Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is expecting a “tight” battle with McLaren and Mercedes in the United States Grand Prix.

Leclerc will begin Sunday’s race from pole position after pipping Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton to clock the fastest lap time in Friday evening’s traditional qualifying hour.

However, Leclerc was unable to maintain pace with Hamilton’s Mercedes in Saturday’s Sprint race after losing the place at Turn 1, dropping 8.5s behind by the chequered flag.

Meanwhile, having been stuck behind Carlos Sainz in the opening exchanges, Norris was able to rapidly reduce a 5.4s gap to Leclerc down to only 0.8s across the final five laps.

Leclerc insists Ferrari must understand its race pace struggles from Saturday to ensure that it can contest a podium place against the McLarens and the Mercedes’ on Sunday.

“It’s going to be tight, as much as it’s going to be tight also with the Mercedes guys and Lewis,” Leclerc predicted.

“I expect Max [Verstappen] to get ahead and to not be too much of a fight but then otherwise it’s going to be tight.

“I think we have to look into our data and try to understand what we can do better for tomorrow’s degradation because the pace is there, it’s always been there, sometimes we seem to be a bit inconsistent with our race pace.

“Today was the case, we struggled more than others and we’ll try to understand what’s wrong and see if we can do anything different for tomorrow to help that.”

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23. 21.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Sprint Day.

The debut of the Sprint format at the Circuit of the Americas failed to live up to expectations, with the 19-lap encounter devoid of much meaningful on-track action.

That prompted Verstappen, who led every lap on his way to victory, to reiterate his disdain for Sprint weekends, citing “it takes away a bit the excitement” of Sunday’s race.

While Leclerc admits he is in favour of granting the drivers only one practice session before qualifying, the Monegasque racer believes the Sprint should only be held where there is the potential for a disparity in tyre compounds to be used like in Qatar.

“I think there are some things that are nice, others that are a bit less nice,” Leclerc said regarding the Sprint arrangement.

“What I enjoy is the Friday to only have one free practice and to go straight into qualifying. This is something that as a driver I like because you need to… FP1 then becomes a real session. Normally in a normal race weekend, FP1, FP2, FP3 it’s really plenty of laps before you get to qualifying, which is maybe a bit too many. On these weekends I quite like it.

“But then there are maybe other things that we need to look into.

“I think in Qatar it was very exciting, the Sprint race, because we had two compounds that were very different. So one that was extremely good in the first six, seven laps and then had a lot of degradation. And the other that was really good towards the end of the race. And that makes the sprint race really exciting.

“Otherwise, we’ve got races like today where everybody, apart from Carlos unfortunately, uses the Medium and then it’s a bit of a shame.”

Source:  Read More 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *