Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Singapore, 2023

Winning the race “wasn’t the plan” for Leclerc

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc said he made a late decision to start the Singapore Grand Prix on soft tyres to give himself the best opportunity to pass George Russell at the start and help his team mate win the race.

The Ferrari driver started the race from third place while team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr lined up on pole. Most drivers opted to start on the medium tyre compound, but Leclerc chose to use a set of soft tyres.

“I pushed to start on the soft just to make sure that I was making the position straight away on George,” he explained after the race.

Having passed Russell to take second place behind his team mate, Leclerc followed his team’s instruction to stay several seconds behind Sainz in order to maximise their chances of making their mandatory pit stops without giving up the lead.

Leclerc said his role in that was to support his team mate. Trying to win the race for himself “wasn’t the plan.”

“Since this morning things have been very clear,” he explained. “That’s also why I went on the soft.

“I changed my mind very last minute just to make sure that I was in front of George in the first stint because then it was really clear it was beneficial for Carlos. Obviously he was making the gap, but also for me because then that meant I could stop before Carlos and try and keep that second place.”

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However the Safety Car was deployed before Ferrari had reached the optimum point to change tyres. Leclerc therefore had to follow his team mate into the pits, which cost him time.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t been very lucky with the Safety Car,” he said. “That meant I had to wait inside the pits for traffic and I lost basically the race. All in all, the win was the priority today and we did a really good race management with the team.”

Leclerc ran third towards the end of the race but was caught by the two Mercedes drivers, who had made a second pit stop during a Virtual Safety Car period and easily passed him. After that he lost a lot of time and was nearly passed by Max Verstappen as he approached the finishing line.

Leclerc said he was managing the car to prevent it overheating over the final laps. “On the hard [tyre] I was trying to do the best, then as soon as George and Lewis [Hamilton] passed me, it was all about bringing the car to the end.

“The car was overheating everywhere so the pace wasn’t really representative there, but it was all about bringing the car to the end. Before that the pace was good and it’s been good race management from the team.“

Ferrari told Leclerc not to follow the Mercedes drivers into the pits during the VSC period. He doesn’t believe he would have gained a position if he had taken another set of tyres.

“Even with hindsight I don’t think it would have changed much because the two Mercedes pitted,” he said. “At the end, on the radio, they told me to do the opposite of Lewis in front. Lewis went for the pits, so I had to stay out.

“Honestly, whether I would have came in or stayed out it would have been very, very similar. So I don’t think it would have been a game-changer.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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21 comments on “Winning the race “wasn’t the plan” for Leclerc”

  1. Leclerc finished over 20 seconds behind his team mate, Singapore GP winner and only 0.3s in front of Max in Red Bull, which had 8th quickest car in Singapore. Even if you don’t agree with that statement (although quali results showed that’s true), surely you acknowledge Red Bull was slower than Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, which would put Max in distant 7th place. Instead he finished right behind Leclerc in P5. Is there still anyone on this planet, who thinks Leclerc and Max are on the same level? That Leclerc doesn’t need significant car advantage to even dream about beating Max?

    1. Both leclerc and Verstappen are great and very talented drivers. No idea what that weird post is you just wrote, but it’s a great example of cherry picking and fallacies to support an opinion you have. There is very little logic in it. It sounds like something young children would say.

      1. It’s as if the poster didn’t read the article or even the headline

      2. Cherry picking? How can you say they are both great, when it’s blatantly obvious Max is much better than Leclerc? Today’s result is a proof of that, what are your arguments for a different conclusion?

      3. It’s a troll, it was looking for someone like you to respond to their post in the way you did.

        Since Keith won’t do anything about these kinds of posters, I’d advice everyone to just stop taking the bait already.

        1. Troll? Since when facts are trolling?

          Quali results:
          P1 Sainz Ferrari
          P2 Leclerc Ferrari +0.1s
          P11 Max Red Bull +1.2s

          Race results:
          P1 Sainz Ferrari
          P4 Leclerc Ferrari +21.2s
          P5 Max Red Bull +21.4s

          Under no circumstances Leclerc should have finished over 20 seconds behind his team mate and just in front of Max in Red Bull, which was 1s/lap slower than Ferrari around Singapore. But he did, so tell me how can you conclude they are both “great and very talented”?

          1. Something that shows clear bias is also how you call everyone with surname, except verstappen.

            Also race pace =\= quali pace, as red bull proved time and time again this year, notice how at monza, hungary for example some cars were very competitive, enough to steal pole from verstappen, and then were nowhere in the race? That’s the difference between quali and race, it happened in hundreds of races over the years in f1.

          2. Under no circumstances Leclerc should have finished over 20 seconds behind his team mate

            Unless the team put him on a non-optimal strategy and didn’t even allow him to optimise that.
            At the speed everyone was running Ferrari could have allowed Leclerc to run for 2-3 laps in front of Sainz before pitting.
            Two near qualy speed laps would have given him a free pit stop. If he was in front of Sainz, drop back and allow Sainz some protected running at near qualy.

            What they actually did was use him as a sacrifice. Great idea for one driver, average/bad for the other. Could potentially have been great and good.

        2. Yeah, I saw some more of his trolling post, so I will ignore him now too.

    2. they really had the worst car of the whole field. lol. once they dont have a car, 1s quicker than the rest, and max is cracking and going back to swearing all over the radio.

      1. Worst car ever to race at Marina Bay, no doubts.
        Red Bull is 2 years ahead of the other teams, but this weeked they were 10 years behind. It was a miracle they scored any points.

    3. I wonder if you saw the opening few races of the 2022 season, and then made the snap judgement of Leclerc being a better driver than Max. Surely, you must have as all it takes is one race to peg a drivers ability.

    4. Ahaha, 8th quickest car??

      I think ferrari, mclaren and merc were more or less up there, and red bull were stuck in traffic and couldn’t show their real pace, but verstappen seemed to have some decent pace. I wouldn’t be surprised if red bull could match the other 3 teams in race pace, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay faster than aston martin.

    5. although quali results showed that’s truth

      No it is not true. Qualy is Qualy, Race is Race. Ferrari was the 4th car out there in race day. Faster than Ferrari was Mercedes, Norris Mclaren, and Red Bull.

  2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    17th September 2023, 19:21

    Real let down of a performance by leclerc. Why he wasnt aggressive and pitted under vsc is beyond me. Was there something wrong with his car in the end?

  3. I don’t know if what Charles says is true, that he was the one who decided he should be on soft tyres, but someone should have tried to talk him out of it. If anyone was going to use the soft tyres it should be the leading driver in the situation Ferrari were in, so they can take advantage of the better grip to create a gap between them and the cars behind. Charles would have been better off on the medium tyres at the start because the field was still very concentrated when the time to discard the soft tyres arrived.

    1. A Ferrari 1 – 2 finish could have happened, but not with Charles starting on Soft tyres. The only way that would work is if Carlos was told to let Charles pass him, but if Ferrari wanted a driver to use Soft tyres and to lead the race then they should have asked Carlos to use the Soft tyres. It was almost certain Charles wouldn’t finish in Second Place when he started on Soft tyres and Carlos started on Mediums.

      1. While I agree it wasn’t good to be 2nd in the first stint on softs with the leading driver on mediums, leclerc said it himself: he used the softs to get past russell at first, it could easily not have happened with mediums.

      2. It was a very good call because it gave him a better chance to get passed Russell. And then the pace was (intentionally) so slow that he could easily make the tires last and hold on to Sainz for the whole stint.. He didn’t have any disadvantage as he stopped at the same time as everyone else but a place higher than he probably would have had he started on mediums. It was the Mercedes double stop under SC that cost him as he couldn’t be released and not the tyre choice.

        1. Exactly, roadrunner.

          It surely would have not been the right call in all circumstances. But here, with Sainz going as slow as he could, that was also helping the rear defender of the pair get those tyres far enough. The SC came pretty much perfectly timed for him to make that stop and he managed to let a big enough gap to Sainz drop before they came in. What slowed his stop was only the fact that Lewis was coming in for his own stacked pitstop and Ferrari had to hold Leclerc a bit.

          I do think he should have built a gap earlier on more, like the team told him, to keep his own tyres alive for a bit longer. But with how the race went it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

          Hard to tell how much this was about him hoping a slightly offset strategy might get them a shot at winning it for himself by getting out ahead of Russel (which from his driving seems to be a more accurate take on his aims IMO) and how much it really was about backing up Sainz for the win. Running within DRS of Sainz would surely haven’t done his softs any good, but the SC meant he did not have to suffer for that.

          In the end, it certainly worked for Ferrari.

  4. At least should have pitted for fresh tyres after being overtaken by Mercedes on lap 52. Had 20+ seconds advantage over Alpine’s Gasly on used Hards. Final position would not have changed, but he could easily have set the fastest lap with fresh tyres and low fuel and not be treathened by Verstappen comeback.

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