Leclerc started on softs “to slow down the others and let Carlos drive away” in F1 Singapore GP

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A humid night in Singapore saw one of the most eventful races of the season, with both Red Bull cars on the backfoot; both Ferrari cars were in the game to win.

Having started on the soft tyres in the third position, Charles Leclerc took advantage of starting on the side with more grip and snatched the second position from George Russell.

However, he lost out on two positions while pitting behind the Safety Car, not helped by having to double stack. A mistake after the restart saw him lose out to Lewis Hamilton, too.

At the end of the race, Mercedes managed to stop their drivers for some new medium tyres after Esteban Ocon suffered from a hydraulic issue that triggered a virtual safety car; he fell to fourth position in a thrilling conclusion to the event, but he gained a place thanks to Russell’s crash at turn 10 on the final tour.

Charles Leclerc and Fred Vasseur
Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

When asked about his first stint and the safety car that led him to lose a number of positions, he admitted that the struggle with traffic left him “a bit on the back foot”, saying: “Yeah, of course, But I also knew that this race was going to be difficult for me in the first stint. It was all about trying to protect Carlos in order for me to stop before him, to leave a gap, and then we had a safety car, so we had to do a double stack. I had traffic to go out, so I lost, I think, three or four positions. I was second, and I was fifth after that. So then that puts us quite a bit on the back foot.

“I struggled to restart with the tyres and traffic in general, and after that, I knew it was going to be a difficult race from that moment onwards. But I think it’s great team management, especially on the first stint.

“It was up to me to do a better job yesterday in order to be in a different position.”

The Monagesque also explained that Ferrari had a calculated strategy for the first stint and that he made the decision to start on the soft tyre earlier this morning to help his teammate get the second victory of his career, adding: “I don’t think we could have done anything better.

“I changed the type of tyre to a soft this morning last minute to do exactly what we did; take second place at the start then try to slow down the others and let Carlos drive away, which would let me pit without undercutting him.

“The problem was the safety car which led us to pit at the same time; I also had a bit of traffic so I had to wait and lose at least three positions. After that, I knew the race would be complicated since overtaking here is difficult.

“Yes, but I don’t think it will have changed much because anyway, Lewis and George had pitted as well, so I probably will have finished behind them anyway. So I think, at the end, it wouldn’t have changed our race.”

He went on to praise the immense effort conducted by the team since the Italian Grand Prix weekend with their upgrades which led them to take their first win of 2023.

“It means a lot, especially with all the hard work that has been done on a high downforce track. It’s amazing then, of course; I cannot hide my disappointment because, on my side, I wish I had done a better result today. But at the end, it was up to me to do a better job yesterday, and yeah, it’s like this.

“We know that it’s like this in Singapore and we managed the race perfectly as Carlos managed to have the win. So that is a really good positive point for this year after all the hard work, and it’s a great reward for the hard work of the team, Carlos and also myself.”