Charles Leclerc admits trying low-fuel runs was ‘useless’ in Belgian GP practice

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc in the garage. Belgium FP3 August 2022.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc looks on while in the garage. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

With an engine penalty hanging over him, Charles Leclerc admitted it was “useless” to try and set his car up for one-lap pace at Spa on Friday.

Leclerc is one of six drivers to have taken new power-unit parts beyond their permitted allowance for the Belgian Grand Prix, which means he, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Mick Schumacher and Esteban Ocon will occupy the final three rows of the grid on Sunday.

The Ferrari driver took P2 in second practice, but was a whopping eight tenths of a second behind a dominant Verstappen in top spot, who looked to have ‘clicked’ with his Red Bull almost immediately.

But crucially, Leclerc feels the race pace in his F1-75 has the potential to bring him back to where he needs to be on Sunday.

“Overall it wasn’t too bad today,” Leclerc said to Formula1.com after Friday practice. “I mean, of course we tested quite a bit of things.

“I think everybody was on a very different programme, so very difficult to compare this first day coming back from the holidays.

“Overall, the feeling was okay. Low-fuel pace seemed to be poor, but the high-fuel seems to be quite okay, so let’s wait and see. We’ll keep working, try to do a step during the night and come back stronger tomorrow.”

Free practice running is usually a combination of low and high-fuel simulations as the teams prepare their cars for the weekend ahead, but with Spa being one of the best tracks of the season for overtaking and an emphasis on outright engine power for its fast layout, it is not much of a surprise to see multiple drivers take the hit at this race.

“Let’s say we didn’t put as much attention as we normally do for qualifying pace because it will be a little bit useless,” he admitted.

“So yeah, more attention to the race pace to try and come back at the front as quickly as possible.”

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz finished top of FP1 earlier on Friday, with he and Sergio Perez set to start the race with a significant advantage over the top two in the World Championship as they are not taking penalties of their own.