Charles Leclerc says Ferrari must look into why they are struggling to keep the softer tyre compounds happy in a race.
Ferrari went into the first ever race day in Miami as favourites for the win, Leclerc starting from pole position with his team-mate Carlos Sainz alongside him on the grid.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen cleared Sainz just after the start, but during the opening laps Leclerc appeared to have the pace advantage.
That situation soon changed though when Red Bull told Verstappen that Leclerc was struggling with his front right medium tyre.
Verstappen duly closed in, making the pass on lap 9 – a move Verstappen said made his race as he went on to claim victory.
This was not the first time Red Bull have shown a better ability to manage the softer compounds compared to Ferrari, so with his lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Verstappen now cut to 19 points Leclerc knows Ferrari need to come up with an answer.
Asked during the post-race press conference if a response from Ferrari is now needed, Leclerc told reporters: “In a race we need to, especially on the softer compounds, on the medium, soft, it seems it’s been already two races that in terms of race pace they (Red Bull) seem a bit stronger and to manage those tyres better.
“Then in qualifying, we always managed to put those tyres in the right window, which helps us. But on the long runs, we struggle a bit more compared to them.
“On the mediums, we struggled a little bit after five, six laps with the front tyres and then… yeah, we struggled and basically lost the race in that stint, losing the lead and then losing quite a bit of race time there because of the front degradation.
“We need to look at that and be on top of it for the next race. Apart from that, I think on the hards we were very competitive, or at least as competitive as Max.”
Leclerc was presented with an opportunity to attack Verstappen later in the race, with a collision between Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris triggering the Safety Car.
Leclerc harried Verstappen for a few laps but the latter eventually pulled out of DRS range, winning the race by 3.8 seconds in the end.
“After the Safety Car I really thought we would have a shot to actually take back the lead, but it wasn’t enough,” said Leclerc.
“But yeah, it’s like this again – I think we will have to analyse the end of the run on the mediums, which is the weak point of this race.”
Also working against Leclerc was Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull in a straight line, which meant that even with DRS he was not able to pull a move on Verstappen.
Ferrari expected the F1-75 to come into its own in the slower sections but, again with that medium tyre, Leclerc was surprised to see that perceived strength underwhelm.
After Verstappen had joked “the colour” was the biggest difference between the Red Bull and Ferrari cars, Leclerc replied: “Yeah, the colour. The straight-line speed also a little bit.
“But again, I think it’s just the characteristics of both cars. Red Bull are quite quick on a straight, we are quite quick in the medium and high speed – but today I have to say I was quite surprised we were struggling quite a bit more than them in the slow-speed corners. So that was also a weakness on the medium tyres and we need to look at that.”
Next up is the Spanish Grand Prix, an event that has been Lewis Hamilton territory for the last five seasons.
The most recent driver to claim victory there other than Hamilton is Verstappen, who won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull debut.
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