2022
Leclerc led the early stages on wet weather tyres
Meanwhile, his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr was having the same conversation with his race engineer. However, Sainz was doubtful that switching to intermediates was the correct decision, and less easily persuaded of the need to react to Perez’s pit stop.

Told Perez had pitted for intermediates, Sainz replied: “I’m not sure it’s the right call. It’s nearly ready for dry.”

“We would like to cover Checo on our side,” his race engineer Ricardo Adami told him. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Sainz asserted. “In five, six laps, it might be dry.”

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Nonetheless, Ferrari did call Sainz into the pits, only to cancel the instruction. Leclerc came in shortly afterwards, but lost his position to Perez.

Ferrari reacted to Perez’s pit stop
Leclerc’s troubles worsened from that point onwards. He lost more time in traffic and again having to queue in the pits behind his team mate when they eventually pitted for slicks. However, he stressed the original decision to change to intermediates had been “very wrong”.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said Ferrari was prepared to skip the intermediates and switch straight from wets to slicks if necessary, as Sainz eventually did. Lewis Hamilton had used that strategy to win the same race in 2016, Binotto pointed out.

“It was a scenario we were discussing between us before the race,” he said. “It already happened in the past – I think it was Hamilton here in Monaco – from extreme [wet] switching directly to dry.

“So it’s something which we were aware of and was part of the discussion we had and the judgement which would have been necessary during the race.”

He said the team rely on the drivers’ feedback to decide which tyre type to fit. “The drivers call in that respect – because they’ve got the feeling of the tyres and the track, how much it is wet and the grip they’ve got – was essential.”

Sainz said it was a “huge challenge” to discuss the tyre strategy while navigating the narrow Monaco circuit in treacherous conditions. “But the important thing is that by the time that everyone started pitting for inters, and they were telling me that everyone on inters was very quick, for me we were not very far off from slicks.

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“So it was worth – not taking a gamble, because it was not a gamble, it’s Monaco and it’s still difficult to pass – but to make sure that we waited until the slick to pit and we save a pit stop. I was trying to transmit to the team that was my feeling, that this was my intention or at least what I thought was the right call.”

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Monaco, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Monaco Grand Prix in pictures
Sainz said he worked out Perez was not catching him quickly enough to threaten his position. “I could calculate more or less the rate that Perez was catching and I figured out that by the time he was going to catch me, it was going to be time to put the slicks.”

However Sainz later lost time behind Nicholas Latifi, and fell behind Perez when he pitted.

Leclerc, however, said he didn’t realise Ferrari were going to put him on intermediate tyres when he made his first pit stop.

“I was not aware that we were pitting for intermediates,” he said. “We didn’t have the time to speak about it.

“Obviously I got the call and I listened to it. So we didn’t have the time to discuss because it was at a particular moment and I think the aim was to react to Perez.

“But we’ll analyse all of this. Obviously it’s disappointing and it hurts especially at home, but it’s the way it is.”

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Charles Leclerc’s radio messages

Before Perez pitted, Leclerc and his race engineer were already considering a switch directly to slicks:

Marcos Padros Let me know track condition.
Leclerc It’s drying up quickly
Marcos Padros Okay. Copy that. And other drivers thinking about going straight to slicks. Let me know your opinion on that.
Leclerc Yeah could be a thing but not now.
Marcos Padros Understood. Sainz lap time 33.0.
Marcos Padros And if possible, try to use wet patches for tyre temps.
Marcos Padros Gap to Sainz behind, Sainz lap time 32.6.

However when Leclerc was told Perez had pitted, he said putting intermediates on could be advantageous. There was no further discussion of slicks from either side before he pitted:

Marcos Padros So Perez just pitted now, we believe for inters. Confirm inters on Perez.
Leclerc Inter would be much quicker, for sure.
Marcos Padros Copy, understood.
Marcos Padros Gap to Sainz behind 6.3. I will let you know the lap times from Perez.
Marcos Padros And box this lap, box, pit confirm.
Leclerc Box this lap.
Marcos Padros Multi-function tyre position seven, tyre position seven when you can.
Marcos Padros And box now, box. Verstappen also pitted.
Marcos Padros Will be tight with Perez.
Marcos Padros Gap to Perez in front, 4.4.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr’s radio messages

Sainz responded to the news of Perez’s pit stop differently, casting doubt on whether the team should fit intermediates:

Adami For info Safety Car window is open for inters, just in case.
Sainz Copy.
Adami Charles lap time 32.0. For info Gasly with inters 31.2 at the back. We are monitoring. Get your plan.
Adami Hamilton has pitted for inters, for reference, and Perez is three seconds behind.
Adami And push, in-lap. Perez is in for inters. Push, in-lap.
Sainz I’m not sure it’s the right call. It’s nearly ready for dry, yeah?
Adami Okay, copy, we’ll come back to you.
Adami We would like to cover Checo on our side.
Sainz I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
Sainz In five, six laps, might be dry.

Despite Sainz repeatedly casting doubt on whether they should fit intermediates, Ferrari initially called him in for a pit stop, then changed their minds. Leclerc came in instead:

Adami And box, confirm, box. We need to respond to Checo.
Adami And stay out, stay out.
Sainz Copy, stay out.

Sainz made it clear he wanted to stay out until the track was ready for slicks, which he did:

Adami Charles lap time 31.4.
Adami Verstappen four seconds behind.
Adami Charles is coming in for inters. Verstappen 2.8 behind, 2.8.
Sainz Happy to stay out.
Adami Okay. Understood.
Sainz Stay out until dry.
Adami Copy.
Adami Checo is in front of Charles. Head down.
Sainz Who?
Sainz Checo is in front of Charles with inters. 25.2 lap time.
Sainz Perez is nine seconds behind, nine seconds.
Adami Let me know what you think for slicks.
Sainz It’s going to be a few laps but not a lot.
Sainz Okay understood. And Mick is on slicks already, for reference, we are monitoring.

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2022 Monaco Grand Prix

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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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21 comments on ““Inter would be much quicker”: Why Leclerc made the “very wrong” pit stop Sainz avoided”

  1. As it seemed during the race, Leclerc might be upset things did not go his way and the strategy was the wrong one. But it’s pretty clear he was part of that strategy. His teammate just made the better judgement and made it clear to the team he insisted.

    1. It reminds me a bit of how Mercedes bent themselves into hoops trying to say sorry to Hamilton, and Lewis being angry about the strategy call, for losing out to his teammate after he himself insisted on stopping with a SC coming out which proved to have been the wrong call since there was not enough time.

    2. @bascb

      I don’t think it was clear. They never informed him he would lose track position to Checo once he pitted for inters. He just agreed that inters would be the quickest tyre.. but the pit wall should have told him that he’d lose the race lead if he pitted. Still, the biggest blunder was not the call for inters.. but the fact that they asked him to pit for dry tyres when the same lap Sainz was pitting when there was just 3 seconds between them. That really lost the race for him.

      I don’t understand how this article is trying to spin it around and say Leclerc is partly to blame. This information is with the pit wall… and they didn’t communicate the consequences of any pit stop to Leclerc.

      1. I am not sure even they themselves would have known that @todfod. And I disagree that would have made much difference. Had he stayed out, he might have lost more time too, depending on how bad his tyres were, how the track was developing etc. His teammate was clearly able to tell.

        Leclerc is not really “to blame”. But he is also talking BS when he tries to blame the team for ruining his day. Exactly like Hamilton was wrong to blame the team years back. The drivers are part of the decision, especially in wet races.

        1. If he stayed one more lap, he wouldn’t have lost 3rd position to Verstappen. At the end he was a lap too late the first stop in inters, than a lap too early for the switch to hard.

      2. Exactly, if Leclerc does not know which tyres Ferrari will put him on, there’s no way for him to tell his team it’s the wrong call. All he did was pointing out that – at that specific time – he would lap faster with intermediates than full wets. He never said Ferrari should pit for inters.
        For me it seems like Ferrari should have covered Perez immediately after his pit stop with one of their drivers (maybe Leclerc to make sure Perez does not jump him?) while telling the other driver to stay on full wets until he can switch to dry tyres. With that kind of strategy you can’t lose because (1) you are in front of Perez with the same strategy as Perez and (2) you maintain track position with the driver that stays out on full wets

        1. They could have covered Perez with Leclerc straight away but they would have seen Perez gaining on Norris so probably would not have thought it necessary to pit as Perez would be stuck behind the slower Mclaren. As soon as Perez started setting sector times on inters it was too late to cover with Sainz straight away.

          The lap after Norris pitted it was the too late for either Ferrari to pit. Perez was already a within a pitstop of Leclerc having set the fastest lap of the race so far.

          McLaren’s strategy with Norris cost him 5th but it also cost both Ferraris.

          If Norris had stayed out another few laps before switching straight to dry tyres, the gap to the top 3 would have grown and Perez would have been consigned to 4th at best.

        2. @paeschli to me it sounds like Ferrari wanted Sainz to cover off Perez, not Leclerc, but Sainz said no so they did it with Leclerc.
          Adami We would like to cover Checo on our side.
          Sainz I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

          To me it seems Ferrari made the right decision and was trying to make sure they had someone on Perez’s strategy and someone on Max’s strategy, they wanted Sainz to do it but when he said no they used Leclerc. I’d say the plan was correct but Sainz was only replying to his situation, (because that’s all the info he had), not the teams.

          I think it is something they need to work on before the race because there is no time at Monaco for the engineer to get the full plan out in time. Sainz should have been told box, team box. It should not have been up for discussion, prioritise the driver in front and cover alternate strategies with the driver behind.

  2. Leclerc is going to have to be more assertive with his team if he want’s to win the title this year. Otherwise Ferrari look like they will let him down.

    1. It reminded me of Norris in Sochi last year.

      1. Other than Chuck let his team make the wrong call while Lando wouldn’t let his make the right one.

  3. Simple question will I lose track position?

    Yes you will Charles.

    Ok, let’s wait for slicks!

    1. The problems is that by the time they could’ve had that discussion it wasn’t obvious yet that they would lose track position.
      Also because 1.5s was lost during the pitstop (compared to Perez).

  4. He did exactly the same strategy as Perez, but he made the second pitstop too early. By going further on the wets and no inters didn’t benefit Sainz at all, he only passed Leclerc because Leclerc did his pitstop too early. Perez’s strategy was the optimum one in the front. He is the only driver that gained time and position on the Ferrari’s.

    The fact that the drivers made different strategy calls in the back of the field had no clear indication to the front drivers due to the value of track position. Example; Hamilton and Ocon.

  5. Charles Leclerc’s radio from the Monaco Grand Prix showed he had agreed a switch to intermediates would be “much quicker”, even if he later criticised the call.

    Can anyone point out to me in the above transcript where Leclerc ‘agrees to a switch to intermediates’?

    Inter would be much quicker, for sure.

    is much too vague of a statement – it merely states that inters are faster than wets at this particular moment.

    1. If anything

      Okay. Copy that. And other drivers thinking about going straight to slicks. Let me know your opinion on that.

      Yeah could be a thing but not now.

      shows Leclerc thinks the track is drying quickly enough that a direct switch to slicks might be the faster option. Ferrari not telling him which tyre they will put on (and not telling him he will lose track position if he pits for inters now) is a huge blunder from the team.

      1. @paeschli forget about telling him, they shouldn’t have done it at the first place. There was no need to put intermediates in Monaco. Even if Checo was lapping faster he would still be behind unable to pass with 1 pit stop for everyone. I can’t understand a scenario were they simulated it would be better.

        The real problem was that they could react to Red bull switching to slicks first, they had to respond quickly as soon as it became clear that it’s the tyre be on.

    2. Indeed too vague – no significant information exchange (other than Chuck confirming inters would be faster on a drying track at that point) and no direct proposal.
      Perez pits on 15 and Leclerc on 17 not 16 so the wall were already rolling the dice on a direct switch but Perez’ fast second lap out lost them the position – then they tried to reverse the bet costing more places.

  6. I think the different personalities really showed yesterday. Leclerc is a more calm person, which really helps him in many situations, but his introversion makes him less assertive. While Sainz is very assertive and took a stance against the team, Leclerc gave all control to the team. Sainz set out the strategy to the team very early, not asking, but stating that they would be skipping inters.
    It is a learning point for Leclerc, and a very difficult one (I know because I struggled with this too). But in situations like these in the future, he should be more assertive towards the team. The other way, his engineer should of course ask him more questions. “Carlos is skipping inters to go straight to dry tyres. What do you think?” is all it takes.
    Ferrari messed up. And considering they will likely mess up more, Leclerc should be improving on his part a little bit.

  7. Carlos Sainz working out differential equations while driving Monaco. Versus me sitting in a quiet class room flipping back and forth to the table in the back of the book sweating and looking at the clock.

  8. I have commented yesterday about how Ferrari engineers seemed, at least for me, very dependent on data, AI, software calculations and they have a tendency to over analyse and complicate obvious simple situations. It was just my personal impression.

    Giorgio Piola in his podcast of Motorsport Italia with Franco Nugnes today has revealed that GPS data according to Binotto were available only from the swimming pool to the start finish line. Giorgio confirmed also that in the press room not everything was working as expected apart from real timing and a single monitor… It’s not an excuse but maybe this what could have amplified the issue and explains why the strategy department went into panic mode.

    Giorgio also was of the idea of that engineers that heavily relie on data and simulations could be in trouble when they face real world situations when they need to react and cited Newey as an example. Newey has been known to be the last dinosaur designer who doesn’t use CAD software to design the car. He said that Newey throughout his career has followed development paths or introduced set up changes to his cars that made no sense from a simulation point of view but worked in real life.

    Ferrari need someone with racing knowledge and guts to be in charge of that messy pitwall. Otherwise, it will only get worse with both championships already on the line.

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