Has Charles Leclerc given up on questioning Ferrari’s strategic calls? One prominent F1 journalist believes he has…
Following on from a questionable decision at the Canadian Grand Prix, in which Ferrari sent Charles Leclerc out on intermediates onto a drying track, the Monegasque revealed his frustration at his team’s latest strategic faux pas.
Leclerc expressed his disappointment following the session by saying “We are making our life so much more difficult” as a result of such calls, and respected F1 journalist Peter Windsor believes the Ferrari driver has reached his limit of patience with his team.
Peter Windsor: Charles Leclerc is no longer getting involved in Ferrari’s decision-making
Speaking to Cameron F1 on the F1 Hour, Windsor said he suspects Leclerc has had enough of the unique pressure he races under as the face of Ferrari.
“The impression I get is that Charles has got to the point of his Ferrari career of knowing that he’s pushed as hard as he can possibly push in every direction and it hasn’t really worked,” he said.
“Now he’s just going to be a racing driver and drive the best possible race he can but he’s not going to get involved because there’s no future in trying to do that.
“Politically, it’s too complicated, too much pressure, and he’s got to just focus on his driving. I think that’s where he’s at.
“The problem is that I think his brain is still pretty addled in terms of just having a clean weekend and wondering what’s going to go wrong next. I think that’s the problem with Charles at the moment because he’s quite an emotional guy.
“I think, in the back of his mind, he has this very complex pressure, which Max [Verstappen] doesn’t have and Lewis [Hamilton], to his credit, doesn’t have because it’d be quite easy for Lewis to have a lot going on in his brain as well. But he manages not to have that, despite everything, and to get in the car and still drive beautifully.
“But Charles, I think if they’re saying to him twice, ‘We’ve told Carlos not to race you’, that’s, for sure, because at some point, it’s come up in conversation ‘I don’t want any pressure from Carlos Sainz’. If Charles is thinking that way, then he’s confused for sure. Because he’s a lot better, in terms of his technique and his abilities, he’s ahead of Sainz for sure. But he’s very, very mixed up.
“Obviously, if he could leave Ferrari and go somewhere at least as good if not better, he would do it. But there isn’t anywhere for him to go.
“Red Bull is obviously locked up and Mercedes, unless it’s a swap deal with Lewis, isn’t going to happen. So, other than that, he might as well stay where he is. He possibly needs a new whole structure there around his own life and simplify everything a bit.
“But I mean, he’s not doing too badly. Qualifying in Canada was just a mess, wasn’t it? He was so good on Friday, and in FP3, and, in that race, potentially he should have been up there with Alonso, if not ahead of Alonso and, given how well the Ferrari went on the mediums, I think it would have been a really good race.
“But it all fell apart in qualifying for Charles because they just couldn’t get the temperatures. It happened once in Spain, it shouldn’t have happened again.”
Peter Windsor: There’s disparity between the strategy people and the ‘logical people’
Windsor pointed to the hiring of former Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur as supposedly being the big change that would stop Ferrari from making the operational errors that saw their 2022 title bids fall apart – leading to the resignation of team boss Mattia Binotto.
But there’s little evidence that a more straightforward approach has been taken by Ferrari, and Windsor said there’s no real excuse as to why the Scuderia spent time messing around on the wrong tyre in qualifying.
“I was hoping, like everybody, that Fred Vasseur would change that,” Windsor said.
“Obviously, Charles has a very good feel for racing and a very good feel for what he knows he can do.
“If I was in Vasseur’s position in Canada, I would have said, ‘Absolutely, go out on slicks at the beginning of Q2. Don’t even think about intermediates, you’ve got the ability to handle it, the track is going to dry, get out on slicks now’. And I would have maybe put Sainz on intermediates.
“But knowing that Charles had a problem with tyre temperature, I would have got him on the slicks as soon as possible and anyway, the track was going to dry, so where was the downside? It’s not as if he’s in a Red Bull and can blow the World Championship or something.
“I think, for Max, it was absolutely the right decision, because they’re well enough organised to get the banker lap in just in case the weather changed or red flag or whatever. But, with Ferrari, there was nothing to lose. What were they doing pratting around on intermediates and then putting him on the slicks? Five laps later, he still hadn’t got them up to temperature. It was so easy to read.
“I don’t know, I just think this is another thing about Formula 1, everybody, because of the dependence on data and what the computer is telling you to do and the number of people involved, everybody tends to do the same thing.
“It’s the same with Ferrari, obviously, there’s a massive drama still between the, let’s call them the strategy people, and the logical people, because the strategy people said absolutely get the laptime in on the intermediate, then come in and get the slicks on.
“It’s a shame that Charles doesn’t say ‘Stuff that, I’m just putting the slicks on. I’m doing my own thing’. I think he’s got to the point where he’s given up trying to fight the whole thing and just does what they tell him to do.”