Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Painkillers, “wrong” strategy and disqualification on grim weekend for Leclerc

Formula 1

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Pole-winner Charles Leclerc had endured a particularly luckless weekend at the Circuit of the Americas even before he was disqualified for a technical infringement on his car.

Dosed up on painkillers due to tooth pain, Leclerc overcame the jarring of the bumpy Austin track to take pole position for the grand prix. But his Ferrari lacked the pace to out-run the competition, a plight made worse by the team’s decision to make a single pit stop.

He was told to make way for his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, who pitted twice and eventually took third place. Leclerc was sixth at the flag before the stewards delivered the coup de grace to a miserable weekend by disqualifying his car for excessive plank wear.

Leclerc was unaware he was about to lose his eight points for sixth place when he spoke to media after the race. He said the team’s one-stop strategy made sense based on the information they had, but it quickly became clear a mistake had crept into their calculations.

“Straight away from the beginning of the race we thought that the one-stop and the two-stop [strategies] were extremely close together,” he explained. “After 12, 13 laps I saw the numbers on the dash and they were pretty good for the one-stop, at least in terms of degradation. I wasn’t losing that much time lap after lap.

“Considering our numbers, this was the right thing to do so I went for the one-stop and unfortunately this was definitely the wrong thing to do. For some reason there was something wrong in our numbers today because we were far off the ideal race strategy.”

Leclerc had no complaints over Ferrari’s instruction to him to let Sainz past, particularly as his team mate was being pursued closely by Sergio Perez at the time.

“I actually understood the choice ten seconds later when they reopened the radio and told me that Checo was behind coming back a little bit on Carlos,” said Leclerc. “Then I understood that obviously we couldn’t afford to fight between cars. So I completely understand the reason at the end as soon as they told me I got it, and then I just get on with my race.”

By the end of the day the only upside to Leclerc’s weekend was that the tooth pain he endured had subsided. “I had a tooth infection, which I think is the wisdom tooth,” he explained. “So, I was quite a lot in pain on Thursday, Friday then it calmed down and today was okay.

“I’ve been on really big painkillers since Thursday. For some reason now it’s actually quite fine because I took the painkillers before the race. I’ve had times that were more intense, but nothing that affected me inside the car.”

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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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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9 comments on “Painkillers, “wrong” strategy and disqualification on grim weekend for Leclerc”

  1. Leclerc’s pole to win conversion rate continues to drop – it has now fallen to below 20%. Quite the opposite of Max who has a pole to win conversion rate of 83.33% (25 wins from 30 poles).

    Of those with at least 1 win from pole, only Ralf Schumacher and JP Jabouille both 16.67% (1 win from 6 poles), David Coulthard also 16.67% (2 wins from 12 poles) and Rene Arnoux 11.11% (2 wins from 18 poles) have lower conversion rate.

    Keke Rosberg, Patrick Tambay and Chris Amon are the record holders of most poles without ever winning from pole, all 3 have 5 winless pole positions.

    1. Yes, this is something I mentioned earlier in the season and as you note it just keeps getting worse. Now granted, it’s not really Leclerc’s fault that Verstappen wins again, but he wasn’t even on the podium.

      I like Leclerc, he’s great to watch drive and race. But this is his fifth season at Ferrari, he’s still struggling to emphatically beat Sainz, and (this is admittedly entirely speculative) there doesn’t seem to be much of a leadership role in the way he acts at the team.

      In some ways it feels like F1 is repeating the late 1990s, where there was a generation with one driver (then it was Schumacher) who was just one or two steps ahead of everyone else.

      Between the likes of Leclerc, Norris, Russell, Ocon, Sainz and such there just doesn’t seem to be anyone near Verstappen’s level.

      1. Just askin’: Would “painkillers” show up in a drug test?

        1. Good question. You often get caffeine in paracetamol pain killers because the caffeine makes the paracetamol act faster. Caffeine can be regarded as a performance-enhancing drug but the amount in the paracetamol is small enough not to be an issue. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are generally okay. Opioids are banned but the weak ones such as codeine and tramadol are generally okay because the levels are so low and metabolised so quickly. In general, these pain killers are regarded as performance-enabling rather than performance-enhancing.

          1. WADA are banning Tramadol from 01/01/24, I’m chairman of a UK national governing body for amateur sports and our funding is conditional on compliance with and adherance to the UKAD banned list, which is based on the World Anti Doping Agency list.


            “It should be noted that, also on 23 September, the ExCo endorsed the recommendation by WADA’s List Expert Advisory Group to prohibit the narcotic tramadol in competition, effective 1 January 2024.”

          2. Lapov, thank you for the update. It sounds like a welcome move. There is a significant problem of people becoming addicted to tramadol.

          3. No problem!

            Genuine medical exemptions are obviously allowed of course, but that has to be checked etc. Fortunately in our case, sight of the prescription is sufficient at the moment, but that could change.

    2. The only seasons he had the car to propely win the races he started on pole were ’19 and ’22.

      In ’19 he lost the first one because the car failed, lost at Austria because Max pushed him of the track and only didn’t get a penalty because stewards didn’t want to ruin that epic drive, lost at Russia because Ferrari made a mess out of the strategy and Singapore because Ferrari purposedly inverted the cars to benefit Vettel.

      2022 the car or the team again failed him in Spain, Monaco and Azerbaijan, with France being on him.

      All the rest he started ahead but wasn’t even considered the favourite to win, so i don’t think it detracts from him at all, if anything is a testament of how good he is on flying laps.

      1. Totally agree with your point.
        For a guy who managed to outshine and impress both Vettel and Hamilton on flying laps, two of the best ever on that regard, Leclerc gets really low appreciation.

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