Charles Leclerc clashes with Ferrari as strategy question marks return

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Charles Leclerc could be heard having a terse conversation with his race engineer during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Midway through the Hungarian Grand Prix, having been shuffled behind teammate Carlos Sainz as a result of a slow first pitstop, Leclerc got on the radio to have what sounded like an unhappy exchange with his race engineer.

Requesting that he be “offset in terms of strategy”, Xavier Padros responded to Leclerc by saying: “We are discussing it at the end.” This seemed to annoy Leclerc, who replied, “What do you mean at the end?” before Xavi responded, “We are on it”.

Charles Leclerc had ‘no radio, and no water’

Ferrari had opted against swapping their drivers around early in the race, despite Carlos Sainz being behind Leclerc on a fresh set of softs and their later reluctance to swap Sainz and Leclerc around following the slow stop had triggered Leclerc’s request to be offset from his teammate – only to be met with Xavi’s rather vague answer.

Speaking about the exchange at the end of the race, having come home sixth on track before a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane was applied to demote him to seventh, Leclerc revealed an issue with the radio had caused him to sound aggressive with his race engineer.

“The problem is that we have also a lot of problems with the radio and one out of four words is not understood by my engineer,” he said.

“There are just problems with our radios for three or four races, so we need to fix that. Obviously, my tone of voice is quite high because I need to make myself heard.

“But I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t understand me wrong and that I wanted to go aggressive early and not aggressive late.

“So yeah, it was just about clarifying because of our radio issues.” recommends

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The Monegasque also explained that, just before the race started in 30 degree heat, he found out that he would have to race without any fluid intake…

“I had no water,” he smiled.

“Before the race, I realised the tube was too short. So I couldn’t reach the water, so it was really frustrating!”

Having had no contend with no water, and no reliable radio, as well as recovering from his first stop being nine second long, Leclerc said the five-second penalty for pitlane speeding was the cherry on the cake off a bad weekend.

“The pitstop was quite slow. We had a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. It’s, again, a weekend that is difficult,” he said.

“Honestly, it’s frustrating overall because I felt that, with the pace we had today, even as a driver, when you are feeling like you’re doing a good job with a car you have, nobody really notices it.

“And whenever you are doing a bad job, everybody notices it. So it’s difficult. But, in the end, it’s part of the game.”

Charles Leclerc: It’s up to Ferrari to respond to McLaren pace

With the Scuderia once again not featuring in the battle for the podium while both McLaren drivers fought over leading positions after their recent leap in form, Leclerc said the pressure is now on the Scuderia to respond and improve.

“It’s just up to us now to do a step forward as McLaren did,” he said.

“Now we are on the back foot and it’s been confirmed through the last three weekends. There’s a lot of work to do.

“Today, I feel like the result is much worse than what it felt like – the first stint felt pretty good, then with the slow stop, it really put us on the back foot behind Lance.

“Then I had to push a lot, then we were with Carlos and we lost a bit of time there. Then, in the third stint, I pushed again and the car felt OK. I feel like the result looks worse than it actually is.

“But it’s clear that, compared to Lando [Norris] especially, we are still behind.”

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