How a ‘cat’ led to Charles Leclerc team radio confusion in Baku

Jamie Woodhouse
Charles Leclerc in the cockpit. Bahrain February 2023.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari SF-23 cockpit. Bahrain February 2023.

A cat which went for a wander on the Baku City Circuit led to a misunderstanding over what Charles Leclerc had actually said on team radio during the sprint.

When Leclerc was preparing to restart the sprint action after a Safety Car period, following a race-ending incident for Yuki Tsunoda, the Ferrari driver came over the radio with a message which initially led to some concern.

Leclerc is sadly well accustomed to reliability problems getting in the way while in lofty positions, and it seemed like he was perhaps warning of problems with the Ferrari power unit by saying what sounded to be “cut”.

But, when speaking to media in the post-race press conference, Leclerc moved to clarify that he had actually said “cat”, having seen one on the circuit.

A social media post from Ferrari duly confirmed that a black cat had decided to live life on the wild side by making its way onto the circuit.

Asked if Ferrari had a potential future problem on their hands with this engine ‘cut’, Leclerc replied: “Absolutely not. I said a cat, which is different!

“There was a cat in the middle of the road and the Safety Car had to stop, but I think I was probably the only one who saw that.

“But yeah, out of Turn 1 there was a cat and the Safety Car braked. It wasn’t too bad, but I felt like I had to say it!”

Leclerc upset the odds by claiming pole position for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while he also started the sprint race from the P1 spot.

In the sprint though he was unable to keep Red Bull’s Sergio Perez at bay who went on to take the chequered flag, and while he was successful in holding Max Verstappen behind in the other Red Bull, it is unclear how much performance he was missing due to the sidepod damage picked up in an early collision with Mercedes’ George Russell.

That sprint then confirmed the worries of Leclerc and Ferrari that Red Bull, the dominant F1 force during the opening three rounds of F1 2023, still maintain that advantage in the race.

But having finished P2 to take the best result possible from that sprint, Leclerc is out for a repeat of such result maximising on Sunday, which may even include taking the win as he gets a fresh chance from pole position. recommends

Max Verstappen: Why shouldn’t I defend against ‘Princess George?’

Winners and losers from F1’s Baku sprint Saturday: Perez wins, Verstappen rages

“It confirms a little bit what we thought: the Red Bull still has the upper hand in the race,” said Leclerc immediately after the sprint. “But we, again, must not forget how far we were behind on race pace two races ago.

“So we did a step forward; we are still not where we want to be. But as I said, if winning is not possible then we just need to take the maximum points. And today, there wasn’t anything more, so happy with the second place.

“And we will try, anyway, to go for the win tomorrow, even though the Red Bull seems to be quicker.”

Carlos Sainz has been off the pace for much of the weekend so far in the sister Ferrari, and having finished the sprint in P5, he will be looking for a stronger showing in the Grand Prix as he launches from the P4 grid slot.