Charles Leclerc critical on himself after impressive tyre management demonstration in F1 Japanese GP: “I need to put everything together on the Saturday, and then I’m sure we’ll have many more happy weekends”

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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After an abysmal qualifying yesterday, which left him eighth on the grid, Charles Leclerc had a very well executed race which even brought him the driver of the day honours. Opting for just one stop after the restart, the Ferrari-driver managed to extend his medium tyres to jump both McLarens, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, promoting him to fourth at the finish. Which left him quite satisfied about the race.

“Yeah, I don’t think there was anything better to do today, but if I only look today, I’m very happy. I don’t think there was anything we could have done better. The pace was really good, tyre management was really good, communication was really good.”

But considering the whole weekend, the five-time Grand Prix winner was quite critical of himself. For the second weekend in a row he had a poor qualiying, a discipline that usually brings out the best of Leclerc.

“As a driver, you always have to look at the negative over the whole weekend,” he explains. “And whether it’s in Australia or here, race pace has not been a problem. It’s my qualifying pace, which is not something that I have been very used to in my career, to be working on my qualifying pace, because normally it’s really good on a Saturday.

“However, since two races now in a row, I’ve been struggling to put the tyres in the right window, and this is definitely my main focus now going into Shanghai, to try and refine the right window of the tyres, and for me to put them more consistently inside that window.

“Then once I’ll do that, I’m sure the pace will come back in qualifying.”

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Questioned whether it was the tyres or maybe something else, Leclerc was quite firm, both on the cause and what he himself could do to improve the issue.

“[It’s on the tyres] 100%, because as I said, my laps weren’t that bad. Yesterday, the lap I had done was actually really good, but the grip that was available from the tyre was just not there.

“And this is because I do a bad job on the lap before,” he criticises himself. “Which is very frustrating because you finish the lap and you are happy, but actually you are nowhere. So I’ve got to focus on that.

“It’s very fine, like very little differences. However, I’m confident that by analysing all the data, we’ve got a week before Shanghai, and whenever I focus on something, I improve quite quickly on it.

“So I’m not too concerned, but I need to do the step forward for Shanghai now.”

The Monegasque didn’t feel his strategy was compromised too much by his starting position. Being able to manage the medium tyres in a long first stint meant he could leapfrog five cars, before eventually having to yield to teammate Carlos Sainz.

“Honestly, I think the strategy would have been pretty similar even if I was starting somewhere else, because the feeling was really, really good with those medium tyres.

“I’ve done a good job in the first stint, so I was really happy with it. So it probably would have been the same.”

What does help in that regard is that the Ferrari SF-24 is less unpredictable regarding setup changes and is better at managing the tyres, which played a huge part in the race.

“I think we are also much more consistent. Last year it was very easy for us to do a small mistake with the setup and be completely off in the race and be much further away than what we would expect.

“So the car is much more solid in the race, which is nice. At least we finish the weekend on a high rather than starting it on a high and then being not too happy the Sunday night.

“So it’s good that way. Now I need to put everything together on the Saturday,” Leclerc concludes. “And then I’m sure we’ll have many more happy weekends.”