Leclerc frustrated at Ferrari’s ‘zero margin’ call

Date published: September 26 2020

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) at the Russian Grand Prix, Sochi

Charles Leclerc criticised Ferrari for giving him misleading information after his stressful Russian Grand Prix qualifying session.

The Monegasque driver and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel had occupied P14 and P15 respectively in Q1, being the slowest drivers to make it through after George Russell had outpaced them in the Williams right at the end.

But there was worse to come in Q2. Vettel crashed out and Leclerc, following him on the road, narrowly avoided collecting the stricken Ferrari with the German still on board, running over some debris of the car as he steered away from it.

The session was red-flagged and when it resumed, with 2mins 15secs to go, Leclerc needed to improve his best time to make it into Q3.

However, needing to hurry to make it round to the start line before the chequered flag, his flying lap was compromised as Leclerc was under pressure to keep a suitable gap to Esteban Ocon’s Renault behind him, initially being told he had “zero margin” in terms of spare time.

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Instead, it turned out he had six seconds in hand – and so could have benefited from more of a tow, which may have made the difference between his eventual P11 and advancing to Q3.

“There was definitely the pace to do something good today, or at least much better than we expected. We missed the chance, so pretty disappointed,” said Leclerc.

“I thought I had no margin at all, I was told on the radio, but there was actually quite a bit of margin and I could have taken a bigger gap to the car in front, so it’s frustrating – but it’s life.

“On the positive part, we are starting 11th so we are the first car [on the grid] to choose our tyres tomorrow and hopefully we can benefit from it.”

Leclerc had earlier sounded shaken when he had his near-miss with Vettel, saying “that was very, very close” over the radio and asking if his colleague was okay.

“It was quite scary, but hopefully he’s fine and it was not much worse than that,” added Leclerc, who started from pole position at Sochi a year ago and finished P3.

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