Ferrari feared Silverstone would be “one of our worst tracks”, admits Leclerc

2023 British Grand Prix

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Ferrari expected a difficult British Grand Prix weekend, Charles Leclerc admitted, after the team’s cars finished at the bottom of the points places.

Leclerc qualified fourth, one place ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, but both finished five places lower than they started.

The team deviated on strategy from many of their rivals by bringing Leclerc in for an early pit stop, then pitted him a second time when the Safety Car came out. However Leclerc said the team’s lack of pace, rather than the timing of the pit stops, was the reason for its poor result.

“Not having the pace puts us in a situation that then it is very tricky to manage whatever situation there is so then it looks like bad luck,” he said. “The timing of the Safety Car was definitely not the best for us and was beneficial for many other drivers.

“But at the end, we just didn’t have pace. It’s not like we degraded the tyres more than others, it’s just that Mercedes and McLaren were stronger than us.”

After Leclerc kept George Russell behind him early in the race, frustrating the Mercedes driver with his defensive tactics, Ferrari tried to consolidate his position with an early pit stop. The team hoped to prevent Russell pitting before Leclerc and gaining the advantage of fresh tyres to get ahead.

But the plan backfired when Russell did not react to Leclerc’s pit stop and, several laps later, the Safety Car appeared.

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“I managed to keep George behind for the first part of the race, then I think we pitted [so] George [could] not to pit and undercut us, but that was too early,” said Leclerc. “Then we had the Safety Car once I started pushing on the hard and we get overcut by most of the people.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Silverstone, 2023
Gallery: 2023 British Grand Prix in pictures
Leclerc said the team lacked the pace to compete with the likes of Mercedes and a resurgent McLaren at Silverstone, which exposed the SF-23’s weaknesses.

“We knew that this track was going to be one of our worst tracks just because of the high speed corners,” he said. “This is one weakness of the car.

“It was kind of a positive surprise to be so close yesterday, not timing-wise because I didn’t do a great lap in Q3, but we were very close to Red Bull, I think, on the time lap.

“But then in the race, we have been struggling a lot and mostly in high speed corners. So I believe that we know why we are struggling, it’s clear for us we are pushing a lot on the development, especially for these high speed corners, and hopefully we will be better at the next race, the track characteristics should fit our car better.”

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2023 British 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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9 comments on “Ferrari feared Silverstone would be “one of our worst tracks”, admits Leclerc”

  1. He’ll know better than me, but still; they were 4th and 5th in qualifying yesterday. Slower than McLaren, sure, but it was close and with a better lap for Leclerc 3rd was realistic. Actually without that mishap for Leclerc in Spain in qualifying, Ferrari would slot in 2nd and 3rd on average qualifying position this season.

    Since the start of this era, Ferrari has had a decent to good car but for whatever reason it’s simply awful on the tyres and they can’t fix it. Last year it might even have been a bit better, but you still had plenty of races where Leclerc was keeping pace with Verstappen in the first 10-15 laps and then he’d just trail off completely.

    1. MichaelIN,

      Since the start of this era, Ferrari has had a decent to good car but for whatever reason it’s simply awful on the tyres and they can’t fix it.

      You hit the nail with the head ! Ferrari suffers weight, even last year with the F1-75 which was the best all around car straightaway out of the box. Once fuel is loaded into the car, the balance of the car changes and the drivers have to adapt their driving styles for the race in order to minimize tyre degradation.

      On the other hand, last year the RB18 and before reaching the weight limit in Hungary was ~15 kg overweight but still better than Ferrari in terms of tyre management. Giorgio Piola and since 2018 has been making a comparison between the designs of the top 3 teams (Mercedes, RBR and Ferrari), the one thing he kept repeating over and over again is how Mercedes and RBR are in a league of their owns in terms of suspension systems and brake ducts.

      Last year he highlighted how the F1-75 front suspension was its achilles heel explaining how it was a conservative solution inherited from previous car generations. Piola admitted that he was baffled when he first saw the RB19 new anti-dive suspension. He said that no designer bar Newey would dare to heavily modify a suspension that just works fine but said that what set him apart.

      If Ferrari were serious about solving its chronical suspension system issues, then they would have hired Rob Marshal who lately joined McLaren. Vasseur has announced that he signed an important figure that will start working for the team in 2025. I don’t if it will suffice or no but Marshal for me was a no brainer.

      As for today’s race, the team again has demonstrated a lack of both agility and reactivity. Ferrari based their strategy on Friday long runs when the track temperatures were 20°C higher with the new revised Pirelli rubbers. From the first stint, it was clear that the soft tyre was the race tyre based on how it performed on Russell’s car.

      Again the team made the usual mistake of pitting Leclerc when there were no tyre issues and track position was king. Leclerc was able to hold off Russell on the soft for more than 20 laps. I don’t know when they will learn that pitting when there are no issues whatsoever is pointless. As for Carlos Sainz, I think he deliberately wanted to prove his point by insisting on Adami to make the call. It’s almost he knew that he was going to make the wrong call !

      Vasseur need to step up and take things into his own hands or he will soon become the next Binotto. The entire Pitwall needs a reshuffle asap.

      1. He said he would observe the situation for the first few races, so hopefully the observation period ends soon and the time to fire people starts.

        1. Yeah, surely Vasseur now has seen enough to know their strategic thinking is just not on it at all @esploratore1, @tifoso1989. Tyre calls, letting their drivers fight it out, or telling them to stay put at the wrong moments, add bad calls in qualifying and it is just a shambles.

          Sure, it is frustrating that Ferrari have not managed to improve their car vs. last year, but that is something I could understand, but those strategic mistakes have cost them so many points they could have had that even with the best car they would struggle to be ahead.

      2. @tifoso1989 I missed that McLaren signed Marshall. That’s a good hire.

        It wasn’t evident from the highlights of the race, but I’m not surprised to hear Ferrari once again stuck to an outdated plan. And this silliness of undercutting whilst on the harder tyre … has this ever worked to their benefit? They keep doing it! It’s weird.

        And while the car is still very much a Binotto project, @bascb is totally right that these operational issues need sorting out. Sooner rather than later, and that’s definitely on Vasseur by now.

  2. However Leclerc said the team’s lack of pace, rather than the timing of the pit stops, was the reason for its poor result.

    It seemed to me poor strategy was the reason why Ferrari finished in 9th and 10th. Charles pitted for new tyres before George did, and he started on Soft Tyres.

    1. It seemed to me poor strategy was the reason why Ferrari finished in 9th and 10th.

      Poor strategy is just one of the reasons, not just this season but for a number of years.
      They can’t blame Binotto – he’s gone.
      They can’t blame Vasseur – unless he’s working slavishly from a Binotto handbook.
      Both of those have followed others that didn’t get things right (allegedly)

      Someone, or some people, have been there all the time.
      How can multiple team principals fail to spot the people responsible?

  3. Would not be Fezza anymore if they had gone for the softs.

    1. Their favourite strategy is to do the opposite as everyone… maybe they think unique or different in strategies is short for genius.

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