Leclerc lost more than 60 points of downforce after contact with Piastri: “A different category”

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Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media

After a difficult Dutch GP, Charles Leclerc analysed his performance and that of the team in the, then speaking in more detail about what the contact with the McLaren of Oscar Piastri on lap one. In fact, it damaged his SF-23 up so badly it forced him to retire.

After three weeks of vacation, and two of the obligatory closure of the team factories, F1 started its engines again by competing in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort last weekend. A return to habit which, for Ferrari, was difficult, at least by virtue of what was seen in the Netherlands where, data in hand, the Scuderia ran into one of the most difficult weekends of 2023.

In fact, since Friday, the drivers have struggled to find the feeling with the SF-23 and to perform adequately and effectively closing the race in fifth position with Carlos Sainz and with a DNF for Charles Leclerc, due to the damage suffered seater following small contact with Oscar Piastri.

Leclerc had a collision with the Australian driver’s car in the wet opening lap of the race just before returning to the pits to put on intermediate tyres. Contact which caused the Monegasque damage to his front wing and the floor of his SF-23, a moment in which the team could do nothing, and which according to the data led Charles to gradually lose more and more downforce, losing driveability and trust in his car.

It was damage that made him fall through the pack more and more towards the rear and was also overtaken by the Alpha Tauri of rookie Liam Lawson, after which the Ferrari wall decided to withdraw the car, after having long hoped for a red flag due to the rain in order to fix the car and get a good result.

It was contact which was analyzed by Charles Leclerc himself who, first of all, explained the damage suffered by his SF-23 which, with the damage to the bottom, lost over 60 points of downforce, thus having in your hands a car that is undrivable and much slower than normal. Damage that forced Leclerc to retire after waiting for a red flag, which never came.

“Already on the first lap, when we had the damage, I could hear a lot more than what the guys were telling me on the radio. Initially I was told that there were five to ten points of downforce less, but obviously then we realized that there were more than 60, and more than 60 is a different category. After that, after the first lap, it was all uphill. We were just waiting for some rain, to be honest. Of course, it is very complicated to drive a car with 60 points down in the rain, but it also adds a lot of chaos and you can do something different to the others and maybe score a point or two. Every point counts, so I didn’t want to give up too soon. Then we realized it wasn’t going to rain, although now it has come, but it would have been too late”.

Damage, as mentioned, the result of a collision with Oscar Piastri’s McLaren on which Leclerc expressed his opinion, claiming that he had suffered major damage following very light contact.

“We were in the wet with slicks, there was a slight touch but for some reason it had a huge effect on my car so that’s a shame”.

A race which, in addition to contact with the Australian driver’s MCL60, was also compromised for him by a really slow first pit stop, due to a late call from him, about which the Ferrari driver therefore has no excessive regrets.

“I requested it at the last corner, very late. But obviously looking at the weather situation at the last corner, I was sure that even if we lost five or six seconds at the pit stop, we would have made it up easily during a lap. I expected to losing some time, we could have optimized it as a team just so the guys were ready a little earlier in those kinds of situations, but other than that I think it was the right choice.”

According to Leclerc, the Dutch weekend was a really difficult weekend, perhaps the most difficult of the year, both in terms of results and performance, which it will be important to analyse in order to fully understand what didn’t work properly.

“In terms of results obviously a retirement like this isn’t good, but it’s been an extremely difficult weekend. In terms of balance, it’s probably the most difficult weekend of the season and in terms of car handling, so we have to look into that, because the the last two or three races things were looking up on that side, and for some reason it wasn’t like that this weekend.”