Leclerc gave up trying to understand Ferrari’s varying form “a long time ago”

Formula 1

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After taking pole position for the United States Grand Prix Charles Leclerc admitted he long ago stopped trying to work out which events Ferrari were likely to be competitive at.

The team’s form has fluctuated over this year’s grands prix. They were outscored by Mercedes and Aston Martin prior to the summer break. But even at that stage they showed potential, interrupting Red Bull’s run of pole positions in Azerbaijan.

They began to turn their season around after the mid point in the championship and in Singapore became the only team to beat Red Bull to victory in a grand prix. They have now overtaken Aston Martin and closed on Mercedes in the four rounds prior to the last event in Qatar.

Leclerc finished the only practice session at the Circuit of the Americas in second place, one tenth of a second behind Max Verstappen. However he said he wasn’t entertaining thoughts of being able to take pole at that stage.

“I don’t think anymore, I stopped thinking a long time ago, because this year I cannot quite understand where we are,” said the Ferrari driver. “It’s very difficult to anticipate where you’re going to be during the weekend.

“For now, we are just focused on ourselves. The car felt good. I was positively surprised because even if everything felt really good, I did not expect to be fighting for pole.”

The Austin circuit is one of the bumpiest on the F1 calendar and appears to have deteriorated since its last race 12 months ago. Ferrari’s ride quality is one of the car’s strengths said Leclerc.

“It’s very bumpy here and the car definitely felt good on bumps today, which gives you quite a bit of confidence to push in all the high-speed, which normally is our weakness. Maybe because our car was good on those bumps, we could at least match the others.

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“Our car was strong in the medium and low speeds. So again, it’s very difficult to understand where you’re going to be coming into a weekend. But for some reason, this weekend, we are the strongest until now, which is good.”

Despite his uncertainty over his car’s competitiveness, Leclerc said Ferrari at least understand the SF-23’s behaviour much better than they did early in the year.

“We’ve learned a massive amount since the start of the second part of the season. We haven’t brought massive upgrades since then but we learned how to maximise our car.

“That helped us to be a bit more regularly at our 100% and today is once again the proof. So it’s a good time for the future.”

His pole position time yesterday was narrowly beaten by Verstappen before the Red Bull driver’s final effort was deleted due to a track limits infringement. Leclerc admitted he could have extracted more from his final lap in Q3 but was pleased with his approach to the session.

“The first one was much cleaner, I put more or less everything together,” he said. “The second lap was a bit more ‘let’s go for it and see what happens’. And when you have this kind of mentality, then you have a bit more mistakes.

“But all in all, I gained more by taking risks than what I’ve lost with a small mistake. So it was just a bit more difficult to put everything together once I started really pushing in that last lap, but it paid off. So I’m happy.”

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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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7 comments on “Leclerc gave up trying to understand Ferrari’s varying form “a long time ago””

  1. I think we all gave up on trying to understand!

    1. Although I can sympathetically relate to this, it is not the attitude of a World Champion. Ferrari needs a Lauda or Schumacher character to turn the ship around.

      1. Agreed – although we have to account for Leclerc not currently really being in a position to openly discuss everything they’ve done, or tried to do. The rest of his comments do suggest that they’re taking an almost corner by corner look at how the car behaves, so I’m sure people with more technical expertise than Leclerc himself are trying their best to figure everything out.

  2. Didn’t COTA get resurfaced once already to to fix the bumps? Surprising to hear it’s back to being bad

    1. It’s related to the soil being very unstable on that region.

    2. They apparently did a pretty bad job. After the MotoGP race was cancelled at Silverstone a few years ago, the track was reworked by the Tarmac Group and Dromo Circuit Design. Its founded Jarno Zaffelli was asked about problems with tracks like COTA and soil conditions by Motorsport reporter Lewis Duncan, and noted: “If you have a problem with the subsoil you don’t have a problem as soon as you finish, you have it in the time. If you have a problem as soon as you finish, it’s because of how you paved. Simple as that.”

      In the same article about this they also note that MotoGP riders were complaining COTA has multiple types of asphalt, and that these handle wet weather differently, sometimes even in one corner (like Turn One).

  3. It would make a good Pikes Peak car!

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