Leclerc reflects on ‘worst ever start’ to an F1 season – after racing incident with Lance Stroll

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Picture Credits Scuderia Ferrari

Charles Leclerc’s 2023 F1 season struggles continued this past Sunday in Melbourne as a racing incident with Lance Stroll on the opening lap prematurely ended the Monegasque’s Australian Grand Prix. This prompted Charles Leclerc to unsurprisingly label the last three races his ‘worst ever start’ and now he is focused on ‘just finishing a race without any penalties or issues whatsoever’ as opposed to thinking about any long term targets. 


Charles Leclerc started Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in P7 after being unable to put everything together the previous day on his last lap of Q3. Nevertheless, Leclerc was confident in his race pace and told media “I look forward to fighting for some positions tomorrow.” Unfortunately, when qualifying lower down the grid there is always a chance of contact early on in such a clustered middle of the pack and so it proved to be the case with the Monegasque racer unable to complete the opening lap of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.   


Charles Leclerc’s race came to an abrupt end on Sunday after contact with the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll when he attempted to gain a place on the Canadian around the outside of Turn 3. The move was not only unsuccessful but also resulted in Leclerc’s Ferrari being beached in the outside gravel trap. It didn’t take long for stewards to decide no further action needed to be taken. As a result, this unfortunate racing incident provided Charles Leclerc with his second retirement after just three Grand Prix weekends of the year. All this means Leclerc has a tally of 6 points to his name in 2023 so far compared to the 71 achieved at the same stage last year.  


“I’m frustrated, obviously it’s the worst ever start of the season,” Leclerc told media in the Melbourne paddock.“I mean, only six points, so it’s frustrating.” Leclerc then went on to recall the incident which concluded with his latest DNF. “In Turn 1 I took it easy, I didn’t want to take any risk. In Turn 3, I honestly wasn’t really planning to do any overtakes there but Lance had to slow down the car a lot while braking because Fernando had to, because of the cars in front. And so I saw that there was a gap on the outside, I went for it.” explained Leclerc. 


Legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna famously said, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver.” So, it was hardly a surprise to see Charles Leclerc tempted into making the unplanned move when the opportunity presented itself. However, the Monegasque racer could not have predicted the sequence of events which followed when he did so.  


“Unfortunately, Fernando had to slow even more down the car towards the end of braking and Lance found himself between Fernando and myself and we had contact. I’m obviously not blaming it on Lance. I think it’s a racing incident. But it’s just very frustrating because the end result is that I’m going home with basically no points.”  said Leclerc.


This mindset was reiterated on the official social media of Scuderia Ferrari as it quoted Charles Leclerc saying “It was unfortunate to end the race this way today, but it was a racing incident, and I don’t think that we could have done anything differently. Disappointing, but on to the next one where I hope things will run more smoothly again.” 


For his part, when a journalist said post-race to Lance Stroll ‘I think you touched Charles at the first start’, the Canadian quipped in reply “Did I touch him, or did he touch me?” before being told that Leclerc had told journalists that there can’t be any blame on Stroll.  


“There can’t be? Oh, that was nice of him.” came the reply from Stroll before following up with “I’ll buy him a beer in the night.” After which, Stroll went on to explain his understanding of the event. “No, I mean it was honestly, it was a racing incident. I think it gets so narrow that this track is narrow going into Turn 3. I was braking in the middle of him [Charles Leclerc] and Fernando [Alonso]. I didn’t move and then it just, I kind of got sandwiched and then you know we made contact. It was unfortunate for him and lucky for me that I didn’t pick up damage or anything because I could’ve…it felt ok.” Stroll concluded on the incident. 

 Picture Credits Aston Martin F1 Team

Scuderia Ferrari have had a dreadful start to their 2023 Formula one season. Two DNFs for their talismanic driver Charles Leclerc, a Carlos Sainz penalty in Melbourne which resulted in the Spaniard being pointless – and no podiums for either driver after three Grands Prix.  


The team’s tally of 26 points is just 7 points less than the 33 scored after the same number of races back in 2014 – at the dawn of the hybrid era. As such, Charles Leclerc having been in contention for the F1 Drivers’ Championship at the start of the 2022 F1 season is now having to adjust his targets. 


“For now, instead of thinking about long term targets, I think just finishing a race without any penalties or issues whatsoever is a priority,” Leclerc stated in Melbourne. “And then take the momentum and see what’s possible.” 


However, with a three week break to follow, it will be a while before any momentum can begin. Maybe when F1 restarts on the streets of Baku – so too can a challenge from Scuderia Ferrari. 

Picture Credits Scuderia Ferrari