Charles Leclerc

‘I’m not happy about it’: Leclerc’s radio concerns over Ferrari’s qualifying strategy

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc disagreed with a key tactical call by Ferrari during qualifying, which he said compromised his chances of taking pole position.

He will start today’s race from second on the grid having qualified 0.228 seconds slower than pole-winner Max Verstappen. However Leclerc lapped quicker than Verstappen’s best time earlier in the session and believes he could have beaten him to pole position had he not been put off his stride by having to run used tyres at the beginning of Q3.

That was necessary because he’d run a set of tyres for one lap at the end of Q1. Ferrari sent him out of at the end of the session fearing he could be eliminated if enough drivers improved their times on their final runs.

However it proved unnecessary and Leclerc was called back in after a single lap. He shook his head as he pulled up in the Ferrari pit box and said afterwards he was “not really happy about it.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024
Leclerc felt his extra Q1 run was unnecessary
“It’s something we’ll discuss with the team,” said Leclerc. “I thought there was quite a lot of margin, but obviously being the first qualifying of the year, the team didn’t want to risk it. So we had to run again with another new soft, which again, it puts us a little bit on the back foot for the rest of qualifying.”

Having to run the lightly-worn set at the start of Q3 made it harder to judge the change in grip levels before his final run, said Leclerc.

“In Q3, I didn’t really find the grip straight away out of the box, which was a bit strange, so we’ll look at that. Having a scrubbed set also at the beginning of Q3 I think put us a little bit on the back foot, because the track is evolving and it’s a bit more difficult to read how much front flap you need to put for that last run. And there I think we lost a little bit the rhythm.”

Leclerc’s qualifying radio messages

When Leclerc set a lap of 1’30.243 in Q1 it left Ferrari in a quandary. Carlos Sainz Jnr had gone quickest in their other car with a 1’29.909, 0.334s faster than Leclerc. With the cut-off time for a place in Q2 standing at 1’31.025, they were confident Sainz would be safe from other drivers improving their times, but weren’t sure about Leclerc.

Nor were other teams whose drivers had set quicker times than Leclerc. Both Red Bull drivers, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris also emerged for another run.

When Leclerc asked if he had gone quick enough to ensure his place in Q2, race engineer Xavier Marcos Padros was non-committal:

Marcos Padros ‘And box this lap. And we need a fast in-lap, please. Fast in-lap.
Leclerc Ah we should be in, no?
Marcos Padros So at the moment we are P6, Sainz P1, 29 .9 for Sainz. You were half a tenth slower sector one, almost two tenths slower sector two and one tenth slower sector three.
Leclerc Okay.
Marcos Padros And box now, box.
Leclerc And box.
Marcos Padros Will be stop in front of the garage.

Ferrari opted to send Leclerc out, but the driver wasn’t convinced, and he told them as he left the garage on a fresh set of tyres:

Leclerc I don’t agree with this.
Marcos Padros We need to go. We are just checking the track evolution. We need to make sure.
Leclerc Yes but… Timing, we good?
Marcos Padros So everyone is out except for Sainz.
Marcos Padros At the moment we need to gain positions. We need to gain positions.
Marcos Padros Zhou starting the lap now. Zhou seven seconds. And try to catch Alonso, try to catch Alonso in front. So everyone with new sets except for two cars: Russell, Alonso. Everyone else. New sets. Piastri three and half.
Marcos Padros Piastri pushing behind, two seconds. Okay next car behind pushing, Hulkenberg, seven. And we have 15 seconds margin to start a lap, 15 seconds margin.
Marcos Padros So pushing behind: Hulkenberg, three and a half, and behind Hulkenberg there’s a gap of four seconds to Bottas. So first Hulkenberg.
Marcos Padros Watch for traffic with Hulkenberg.
Marcos Padros Bottas behind at three. Still 15 seconds margin. Behind Bottas there’s a good gap. There’s a gap of 10 seconds if you need it. So Magnussen nine.

Ferrari kept an eye on the first times set by the drivers at the bottom of the timing sheets. As the Sauber drivers, who had been among the bottom five, fell short of beating Leclerc by half a second, it became clear his position was secure and the team told him to come back in:

Marcos Padros Box now, box now, abort. Box now.
Leclerc Ah…
Marcos Padros Box now, box.
Leclerc Of course, box. Of course.
Marcos Padros And stop in front of the garage.

Before the race weekend began Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said they “must not be scared to dare if we believe a bold decision can make the difference when it comes to our performance.” However on this occasion they played it safe, and Leclerc wasn’t happy with the outcome.

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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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6 comments on “‘I’m not happy about it’: Leclerc’s radio concerns over Ferrari’s qualifying strategy”

  1. With only 1s between P1 and P20…Better to be safe than sorry.

    1. Exactly. Losing one place for P2 is much better than losing 14 places for P16.

  2. Wow, Finger pointing didn’t take long
    Truth is You didn’t deliver Chucky

  3. He under performed in Q1. He would have blamed the team if he had been eliminated. They had to send him out for another Q1 lap. Some drivers are moaners who never really deliver on the faith the team puts in them.

  4. Leclerc’s q1 time was more than enough for q2. He has every right to ask his team to follow right decision but same clowns same comedy, it seems as an endles gallows humor.

    1. Why the need for name calling? We all know the time was enough with hindsight, but it seems that others here felt it was an appropriate gamble. Are they all clowns too?

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