Leclerc finally finds strategy comfort with Ferrari
By Ian Parkes
Monday 19th June, 2023 - 12:30pm
Charles Leclerc finally found cause to celebrate a Ferrari strategy call that worked in his favour.
Eyebrows were initially raised when the Scuderia opted to keep both Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz on track during a Safety Car period after George Russell had hit a wall in his Mercedes on lap 12 of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix.
After starting 10th and 11th, Leclerc and Sainz had risen to eighth and 10th respectively when Russell sprayed debris across the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
In opting to stay out on their medium-compound Pirellis, the duo were elevated to fourth and fifth behind the leading trio of Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton who had all pitted for fresh rubber.
Remarkably, Leclerc and Sainz managed to run to just beyond half the 70-lap race distance before switching to the hard tyres, and retaining their positions on track and through to the chequered flag.
Asked if he was confident in the strategy decision to remain on track, Leclerc said: “Yeah, because the feeling was really good, straight from the start.
“I had a DRS train, with Lando [Norris] just in front. I felt quite quicker but the problem is he had DRS so I couldn’t overtake.
“It was definitely the right choice to do the opposite to Lando in order to have free air and to use our pace, so on that, I was quite confident.”
Leclerc’s comments were in stark contrast to those after qualifying on Saturday when he felt a poor decision in changing conditions cost him a place in the top-10 shoot-out.
The Monégasque driver was also denied at least two race wins last year in his title fight with Verstappen by poor calls from the pit wall.
“Obviously, let’s not speak about yesterday (Saturday qualifying) anymore,” added Leclerc.
“But considering where we started from, I think it’s the best we could have done. We did a good job.
“Where I’m most happy is that the good feeling that I had on Friday during the race simulations was confirmed, and on both of the compounds, the medium and the hard, we were quite competitive, and the feeling was good.
“So there are some positives to take from the weekend.”
Post-race Lewis Hamilton suggested that if Ferrari had reached Q3 and started in a much stronger position, they would have been difficult to either contain or pass during the race.
Despite Saturday’s qualifying woes, there appears to be a glimmer of hope for Ferrari given how well the SF-23 managed to look after its tyres during the race.
As to where Ferrari needs to continue to gain on its rivals, Leclerc added: “It’s just overall performance.
“Where we were really, really struggling at the beginning of the season was consistency.
“We would go from a medium tyre, which was okay, and then to a soft or a hard tyre, and the car would fall apart completely, so that was very difficult to understand.
“It seems that we went in quite a different direction this weekend in terms of set-up, I felt a bit more at ease, and that gave me a bit more consistency on the compounds, so that’s good.”