70TH ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX – Charles fourth, down to strategy and bravura
Charles Leclerc and Scuderia Ferrari took an important fourth place in the Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix held Sunday at Silverstone. The result was down to a bravura performance from Charles, who had started from eighth on the grid, combined with the right strategy from the team, opting for a one stop in a race in which tyre management was key. Sebastian Vettel’s Sunday was definitely more complicated: he started eleventh and right on the opening lap he spun at the first corner. After that, he fought back to finish twelfth, two places off the points.
Start. The start was one to forget, with Charles dropping two places behind Alex Albon in the Red Bull and Lando Norris in the McLaren. Sebastian unfortunately lost control of the SF1000 while fighting through turn 1 with Albon and had to start all over again from the back of the pack. This weekend, Pirelli had brought a softer step of tyres as their three dry weather compounds and so, as early as lap 6, the pit stops began, with those drivers who had started on the Softs, which they had run in Q2. Charles on the Medium and Sebastian on the Hard, were thus able to move up the order.
Middle of the race. Leclerc was one of the last Medium tyre runners to pit on lap 19, rejoining on the Hards. Vettel came in three laps later and by half-distance, Charles was seventh and Seb 13th. At this point, after Daniel Ricciardo pitted the Renault, Charles had a clear track ahead of him and could manage his pace and look after the tyres. Sebastian found himself in the middle of a train of cars and so the team brought him in on lap 33, which allowed him to get ahead of Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. As for Charles, he made up two more places when Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll in the Racing Points made a second stop. Leclerc thus found himself fourth with a lead of around 12 seconds over the German and it was now clear he was going to the flag with a single stop.
Final part. With 11 laps to go, leader Lewis Hamilton made his second stop, rejoining behind Charles, who was third behind Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas. On new tyres, the Englishman easily closed on and passed Leclerc, so that the Ferrari man was back in fourth. In the closing laps, Charles managed his lead, first over Stroll and then Albon, who was on new tyres and brought home a fourth place finish. At the moment, in a race with no dramatic changes, that was the best that could be achieved. Sebastian finished in 12th place.
Back on track in a few days. After two races on consecutive weekends in the UK, the Formula 1 championship is still in full flow. The final race of this second triple header of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix, takes place next weekend at Barcelona. The race starts on Sunday 16 August at 15.10 CET.
Charles Leclerc #16
“Today feels like a victory, which is not something we like to say when we finish fourth. If you would have told me this morning that I could finish the race in my starting position in 8th, I would have signed immediately.
In terms of strategy, the team had some concerns about the one-stop approach, looking at what happened to some of the tyres last week. But sometimes, as a driver, you feel something in the car that you can’t see in the data. So I pushed to go for one stop because I believed I could make it work. I am glad that we went for it and that it worked out well.
Last year, I knew that my weakest point was tyre management. I worked very hard to improve there, and to see the result on track is a huge satisfaction for me.
I am interested in analysing the data from today and understanding where we found our pace. I was quite impressed and it was a positive surprise. In tough times like these, we have to take any opportunity we can get, and we did that today, so I am very happy with the result.”
Sebastian Vettel #5
“Today I tried my best. Unfortunately I had a spin in turn 1 and I’m not sure what happened there. I thought I got hit, but actually it was a kerb, and I suddenly lost the car. However, I also feel we could have done a better job on the strategy. After my first stop I was in traffic and for this reason we had to bring forward the second stop. In the end I had to drive on the Medium tyres for 20 laps, which I feel was not the best choice we could have made today. Of course the race was difficult overall and it’s a pity we couldn’t get back to where we wanted to be.”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal
“It was definitely a better day than yesterday. On the Hard tyre in the race, we rediscovered a level of performance that at least allowed us to stay ahead of our current rivals. Given the positions of our drivers at the end of the first lap – Charles tenth and Sebastian last – we tried to make the best strategy choices to bring home as many points as possible for the team. After that we made up six places with Charles and eight with Sebastian, so I don’t think we could have done better in a race in which there were hardly any retirements or safety car periods. Charles finished in the same excellent position as last weekend and Sebastian’s position was the result of his first lap incident. We must do all we can to ensure that he too can make the most of his talent and use all the car’s potential.
Now we face another test at the very demanding Montmelo track, where we had struggled during winter testing. The aim is still the same: to improve our performance both in qualifying and the race to bring home as many points as possible with both drivers.”