Clear explains Ferrari difference from sprint to race

Sam Cooper
Jock Clear wallking with Charles Leclerc. China April 2019.

Ferrari driver coach Jock Clear walking with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. China April 2019.

Ferrari senior performance engineer Jock Clear believes their cars’ fuel load had a big impact on the pace difference between the sprint and the grand prix in Austria.

Red Bull fans could have been forgiven for thinking Max Verstappen would cruise to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix having done so in the sprint the previous day, but that proved not to be the case.

Despite getting away well, he was eventually overtaken by Charles Leclerc in what proved to be the first of three overtakes by the Ferrari man on his Red Bull counterpart.

The ease with which Leclerc passed Verstappen had some people questioning why the Ferrari had not put up much of a fight during the sprint, but Clear said the difference in fuel load had a big impact on the performance of the two cars.

“I think we felt yesterday (Saturday) we were more competitive than we looked,” Clear told the F1 Nation podcast. “We had good pace yesterday but we weren’t able to really close the gap in those 23 laps because tyre deg hadn’t become a problem.

“Don’t forget, you start on a much lower fuel level so the stresses are much less. Today (Sunday) you’re starting on full tanks and immediately the advantage we had on tyre management was clear from the very early parts of the race. So that didn’t manifest yesterday and I think was the difference today.”


A much-needed Ferrari victory

Ferrari, and Charles Leclerc, really needed that win - even if the path was not a smooth one.


Despite their pace advantage, Ferrari again had their hearts in their mouths when Carlos Sainz retired before a problem with Leclerc’s throttle threatened to cost him another win.

Clear said Ferrari have been “living on the edge” but was happy to see Leclerc bring it home.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” the 58-year-old replied when asked how he had felt during the final laps of the race in Austria. “With what we’ve had in the last four races, you just think what can happen next?

“What looked like it could have been a minor issue to start with, you think ‘okay, this is gonna go one of two ways – we’ll just get it home or it will just give up completely’. And luckily, it made it home.

“But my god, we were living on the edge, weren’t we? He wasn’t getting the braking he wanted so he was just braking early and leaving himself a bit of margin. But of course, when you’ve got Verstappen behind you, on the same tyres closing in, you have to make a judgement on how much you will back off.

“He managed it very well, but of course it’s always in his head ‘okay, this is what it’s doing now, there’s clearly something wrong, will it get worse or will it suddenly stop working completely?’

“That really messes with your head.”