Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku Street Circuit, 2022

Leclerc was heading to a ‘comfortable win’ before retirement – Ferrari

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s analysis of the data from last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix shows Charles Leclerc was on course for a comfortable victory before his retirement.

The team were criticised over their tactics following the previous race in Monaco, where their drivers finished second and fourth having run one-two in the opening stages.

However Ferrari’s sporting and strategy director Inaki Rueda said Leclerc’s pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car put him in a strong position to win the race in Baku. He retired with a power unit failure shortly after regaining the lead.

Rueda said the team had reacted well to the Virtual Safety Car period caused by Carlos Sainz Jnr’s retirement in the other Ferrari early on. Red Bull failed to bring race leader Sergio Perez in following a miscommunication, and Max Verstappen was told to do the opposite to Leclerc, who pitted.

Leclerc “was fighting for the lead with Perez and he had Verstappen on his gearbox” before the VSC period, Rueda explained. “Verstappen got within DRS range of Charles and this is something we’ve been working on lately, because with such small margins, with Red Bull, we find ourselves winning or losing games with DRS overtakes.

“For Baku we brought a different rear wing and we worked on our strategies. Crucially when Carlos stopped, we realised that it was very likely going to be a Virtual Safety Car period. And we got ready with Charles to pit in case race direction thought they had to deploy as the Virtual Safety Car.

“This was crucial for our race because a pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car costs roughly 10 seconds less than a normal pit stop. And because of this, Charles was able to do his only pit stop of the race with much less penalty than both Red Bulls.”

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Leclerc took the lead of the race after the two Red Bull drivers pitted. Rueda believes he would have been able to stay there had the race concluded without further interruptions. This did not happen, however, as Kevin Magnussen’s retirement caused another VSC period later in the race.

“After the Virtual Safety Car period on lap nine Charles set off to go to the end on the hard tyres,” said Rueda. “Red Bull tried to go as long as possible in the medium tyre, but they were dropping a lot. The medium tyre has a lot of degradation and Perez lost a lot of time trying to go longer and longer to offset himself to Charles.

“Unfortunately, after 11 laps on the hard tyre, Charles suffered a power failure and this cut our race short. Our simulations indicate that had there not been another Virtual Safety Car period, Charles would have won the race comfortably against Verstappen.”

However Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suspects Verstappen would have been able to close on Leclerc and pressure him later in the race had the Ferrari kept going. He said his team intended “to split our cars” on strategy when the first VSC period occured.

“We told Max to do the opposite of Leclerc. We felt that Max at that stage had more pace than Charles, he was pushing, pushing, pushing him. But Charles, in turn, was benefiting from the tow of Checo. And so the DRS effect wasn’t quite as large as it would it would normally be. So we elected to stay out.

“I think it was so early, and other than six laps of a long run on Friday, there was no knowledge of how these tyres would degrade. So our strategy obviously at that point was to give us bigger overlap in terms of fresher tyres to our drivers without the gap being too big to Charles. So that was obviously the thinking behind it.

“It’s a shame it didn’t play out because I think we did have a very quick race car today and I think with that eight or nine-lap overlap with the drivers, that would have been a sufficient advantage to to hopefully make the pass on him.”

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2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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24 comments on “Leclerc was heading to a ‘comfortable win’ before retirement – Ferrari”

  1. I wonder what data they analysed and how they did that. Because the data that I looked at showed that during the first 4 sectors after Max pitted for hards and before Charles’ engine expired, Max closed up to Charles by 1.3 seconds.

    If that data points to “a comfortable win” for Charles then I clearly don’t understand date analysis.

    It would at least have been an on track battle.

    1. They seem to be a bit optimistic here indeed. But in the end it doesn’t matter if you can’t keep the car running. Also, I feel they still sacrifice wins for poles, so they got quite some work to do.

    2. Yeah, I think there is a decent amount of looking at the positives rather than being on the more realistic side @mattds.

    3. Maybe we’ve finally gotten a glimpse of why Ferrari strategy in races is often so poor. That data software needs some recalibration.

      1. Lol agree with you above four. Just in general without doing a lap by lap review, seeing how quick the RBR’s are on Sunday makes the concept of a ‘comfortable win’ for CL seem like a fantasy these days. But hey, maybe buddy is just trying to pump up his team.

    4. And Red Bull was much faster on the straights.

      Comfortable win it would not have been.

      But who knows. Leclerc is top talent, he certainly had a chance winning the battle that was about to commence.

    5. We were robbed of an exciting race at the front. But definitely wouldn’t have been a comfortable win for anyone. I still think Max had the pace advantage though. But who knows, Leclerc has shown repeatedly the ability to pull something special out of the bag

    6. Leclerc was taking care of his tires, Verstappen was pushing hard. He was not gonna keep those kinds of gains up for much longer.

      And even if he got close, Ferrari could have gone with plan b, pit Leclerc for Mediums again and he’d be gaining on Verstappen like a mad man.

      Ferrari were up on strategy that race, too bad we didn’t get to see how it would have played out, but my money was on Leclerc.

      1. Leclerc was taking care of his tires, Verstappen was pushing hard. He was not gonna keep those kinds of gains up for much longer.

        First of all, that’s conjecture. The Red Bull has proven to be kinder on its tyres pretty much the entire season, and they were 9 laps newer. The potential was perfectly there to keep gaining for the entire stint.

        And even if he got close, Ferrari could have gone with plan b, pit Leclerc for Mediums again and he’d be gaining on Verstappen like a mad man.

        Negative, the mediums were a bad racing tyre. That is clearly proven by both Max and Charles taking on a new set of hards during the VSC even if they only had to do 18 laps more.

        The strategic options were there for Max if he closed up and Leclerc pitted. He could stay out, which would likely have seen him take a cheap stop for himself too during the VSC. Or he could’ve pitted with Charles, and with the faster race pace still battled him.

        I’m not saying Max would have definitely won, but a battle was most likely going to happen, so no it wouldn’t have been a comfortable win.

        Ferrari were up on strategy that race

        I’m not even sure about that. Red Bull elected to keep Max out during the VSC – they specifically told him to go opposite strategy. You only do that if you fancy that to be a better chance than following him in and trying to overtake on the same strategy.

        Red Bull definitely knew what they were doing, they had Max right where they wanted: on a different strategy, with a tyre offset, to bet on higher race pace.

        1. That is clearly proven by both Max and Charles taking on a new set of hards during the VSC even if they only had to do 18 laps more.

          Of course I should have said Max and Checo.

  2. There’s no such a thing as a “comfortable win” in a Ferrari, at least not in the last ten years or thereabouts. The horse is fast, but temperamental.

  3. Yeah Charles could have won, but I doubt it would have been a walk in the park.

    He was closing in on Verstappen probably would have came in front. But Verstappen would be getting back at the final part of the race with better tires.

    Or Charles could have pitted a second time under Magnussen’ VSC. Than get past Max with newer tires.

    Could be possible, but never easy if the opponent is Max Verstappen.

    1. He was closing in on Verstappen probably would have came in front.

      I don’t know why exactly but there seems to be confusion about the respective positions of Leclerc and Verstappen at the time they retired. Leclerc retired from the lead, with Verstappen in P2 and Perez P3.

  4. Could have is worth nothing.

  5. The worst case scenario for Leclerc in Baku given how Ferrari were quick on the straights with the new rear wing was a second place. The problem is that Ferrari will have to detune its power unit in the next 2 or 3 races till they got a short term fix for their reliability issues. The next 3 races Montreal, Silverstone and Austria are power tracks where the effect of having a detuned PU will be amplified.

    Even if the fixes will be approved by the FIA, Ferrari will still have to reallocate resources from its original development plan to make its PU reliable. The potential reliability fixes will come at the expense of performance upgrades. There is also the now guaranteed grid penalties in at least 2 races because of the damaged PU components originated from the failures. It doesn’t bold well for Ferrari and Leclerc in normal circumstances at all. They have to give it everything they can but they also need RBR and Max to have some bad luck.

    1. @tifoso1989 In Scabs data Honda was dropping from equal to Ferrari to being the 3rd best engine in Miami and Spain. I wonder if they were detuning the engine for reliability in those hot temps, unlike Ferrari. I haven’t seen his view in Baku but I predict something similar.

      1. @cobray
        RBR do have the luxury of an aero efficient car and especially when the DRS is open to compensate for the eventual loss of power in lower PU modes. Newey and his team predicted that the porpoising will be an issue and designed the car with that in mind. The rear suspension has been designed in a way to prevent the car from being lowered under the vertical load.

        From what have emerged in the Italian press. The issue that halted Ferrari in both Spain and Baku is related to their ignition system and it is somehow related to high fuel consumption tracks like Barcelona and Baku where the estimated fuel consumption is around 110 Kg and 109 Kg respectively.

        Ferrari are using a 3 way ignition system. There is the pre-ignition phase, then there is the actual ignition, after that there is a post ignition phase where fuel is leaked only to cool the cylinder with no proper ignition. This 3rd phase have been reduced in order to save fuel which caused the poppet valves to overheat and cause both failures in Spain and Baku.

  6. “Heading for a comfortable win”. A pointless comment, like the pointless result.
    Every driver can do better (win, be ahead of another, be faster, etc) if they finish. But both drivers failed (and other Ferrari engined teams). End of story.

  7. Leclerc was headed for a fortunate win at best. And even that was going to be tight just because Verstappen appeared to be faster. It’s possible the VSC pit stop might have given Leclerc enough margin to hang on until the checkered flag, but I don’t see how that can be described as “comfortable”.

  8. The headline reads like a meme…

    “Leclerc was heading to a comfortable win”
    —Ferrari strategist

  9. Yes, heading to a comfortable win on the simulator. Great strategists.

  10. No way, by the time Leclerc engine blew he was only 12 seconds ahead, with Leclerc on 8 or 9 laps older tyres and Max still on fresh tires. There were still 33 laps to go and Max well over 1 second faster, now that gain per lap would reduce as Max tires would get older as well but Max would continue to have better pace.

    Also when Max then would get into DRS range Leclerc would be much weaker as on older tyres he would have less traction out of the corners onto the long straight, making him an easier prey for Max.

    In case Ferrari opted for a 2nd stop Max would be ahead and Leclerc would chase him but in that case Max could come in and get fresher tyres as well. Red Bull would have put their 2 drivers on different strategies whereby Leclerc would have lost considerable time behind Perez.

    So anyway you look at it, Leclerc would not have won Baku simply because Red Bull had a far better race pace and have 2 drivers vs just 1 driver.

    1. Nothing is sure. What we know for sure is that in the first 9 laps VER wasn’t able to do anything against LEC, therefore I cannot consider such an option like destroying him after the pit-stops. Also, don’t think PER would have been a big issue for LEC: if stayed on track it would have been LEC with fresh tyres against PER with 20 laps older tyres. If he decides to pit 2nd time too, he will remain behind LEC, therefore no problem at all.

      1. @mg1982 why could you not conside such an option? In the first stint Verstappen was on equal tyres. We know that overtaking on an equal strategy with equal tyres isn’t always easy, but the fact Verstappen could remain close means that he was definitely not slower and possibly faster.

        Then after the stops Verstappen had a tyre advantage and a car that is shown to be kinder on its tyres – meaning there would be a tyre advantage for the entire stint and a better overtaking chance than during the first stint.

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