Charles Leclerc pinpoints the moment his Singapore F1 Grand Prix was lost

Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco preparing at team garage during the third practice session at the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit, Singapore, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (AP Photo)

Charles Leclerc believes that backing Carlos Sainz in the race was the team’s collective plan at the 2023 Singapore GP. Speaking after the race to on-site media including Sportskeeda, the Ferrari driver explained that he was quite unlucky with the safety car and defending the Mercedes behind was the priority during the race.

After the start of the race, Charles Leclerc was able to run in the top three positions but as the race progressed, the Monegasque got unlucky wit the safety car and pit stops. He was able to defend the Mercedes and McLaren for a short while but was almost a sacrificial lamb in the team’s strategy to aide Sainz to victory. While the Ferraris had the qualifying pace and had claimed pole and third spot on the grid, in the race the Mercedes were expected to be more competitive and had the advantage of an extra set of medium tyres to play with.

Asked by Sportskeeda, if he had any chances of winning in Singapore at any point, Charles Leclerc replied:

“Honestly, this wasn’t the plan. Since this morning, things have been very very clear. And that’s also why I went on the softs. I changed my mind very last minute, just to make sure I was in front of George in the first stint, because then it was very clear it was beneficial for Carlos. Because obviously it was making the gap, but for me it meant that I couldn’t stop before Carlos and keep that second place."
"Unfortunately I haven’t been very lucky with the safety car, that meant I had to wait inside the pits for traffic and there I lost basically the race. But yeah all in all the win was the priority today and we did a really good race management with the team.”

Admitting that a win for himself wasn’t Ferrari’s plan, Charles Leclerc claims that he made an early switch to soft tyres on his own to keep the Mercedes at bay. The idea behind it was to build a gap on George Russell so that his Spanish teammate could build a lead ahead. He felt the Maranello squad managed the race well and Sainz converting his pole position to a win was top priority.

The Monegasque became a casualty to traffic in the pit lane as most of the grid came to pit under the safety car. After which, Leclerc was running fifth throughout the race, which looked like a pace management affair when it came to his tyres. He eventually got promoted after Russell crashed. He felt the Doppler stacked pitstop during traffic was when he really lost the race.

Charles Leclerc explains the Singapore GP priorities revolved around aiding Carlos Sainz to a win

Charles Leclerc claims his second stint on the hard tyre made his race difficult as he tried to aide his teammate to victory. The Ferrari diver complained about losing out on the safety car and pistops. He also claimed his car was overheating in all areas in the warm temperatures in Singapore, particularly its engine. Apart from helping his teammate, Leclerc's race primarily involved pace management and finishing the race in the top 5.

Asked about how difficult his race was, particularly with the hard tyre, Charles Leclerc replied:

“Well I mean it was hard on hards. To be honest I think we did a really good race management overall. The soft thats exactly what we wanted to do, to take the position to George, try and create the gap for Carlos to be able to stop one lap later than me, without losing the lead. That’s exactly what we did. Unfortunately with the safety car, that put me in the back foot because I had to lose four five positions because of that."
"Then on the hard I was trying to do the best, as soon as George and Lewis passed me, it was all about bringing the car to the end. The car was overheating everywhere, so the pace wasn’t really representative there. But it was all about bringing to the end. Before that the pace was good and its been a good race management from the team.”

Explaining the overheating in his car, Charles Leclerc said:

“Mostly engine, we knew that this was critical. We also knew that Singapore was critical for the race. After the two Mercedes passed me, there was nothing to gain by pushing so yeah we just decided to bring the car home.”

After an unfortunate pitstop, Charles Leclerc struggled on the hard compound tyres and was a sitting duck to the Lando Norris’ McLaren and Mercedes drivers. However, the Monegasque insisted that the team result was priority and his teammates' victory was important. While rivals Red Bull struggled, Ferrari managed to maximise their chances of capitalising on a victory.

With the track having suited them historically, they were successful in keeping other competition at bay. The current result has promoted the team to third place on the grid. However in the driver’s championship, Sainz has now extended his lead over his teammate to 19 points. The duo are running fifth and sixth in the championship respectively.

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Edited by Luke Koshi
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