Charles Leclerc has revealed it was his decision to pit during the early laps, before Ferrari were ready for him to come in for fresh tyres.
Leclerc lost a significant chunk of time when he dived into the pits to swap from dry to intermediate tyres on Lap 3, due to the Ferrari mechanics not being ready with a set of tyres for him.
While Ferrari have been guilty of not being prepared for their drivers on occasions in the past, Leclerc has revealed it was his very late decision to radio in to change tyres that meant his mechanics weren’t quite ready to go.
Charles Leclerc: I expected to lose time in the pitstop
Speaking to media, including PlanetF1.com, after retiring from the race due to a worsening problem with floor damage on his car, Leclerc confirmed that it had been him, and not Ferrari, who had made the decision to pit for intermediates.
“Yeah, I did call for it in the last corner, so very late,” he said.
The Monegasque confirmed he had weighed up the pros and cons of diving into the pits, explaining that he felt the time lost would be outweighed by the time gained back on track.
“But, obviously, looking at the situation in the last corner, I was sure that, even if we had lost five or six seconds at the pitstop, we would have recovered them during one lap, easily,” he said.
“So I expected to lose some time. I think we will optimise it as a team, just for the guys to be ready a little bit earlier in those types of situation.
“But, apart from that, I think the right choice.”
Leclerc made little impression on the race, having picked up some front wing damage on the opening lap, while he also picked up some floor damage – whether that was picked up in the same incident or a later excursion across the gravel after the swap to intermediates is not yet clear.
The floor damage got worse and worse, resulting in the Ferrari driver even falling into the clutches of rookie driver Liam Lawson – the Kiwi driver engaging the Ferrari in battle in his unfancied AlphaTauri having been given the late call-up to stand in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Leclerc revealed that he had lost an astounding 60 points of downforce as a result of the damage – equivalent to several seconds a lap of time lost.
“Obviously, already the first lap when I had the damage,” he said, “I could feel much more than the guys were telling me on the radio. Initially, it was five to 10 points as what I’ve been told.
“Then we realised that it was more than 60. And more than 60 is a different category. So after that, the first lap, it was all uphill.”
Charles Leclerc: Ferrari were hoping for more rain
As to why Ferrari opted to keep going on track for three-quarters of the race despite the damage, Leclerc said it was purely about waiting for an opportunity that might bring them into contention for a point or two.
“We were just waiting for some rain, to be honest,” he said.
“With some rain, obviously 60 points less is very tricky to drive a car, but it also adds a lot of chaos. You can do something different than others and maybe [score] one or two points, every point count. We didn’t want to give up too early.
“Then we understood that the rain wouldn’t come… well it came, but it would have been too late anyway.”
As for the conditions of the race and coming through the changeable conditions, Leclerc admitted it hadn’t been easy.
“It was very tricky, because you’re always changing from wet to dry, dry to wet, and yeah, it makes things very difficult,” he said.
“But, on the other hand, it was the same for everybody. I think we managed to do quite well, the stops and the different strategies. But with 60 points less, there’s not much we could have done better.”
Leclerc admitted that the Dutch Grand Prix, marred with errors and off-track moments with both cars, had been very difficult for Ferrari.
“In terms of result, obviously with a DNF like this, it’s not good, but it’s been extremely difficult,” he said.
“In terms of balance, it is probably the most difficult weekend of the season and drivability of the car. So we need to look into it because the last two or three races were getting better on that on that side of things, and for some reason, it wasn’t quite right this weekend.”