Ferrari pick up the pace too late to stop Red Bull running away again

2024 Saudi Arabian GP interactive data

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Red Bull romped to another one-two in Jeddah as Charles Leclerc didn’t have the pace to keep up with them.

But the Ferrari driver took some encouragement from the pace of his car towards the end of his stints. Leclerc found it difficult to get his tyres working to begin with, but his pace improved once they came up to temperature.

But the crucial question remains how far the Red Bull drivers were pushing by that stage in the race.

Leclerc had to fight a rear-guard action to prevent Sergio Perez nabbing second place off him on the first lap. Even then he was only able to contain the second Red Bull for three laps, until Perez flipped open his DRS and breezed by into second place.

The Ferrari driver was still losing up to half a second to the leading RB20s on his original set of medium tyres when the Safety Car appeared on lap seven and the trio pitted together. From there they ran on hard tyres until the end.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
The longer the stint went on, the quicker Leclerc looked
Leclerc dropped back significantly from Verstappen at this time, and took many more laps to pass Lando Norris in the McLaren. But by the end of the race he was lapping quicker than both Red Bulls.

“We were struggling all the time at the beginning of the stints, whether it was at the beginning of the medium or beginning on the hards, we struggled to switch the tyres on,” he explained. “Then towards the end of the stint we were pretty good.

“With the medium, we didn’t really see that. With the hard, we saw that towards the end, but it was too late to actually recover what we had lost at the beginning with the battles we had.”

Leclerc’s pace was strong enough that he was able to beat Verstappen to the fastest lap of the race. They both set their quickest times on the final lap of the race, but only Leclerc beat the time Lewis Hamilton set on a set of soft tyres a dozen laps earlier.

“All in all, it’s been a positive race,” Leclerc summarised. “I think we are doing small steps in the right direction.

“If I look back the last six, seven months, we are the team that have improved the most and we are slowly closing the gap. So the gap is still quite big. But if we keep working like that, I’m sure it’s a matter of time before we put the Red Bull under a bit more pressure.”

However Verstappen’s performance in the final laps was compromised by traffic – he had to lap the cluster of cars which Kevin Magnussen purposefully held up earlier in the race. This made it harder to keep his tyres warm, hurting his lap times.

“With the back markers at the end the tyres were getting a bit cold and it was a bit slippery getting close to them,” he said. “And of course then also you don’t want to take too much risk. We had a good gap behind. So that was probably a little bit of a difficult moment to pace yourself.”

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix lap chart

Nico Hulkenberg gained the most places of any driver in the race, thanks to his team mate. He picked up five places and, with it, the final point.

RB were especially unhappy with Haas’ tactics, which contributed to Yuki Tsunoda losing more positions than any other driver. Having qualified ninth he fell back six places to 15th – where Hulkenberg started.

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix race chart

Haas’ decision to slow Magnussen was driven not simply by their race position, but the discovery he had two 10-second time penalties which effectively ended his chance of scoring points. His pace slowed dramatically from lap 22 as he backed up Tsunoda and his pursuers:

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix lap times

Between laps 21 and 34, Magnussen increased his pace by around one second per lap, delaying those behind him by roughly 12 seconds:

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank#DriverCarLap timeGapAvg. speed (kph)Lap no.
116Charles LeclercFerrari1’31.632242.650
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.7460.114242.338
31Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’31.7730.141242.2350
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’31.9440.312241.7840
538Oliver BearmanFerrari1’32.1860.554241.1450
624Zhou GuanyuSauber-Ferrari1’32.2080.576241.0949
763George RussellMercedes1’32.2540.622240.9742
811Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’32.2730.641240.9237
923Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’32.3070.675240.8350
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.3100.678240.8245
1120Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’32.3380.706240.7547
1227Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’32.3660.734240.6749
1314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’32.3870.755240.6243
1477Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1’32.7061.074239.7949
152Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’33.0261.394238.9749
163Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1’33.3231.691238.247
1731Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’33.4811.849237.848
1822Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1’33.5231.891237.744
1918Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.5603.928232.635
2010Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault2’01.45329.821183.031

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix tyre strategies

Almost every driver pitted when the Safety Car appeared on lap seven. Those who didn’t mostly chose to finish the race using a set of soft tyres instead of the preferred hards. The only exception was Hulkenberg, who had the luxury of his team mate holding up their pursuers.

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank#DriverTeamComplete stop time (s)Gap to best (s)Stop no.Lap no.
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes20.17136
21Max VerstappenRed Bull20.6070.43717
363George RussellMercedes21.0130.84317
427Nico HulkenbergHaas21.0350.865133
581Oscar PiastriMcLaren21.4271.25717
620Kevin MagnussenHaas21.461.2917
722Yuki TsunodaRB21.6941.52417
823Alexander AlbonWilliams21.7231.55317
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin22.1291.95917
1011Sergio PerezRed Bull22.1962.02617
114Lando NorrisMcLaren22.2112.041137
1238Oliver BearmanFerrari22.4572.28717
1331Esteban OconAlpine22.5022.33217
1477Valtteri BottasSauber22.7952.62517
1577Valtteri BottasSauber23.2813.111235
1616Charles LeclercFerrari23.4193.24917
172Logan SargeantWilliams23.6453.47517
1824Zhou GuanyuSauber46.38126.211141

2024 Saudi Arabian 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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9 comments on “Ferrari pick up the pace too late to stop Red Bull running away again”

  1. Charles didn’t even try for second. Thats how bad it is. He just wanted the fastest lap at the end.

    1. Well said!

      On top of that, Max wanted it too and lost. So Leclerc had the pace earlier but chose not to use it.

      On top of that, Bearman was just 24 seconds behind him in the same car. After having just one hour of training (vs Leclerc’s 6 seasons).

      F1 is not that hard anymore, they are just cruising most of the time. That’s why Max breaks all these records.

      1. It’s hard to say if Leclerc had the pace relative to the Red Bulls at the beginning because as you stated he chose not to use his ultimate pace but then neither did the Red Bulls. Max has said before that he is managing his tyres from the out lap, if Leclerc had more pace he too was clearly managing tyres to give him his overall fastest race time. It’s a shame to not see these cars and drivers going flat out for the entire race and see tired and exhausted drivers on the podium.

  2. I was breifly encouraged that the Merc does appear to actually have some pace in it, until I remembered that LH had softs later in the race than almost all of the front running teams.

    And on the subject of LH, I don’t know why given the relatively large distance to the guys ahead of him, but for some reason I felt he drove quite well in this race.

    Without the Red Bull being particularly pushed in the race it’s still unclear what real advantage they hold at the moment. I do believe that Max does like to have a push regardless, but even he would not want to stress the engine more than reasonably necessary.

  3. It seems Ferrari is trying to change their design philosophy from a one-lap car to towards a race car.
    Lecler is doing very well against those rocket ships of RBR.

  4. If Ferrari really had the pace, Leclerc would have fought for that second place. Imho, Red Bull started to cruise after lap 35.

  5. The lap time graph suggests Pérez had it all easily covered throughout the entire race, and one inconsequential fast lap attempt for Leclerc at the very end doesn’t really mean much. Until we see Red Bull really push, we won’t know what they can do. Back in 2015, during the Italian GP it seemed like Hamilton was under investigation, so they ‘created’ a 25 second gap to cover any potential penalties. It was close, sure, but they were able to do it. It’s rare cases like that where the true speed is shown that give a better picture than, like here in Saudi Arabia, an easy 1-2 cruise to the finish.

    Also, a fast lap on the last lap on 43 lap old Hard tyres. That whole tyre thing sure is working great! … Right?

  6. notagrumpyfan
    11th March 2024, 8:33

    Best of the Rest Championship*:
    1) Haas 66 (HUL 33, MAG 33)
    2) RB 43 (TSU 22, RIC 21)
    3) Williams 38 (ALB 28, SAR 10)
    4) Sauber 34 (ZHO 28, BOT 6)
    5) Alpine 22 (OCO 18, GAS 4)

    * regular points structure for bottom 5 teams, incl. FLAP

    1. This is good. Will be useful to track this.

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