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Formula 1

Ferrari’s unresolved Q1 exit mystery leaves Leclerc worried

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Charles Leclerc has admitted it is “a bit worrying” that Ferrari has not found a cause for his surprising lack of performance and Q1 exit at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Leclerc was knocked out in the first part of qualifying at Barcelona, where he complained of a strange feeling in the car and had a significant lack of pace through left-hand corners in particular. He was only 19th quickest, 15 places and nearly one second behind team-mate Carlos Sainz in Q1.

Ferrari changed the entire rear end of Leclerc’s car on Sunday morning to try to alleviate his concerns but Leclerc was unable to finish a frustrating race in the points, taking the chequered flag in 11th.

On Thursday ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, nearly two weeks on from that disappointment, Leclerc revealed Ferrari has not found a specific problem.

He went onto stress that while Ferrari is, in general, dissatisfied with its performance so far this year, the absence of an explanation for what happened in Spain was specifically concerning.

“We need to understand these things,” he said. “And for now, we don’t have the reason.

“So, this is a little bit more worrying.

“And that’s where we need to push and try to understand the reason for it. Because obviously, the feeling was really bad.”

Asked by The Race what could have caused him to struggle so much if there was not a clear fault with the car, in the context of qualifying usually being arguably the strongest part of Leclerc’s skillset, he said: “Well, to be honest, it’s the first time that it happened in my career.

“I mean, if I look at the left hand corners, that’s where I was struggling, I said it straight away after qualifying. And we can see that on data clearly, I’m losing six and a half or seven tenths, in all the left hand corners.

“But there are no real reasons for it yet. So, for now I cannot say much more to be honest.”

In a separate interview for F1 itself, Leclerc admitted it could just have been a case of the car or tyres simply being out of their usual operating window and the performance impact being particularly severe.

“We know that we have a very narrow functioning window for the tyres and also for our car, and we were probably out of that functioning window for both,” he said. “And that made it really, really difficult for me, especially in the left-hand corners.”

So what made Leclerc so slow?

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Day Barcelona, Spain

Leclerc’s apparent lack of answers from Ferrari is strange.

Barcelona’s left-hand corners are not plentiful but the two main ones – Turn 5 and Turn 12 – tend to be longer and slower than right-handers.

It stands to reason that if there was a small issue with the tyres, like misjudged preparation or even a batch problem, or something like a brake temperature disparity, that corner profile could have been more punishing.

But this would surely have been something Ferrari’s post-weekend analysis would have uncovered.

If there was emphatically nothing wrong with the car and no obvious sign of an issue with tyre preparation then perhaps the issue would be with the driver – maybe the few damp patches at the start of the session hurt Leclerc’s confidence and knocked him off his stride.

This would not be consistent with Leclerc’s usual extremely high level of performance in qualifying. But even if it was what Ferrari’s reflections uncovered then presumably Leclerc would have just said so.

It implies either Ferrari genuinely does not know why there was such a clear lack of performance, which would be odd and as Leclerc says worrying – or there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Xpb 1211169 Hires

Perhaps Leclerc is not convinced by what he has been told so far. Maybe there is an answer and it is just being kept under wraps.

All we can say is that it feeds into a wider issue of Ferrari underperforming and a growing feeling that Leclerc has to consider whether his confidence in the team is justified.

Leclerc is only seventh in the championship with one podium finish so far this season while Ferrari is fourth in the constructors’ standings.

He said in Montreal that he still has faith, including in Ferrari’s ability to turn around its fortunes this season, not just longer-term.

“We just need to keep pushing, try and bring upgrades as quickly as possible and regularly, which is our aim now to try and close the gap with the guys in front and also close the gap especially in terms of race pace,” said Leclerc.

“Even though I struggled a lot in qualifying on Saturday, the Sunday wasn’t great either. And if we look at Carlos he had a great Saturday, but then on Sunday we struggled again with race pace. So that’s where we are trying to push at the moment.

“What gives me confidence, though, is that there’s a clear direction in where we want to work and improve. And this is what makes me believe in the project.”

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