Saudi Arabia GP | Leclerc: “Overall the pace is just not good enough”

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Charles Leclerc and Ferrari’s tough start to 2023 continued as he could only manage P7 in the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

The Monegasque driver was a superb 2nd in qualifying, but he had to take a 10-place grid penalty for using a third control electronic unit at just the second event of the campaign.

Leclerc had a superb opening stint as he moved up from P12 to P5 using the soft compound in the Pirelli range at the weekend. He passed the likes of the Alpines and Lewis Hamilton to end up only 5 seconds behind teammate Sainz at that point.

“A good first stint, a good start, I think really good management on the soft, which was positive,” said Leclerc.

However, his race was heavily compromised as a Safety Car shortly after his stop allowed Verstappen and Hamilton to get ahead of him.

“These are things that I cannot control. It’s of course frustrating, but it’s like this,” Leclerc stated on the bad timing of the Safety Car.

The situation in regards to losing out to Hamilton could have been avoided, though. Leclerc was informed too late by his race engineer that he needed to push from the first Safety Car line to maintain the position.

It led to Leclerc saying ‘Xavi, you need to tell me that before’. After a reply with ‘copy’, Leclerc added ‘no, but come on’.

Asked about it post-race, Leclerc explained the situation.

“I thought we were clear and we weren’t fighting anybody, so I was trying to take a bit of a gap to actually push on the tyre.

“Then Xavi told me just before the first corner that we were fighting Hamilton, so I was too late for being on the limit of the delta.”

Ultimately he remained in P7 from the restart until the end. The 25-year-old could not find a way past teammate Sainz as both Ferraris lacked pace to challenge Alonso, Russell and Hamilton.

“Then on the hard, I mean I got within a second one lap to Carlos with the DRS,” explained Leclerc.

“Unfortunately I lost the DRS and then from that moment on, you are losing too much downforce when you are 1 second to 1.5 seconds [behind]. I was just staying there for the rest of the race.

“Honestly, there wasn’t much more in the car today. That was the best we could do.”

Tyre degradation was not such an issue on Sunday for Ferrari. It was a lack of pace that particularly alarmed Leclerc.

“There’s much less degradation in here, so overall I think this goes our way, but overall the pace is just not good enough.”

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari