It was every week to neglect for Charles Leclerc.
Now the Ferrari driver is left in search of solutions.
Leclerc did not advance out of Q1 within the Spanish Grand Prix, and the staff took the chance to make quite a few modifications to his SF-23 after he reported quite a few issues with the automotive throughout qualifying.
“I principally had zero rear grip,” reported Leclerc after Saturday’s qualifying session. “The automotive was extraordinarily oversteery and unpredictable. The automotive can be okay and instantly it will snap away. It was one thing to do with the rear proper nook. At first I believed it was one thing to do with my first set of tyres, so we modified for a brand new set, however there was nonetheless this very unusual behaviour from the rear tyres.”
Ferrari took the chance to make modifications previous to the Grand Prix, together with putting in a brand new gearbox. That compelled Leclerc to begin from pit lane, and whereas he did handle to choose up quite a few spots within the race itself, it was solely good for an Eleventh-place end.
Now he, and the remainder of the staff, are struggling to seek out an evidence.
“I don’t perceive what we’re doing unsuitable however we’re doing one thing unsuitable,” Leclerc advised SkySportsF1 following the Spanish Grand Prix.
“I went from a primary laborious (tyre), to a second laborious within the final stint, did the identical factor and the automotive is behaving in a totally totally different means,” added the Ferrari driver.
Leclerc’s struggles come amidst a season with slightly combined outcomes. Whereas Leclerc completed second within the Drivers’ Championship a season in the past, he at the moment sits seventh within the 2023 standings, 128 factors behind chief Max Verstappen, and 16 factors behind teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., who sits forward of him in sixth place.
And it’s Sainz who has been the extra constant driver this season. Apart from a Twelfth-place end within the Australian Grand Prix — attributable to a penalty handed down after a collision with Fernando Alonso on a late-race restart that dropped him out of the highest ten— Sainz has completed within the factors in each race this season.
As for Leclerc, he has 4 factors finishes (together with a podium in Azerbaijan), a pair of retirements, and the Eleventh-place final weekend. All of which add to his repute as a “win or bin” driver.
Proper now, the driving force is in search of consistency from the SF-23, which might result in consistency on the observe for him.
Following the Spanish Grand Prix, Leclerc outlined how he was coping with totally different points with the SF-23 from qualifying to the race itself. “It did (really feel higher), however the limitations had been the alternative,” he advised SkySportsF1. “Yesterday I couldn’t drive, I had a rear that was tremendous free and unusual. We are going to analyse all of this on the manufacturing unit. At the moment was largely the entrance.”
“The second and third stints had been fairly a bit higher,” he added. “The primary stint was actually unhealthy however I believe that was extra tyre associated.”
Taking a look at telemetry knowledge from the Spanish Grand Prix additionally highlights the constraints Leclerc had on Sunday. On this graphic from F1 Tempo wanting on the quickest laps from Leclerc and Sergio Pérez of Pink Bull, you’ll see that absent the top of the primary straight and some turns, Pérez was sooner than Leclerc in every single place else on the observe. (Leclerc’s knowledge is in pink, whereas Pérez is in blue):
Nonetheless, evaluating Leclerc and the SF-23 to the RB19 of Pink Bull is one factor, however maybe extra worrisome for Ferrari is the same comparability to Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. When evaluating their quickest laps from Sunday, you get this consequence from F1 Tempo:
As soon as extra Leclerc is in pink, and Hamilton within the aqua.
Whereas it is a one-lap snapshot, it illustrates the distinction between the Mercedes and their upgraded W14, and the SF-23 Leclerc was combating, within the Spanish Grand Prix.
Whether or not this stays the case going ahead stays to be seen, however this could possibly be indicators of an even bigger drawback for Ferrari over the weeks to come back.
Following the Spanish Grand Prix, Crew Principal Frederic Vasseur highlighted Mercedes’ race tempo. “We made a step ahead this weekend by way of our qualifying tempo, with Carlos on the entrance row after the perfect Saturday of his season to date,” mentioned Vasseur. “Nonetheless it’s clear that, by way of race tempo, Pink Bull and Mercedes are faster than us.”
The staff, based on Leclerc, wants to seek out the solutions shortly.
“And we’ve to clearly perceive, work, however we actually must now,” mentioned Leclerc after the Grand Prix on Sunday. “[b]ecause it’s been just a few races we’ve been combating the circumstances or having a really choosy automotive and in the present day was no higher.”
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