While several of Charles Leclerc’s peers may not be impressed with the different format being trialled at the Hungarian Grand Prix, he has picked out a way in which it is having a positive effect.
Drivers only have 11 sets of slick tyre compounds for the Hungarian GP race weekend rather than three as part of the Alternative Tyre Allocation [ATA] trial, an initiative designed to reduce Formula 1’s carbon footprint.
In addition, drivers will also be required to use the hard tyre in Q1, the medium in Q2 and soft in Q3, rather than having a free choice on which compounds they use throughout the qualifying sessions.
Charles Leclerc sees pecking order uncertainty as advantage
The reduced tyre allocation has not sat well with various drivers, Lewis Hamilton and World Championship leader Max Verstappen among those to criticise the format.
But, with the FP2 standings made up of largely unrepresentative times, since many drivers were forced into tyre-saving mode, Leclerc believes it is “exciting” that we go into qualifying day without a read on what the true pecking order is going to turn out to be.
“Very difficult to read into today’s free practice, I think it’s something we expected being the first weekend on this format with this tyre allocation,” he said after FP2.
“Everybody’s trying different things, but it’s nice because I think we will go into qualifying not really knowing where we are and I’m sure that’s exciting, but the feeling was pretty good, so this is positive.”
Charles Leclerc doubts Ferrari closed in on Red Bull
Ferrari set the pace in FP2 courtesy of Leclerc, his 1:17.686 seeing him claim P1, just 0.015s up on McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Red Bull’s runaway Championship leader Max Verstappen, meanwhile, managed only P11 and was six-tenths off the pace as he looked to protect his pool of tyres for the remainder of the race weekend.
Leclerc then does not believe Ferrari have genuinely narrowed the deficit to Formula 1’s dominant team and driver.
Asked if Ferrari have closed the gap to Red Bull on one-lap pace, Leclerc replied: “Not really. I mean, they only used one set [of tyres] I think in FP2.
“So we still expect them to be the strongest team.”
Leclerc does have a pair of pole positions to his name in F1 2023, both achieved in Baku as he took pole for the Azerbaijan sprint and Grand Prix.