No way to finish higher than third despite “too much” fuel saving – Leclerc

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says his third place finish in the Belgian Grand Prix was the best result Ferrari could manage as Red Bull finished first and second.

After starting the race from pole position, Leclerc was passed by both Red Bull drivers during the first stint of the race. Sergio Perez overtook him on the first lap and Max Verstappen came by several laps later.

Leclerc finished almost 10 seconds behind Perez and over half a minute behind race winner Verstappen. However he doesn’t believe he could have finished any higher. “This was the best we could achieve today, no doubts,” said Leclerc.

“I mean, you always hope to try and win the race. But on the other hand, realistically, we knew that both of the Red Bulls will be much quicker.

“But our target was to maximise the points with the package we had. And honestly, I don’t think we could have done anything better today.”

After falling behind the Red Bull drivers Leclerc’s closest threat was Lewis Hamilton. However he was able to out-run the Mercedes driver, who gave up his pursuit at the end of the race and pitted for fresh tyres in an attempt to take the fastest lap bonus point.

“Basically we had to react to what Lewis was doing behind, then the Red Bull had to react to us a lap later,” Leclerc explained, adding he was confident of being able to contain the threat from the Mercedes.

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“We were all on the same strategy because everybody was reacting to somebody else’s strategy. So our strategy was based on Lewis and trying to keep him behind during the whole race. He had good pace, but I felt we had him under control.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix in pictures
Leclerc revealed he had to back off more than he wanted to at the end of the race to avoid using too much fuel. The race ran without a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car period, during which drivers use much less fuel, and Leclerc admitted he had to reduce his pace “a bit too much” at the end of the race.

“But on the other hand, when Checo started to push again for a few laps at the end, I could not match that. So I think they also had a bit of margin.

“At one point I was seeing that I was doing the same lap times as Checo. I didn’t know how much he was saving, but I knew how much I was saving. So I was like, okay, maybe we can get second place. But then very quickly I understood that he was just saving.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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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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2 comments on “No way to finish higher than third despite “too much” fuel saving – Leclerc”

  1. So, for me the question is whether teams are being too technical calculating fuel for the race. Maybe, in the long term, it just makes sense to fuel the car for the distance and accept a 0.1/lap slower pace if they are over fueled for the distance. We hear so many stories about lift and coast to save fuel; maybe this is too deep thinking; top the tanks (withing reason) and just run the race.

    1. But then they are slower, especially when the pack is close together, so he might not have held onto that 3rd place at all @stever

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