Tyre life cost Leclerc in F1 Sprint
By Mat Coch
Sunday 30th April, 2023 - 2:59am
According to Charles Leclerc, tyre life remains the Achilles heel for Ferrari when it comes to racing Red Bull.
Leclerc finished second to Sergio Perez in the Azerbaijan GP Sprint after ceding the place midway through the 17-lap encounter.
The Ferrari driver had solid pace in the opening exchanges and could hold his own until Race Control enabled DRS.
Perez then made short work of the Monegasque on Lap 8 to take the lead, though Leclerc was able to shadow Perez for the next six laps.
Eventually, he was unable to live with the Red Bull and dropped back, eventually finishing more than four seconds adrift at the chequered flag.
“I don’t know how much of a fight it was but I tried my best,” Leclerc said of the performance.
“We are still lacking some pace in the race; this is definitely where our focus is at the moment – it’s been the case now since quite a bit.
“So we are working on that, trying to find something for the races. In qualifying, we seem to be okay.”
The Ferrari SF-23 has proved rapid over a single lap but has struggled to maintain that pace in longer runs.
That was evident in Bahrain, where tyre degradation saw Carlos Sainz lose out to Fernando Alonso for the final podium position.
It was again a factor for Leclerc during the Baku Sprint.
“Basically, once you start with the tyre degradation, that’s where they started to go away, or that Checo [Perez] started to go away, Max started to come back,” Leclerc said.
“From that moment onward, we had a little bit of a disadvantage.”
The pole-sitter also clarified comments he made over the radio when he seemed to report a ‘cut’ – thought at the time to refer to the power unit.
“Absolutely not. I said a cat – which is different,” he laughed.
“There was a cat in the middle of the road and the Safety Car had to stop – but I think I was probably the only one who saw that?’
“In the exit of Turn 1 there was a cat and the Safety Car braked. It wasn’t too bad, but I just felt like I was going to say…”
After finishing second in the Sprint, Leclerc will again line up on pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix proper at 15:00 local time on Sunday (21:00 AEST).
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