Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2022

“Where is the rain?”: How Ferrari’s “split” strategy cost Leclerc in qualifying

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc was left to count the cost of another questionable strategy call by his Ferrari team after missing the opportunity to set a lap time on slick tyres in the final phase of qualifying.

Conditions were dry as Q3 began at Interlagos but the teams’ weather radars were showing rain was imminent. Earlier in the session Ferrari had told Leclerc rain was going to arrive during Q1, but it didn’t materialise. Nonetheless as the start of Q3 approached they again believed the threat of rain was high.

Unsure exactly when it would hit, Ferrari decided to hedge their bets. “We split the strategies because we knew rain was imminent,” the team’s sporting director Laurent Mekies explained afterwards.

Leclerc was sent out on a set of intermediates, anticipating rain, while Carlos Sainz Jnr headed to the pit exit on soft, slick rubber. But every other team decided to send their cars out on slicks.

Ferrari had managed to get their cars close to the front of the queue, which proved important, as the rain was near. But Leclerc became concerned when he realised no other car was on the same tyres as his.

Leclerc’s radio messages from Q3

“I accepted the decision to go on intermediates,” said Leclerc after qualifying, “and then I just waited for the rain that never came.” As he sat waiting for the final stage of qualifying to begin he had one eye on the skies and the other on his mirrors, noting his rivals’ different tyre choices.

Marcos Padros10 seconds for the green. Sainz is on soft, Verstappen and both Mercedes on soft.
Marcos PadrosOne minute. One minute.
LeclercWhere is the rain?
Marcos PadrosComing towards turn one, main straight.
LeclercA lot?
Marcos PadrosIn one minute, we expect more rain. And SOC reminder, 30 seconds for the green.
LeclercAm I the only car on inters?
Marcos PadrosYes, we believe you are the only one on inters.

As he joined the track Leclerc was told to let Sainz, on slicks, pass him, which he did approaching Descida do Lago, turn four. As he continued around the lap he asked his team for updates on the conditions and whether he should pit at the end of the lap to switch to slicks.

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Marcos PadrosAnd green light.
Marcos PadrosAnd let Sainz by.
LeclercFerradura, turn six
What do we do? Do you want me to push for the lap if the rain is not coming?
Marcos PadrosWe’ll come back to you.
Marcos PadrosPinheirinho, turn nine
I will come back to you.
LeclercThere is absolutely no rain for now.
Marcos PadrosRaining at turn 12, we believe.
LeclercYes but not enough. Let me know.
Marcos PadrosPush, I will let you know.

Compounding their original error, when Ferrari called Leclerc in to change tyres, he had already passed the pit lane entrance.

As he reaches the end of the lap, Ferrari again tell him to pit, this time early enough for him to make it in.

LeclercTurn 13
[Unclear]
Marcos PadrosBox now, box now! Box, box, box!
LeclercLeclerc has already passed the pit lane entrance
Nice. Nice one. Let me push now.
LeclercMergulho, turn 11
What do I do?
Marcos PadrosBox now, box. Box now, box. Watch for traffic.
Marcos PadrosSo box now box, pit confirm.
Marcos PadrosAnd we need multifunction tyre position two. Multifunction tyre position two.

Leclerc returned to the track on a set of soft tyres, but by now the rain was intensifying. He told his team he intended to push, but as he reached Descida do Lago again yellow flags were displayed as George Russell had spun off.

Leclerc ran wide at the exit of the corner and told the team the conditions were too bad. The session was then red-flagged so Russell’s car could be retrieved.

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LeclercTell me about the rain. Is it going to calm down?
Marcos PadrosRain will be increasing intensity.
LeclercFor fuck’s sake. [Unclear]
Marcos PadrosCopy.
LeclercI’m going to take risks.
Marcos PadrosSo pushing behind. We have Norris. So Norris slow. Single yellow turn four. Single yellow turn four.
LeclercI think it’s raining too much.
Automated messageRed flag, stay positive.
Marcos PadrosRed flag.
LeclercDid everybody complete a lap on slicks?
Marcos PadrosYes, they did.
LeclercFucking beautiful.
Marcos PadrosAnd box now box.
LeclercYeah don’t worry, red flag.

Afterwards Leclerc said he was “extremely disappointed” with how the session had gone as “the pace was there.”

He will start tomorrow’s sprint race from 10th on the grid. “We still have the car but now we need to to get on it and obviously do everything good for the rest of the weekend,” he added.

Mekies acknowledged it was “clearly frustrating for Charles and for all of us because, this season, we have had some great qualifying sessions in equally difficult conditions.”

“We weren’t the only team to have had mixed fortunes in qualifying, with one car towards the front and another further back,” he added.

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Leclerc will start the sprint race 10th after failing to set a time in Q3

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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28 comments on ““Where is the rain?”: How Ferrari’s “split” strategy cost Leclerc in qualifying”

  1. They weren’t the only team to have mixed fortunes in qualy today, but they are the only team who consistently have got crucial strategy calls 100% incorrect. For a team that has designs on world championships it’s absolutely staggering how second class the operation at Ferrari seems sometimes. Today was a great example. Totally unprepared and disorganized in Q1 and totally incorrect and too unwilling to accept the call was wrong until it was too late in Q3. It’s a familiar refrain for their entire season.

    1. In particular it seemed a silly move immediately: the track was dry, you can’t gamble on rain, especially if you’re a “front runner”, whereas gasly’s early slick move in q1 made sense, because his team was struggling to get into q2.

  2. Split strategy for a dry track, as if the others couldn’t just put on the intermediate tyres too had it rained.
    Man…

  3. Their inter gamble would’ve worked if the rain re-arriver quickly, but unfortunately for them, it arrived too late for the gamble to work.

    1. @jerejj It would probably not arrive early enough and have an effect great enough for a track where a lap is a bit over a minute. It’s not like the track will get slippery immediately unless its a torrent… And then the intermediates would have been equally useless.

      1. Intermediates can absolutely be used for brief periods of torrential rain, remember russia 2021 in the end, it was full wet conditions but hamilton and everyone else who changed tyres picked intermediates and did just fine, they just wouldn’t be able to stay on track for longer periods if that level of rain continued. But indeed, 1 min of light rain is not enough for inters to beat slicks.

    2. Every other team was able to look at the radar and determine that the track would be dry to start the session and allow at least one or two runs on dry tyres. Even within Ferrari they were able to see that on the other side of the garage. It wasn’t so much a gamble as just not understanding the basic data they have available to them.

  4. Where is the rain?”

    Well it never rains in Southern California 🎸🎸 so I guess it was somewhere else.

    Ferrari seem to have in isolation a P/U , chassis , & driver capable of challenging pretty much every GP. Must be bitterly disappointing for their fans that no-one seems capable of assuming (or grabbing ) power if necessary and pulling it all together.

    1. Man, it pours?

      1. Ja @JA I mean yes.

        Ah the days when songs had lyrics

  5. It made no sense at all, seems like a decision taken on a whim. Why would Leclerc be sent out ahead of Sainz if they believed it would start to rain and why wouldn’t they give their slicks driver the benefit of free air. Lack of overall cohesion on the strategy is what is troubleling this team the most, its two individual entities. Fair enough its a gamble, but do it right. Oh yeah and for Sainz to have a penalty for Sunday it should of course have been him on the inters.

  6. And yet when you think….nahh they won’t surprise me again…they cannot go any lower…Ferrari comes back fighting for a new low…what on earth they were thinking??Absolutely amateurs…to be WDC and or WCC you need a greatcar, a great pilot(s) and a stellar team(mecânica, engineers, strategists, etc…) Ferrari does not have it….a lot needs to change

  7. Call me a conspiracy theorist but Leclerc is always on the receiving end of Ferrari strategy choices. Sainz and despite being pathetically slow, unreliable and chewing his tyres faster than Leclerc is always getting the better strategy. Time for Leclerc to stand-up and ask Elkann directly bypassing Binotto who is still in denial mode to cut all ties with those Spanish engineers.

    New race engineer preferably British with strong communication skills because to be honest the communication has been a disaster so far (I’ll get back to you, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…) and a new race strategy engineer in charge of his strategy and keep Rueda in charge of Carlos Sainz’ strategies.

    Raikkonen asked a similar request back in 2014 and Dave Greenwood was assigned to him to improve communication. It’s legitimate to ask for such request especially with these never ending strategic harakiris.

    1. I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy, but I do believe that Sainz is a much more assertive character (and he has his motorsport legend dad telling him how to play this game).

      Sainz isn’t necessarily benefiting from these questionable calls either; even if you accept that it was a good idea to put Leclerc on the Intermediates, you don’t put him out on track in front of Sainz. Just ask Pérez why.

      That Ferrari completely missed where Leclerc was on track and called him in too late is just not good enough. A change in race engineer is tricky as it’s such a close and involved relationship (see the Hamilton piece on Bonnington earlier this week), but it might save Leclerc from going down the Vettel path of questioning everything the pitwall tells him.

      1. Leclerc doesn’t enjoy the same position Sainz enjoys within the team. Sainz’s dad is friend with the Agnelli family (Ferrari shareholders) and he has an influence inside the Ferrari garage. Leclerc cannot decide to go rogue and disobey everything the pitwall tell him.

        In Hungary for example, he said that he can maintain the same pace and go longer for 8 laps but the team decided immediately to call him. The team seems to listen more to Sainz than Leclerc, it’s not that they gave both of them choice and Leclerc decided to follow team orders.

        On another note, his race engineer is a disaster and apart from his usual I’ll get back to you and Plan A, Plan B, Plan C… calls that are predictable he is always confused. I’m not blaming the person but a change in race engineer position is a necessity for Leclerc right now. He needs to work out strategy à la Alonso.

        Alonso after the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP disaster decided that the strategy department would give Andrea Stella the necessary inputs and calculation but it will be up to both of them to take the crucial decisions. Leclerc must do the same thing, the strategy department must provide his new race engineer with all the necessary input and calculations and it’s up for them to take the right decisions. No more decisions taken by Rueda.

        1. Please, enough with the conspiracies. These are just questionable calls falling on one side of the garage. I would though accept that Leclerc is not the kind of forceful personality like Lewis and Vesthappen can sometime be. I fear he will need it if he is to get the best out of his time at Ferrari. He still seems to be in awe of the team. If he does not get a hold of that, his will be latest in a long line of world class driver who have gone to Ferrari and wasted the best years of their f1 careers with little to show for it but disapointment and missed opportunities.

    2. I am not confirming or denying the conspiracy, but maybe Ferrari strategy errors are more significant to LEC results as, most of time, SAI is lost somewhere among the MERC of clearly behind PER. So, for SAI Ferrari mistakes are kind of indifferent as he would get a podium anyway. IF some (positive/negative)outliers, whatever is Ferraris call for SAI he will be around PER/HAM/RUS and ahead of the MCL. Ferrari errors on LEC are more evident (and cosyly) because: 1. he is in direct competition to VER for most races and minor variations (0.1-0.3 per lap) means VER will run alone for the win; 2. major variations (0.5 per lap) in perfomance or a pitstop dealy are enough to bring MERC in contention, particularly after midseason.

    3. Sorry to be that blunt but I find this a bit ridiculous. Ferrari’s strategies have been disastrous most of the time, but they are not deliberately sabotaging Charles.

      Charles has the better pace no doubt, but that’s not all it takes. I consider Carlos more consistent, more race-intelligent (in the sense that he has a better awareness of the race situation), and a feistier racer. Sometimes he has openly challenged the Ferrari wall decisions and I’ve never heard Charles do that. And that’s no way to earn respect.

    4. Absolutely agree with the conspiracy theory, it’s too strange how the mistakes always fall on leclerc’s side, remember silverstone for example, I was thinking about that before seeing your comment too.

  8. How much of this and other things have been Charles wanting to do something different to get ahead?

    Are Ferrari really that incompetent?

    1. Leclerc has asked for some ‘innovative’ strategies when he’s in a no win position during the races. But in a potentially still dry qualifying, Leclerc has the least reason of everyone in F1 today to ask for a creative strategy. He’s arguably the best qualifying around in this season’s Ferrari.

      1. Absolutely, it made no sense from the start.

  9. Ferrari: Everybody’s on wet weather tyres, so we will have a huge advantage.
    Leclerc: OK, when is the snowfall coming?
    Ferrari: 1 more minute
    Leclerc: There’s now snow yet….
    Ferrari: It’s coming. Warm those snow tyres up well.
    Leclerc: I’ve got rain drops on my visor!
    Ferrari: Uhm, that’s warm snow, colder snow incoming.
    Leclerc: It’s raining, not snowing!
    Ferrari: Huge snow storm coming in 30 seconds! Start plowing!
    Leclerc: You gotta be kidding me…
    Ferrari: Sorry, can’t hear you, our headphones are freezing! From the snow! And ice!
    Leclerc: I can’t anymore…
    Ferrari: Press “defrost” button on your steering wheel, press “defrost”.
    Leclerc: …

  10. CL : Awww crap I pushed depressed instead.

  11. I just remembered the same Ferrari team putting Raikkonen on intermediate tyres back in Malaysia ’09 some 10 minutes before any sign of rain and wrecking his race.

    You just don’t see other top teams being so clueless. It only happens at Ferrari.

  12. Audi is definitely loving this: each time Ferrari screws up, hiring LEC becomes cheaper and easier.

  13. Mark in Florida
    12th November 2022, 16:44

    Still waiting for Binnoto to come on and explain this was all planned and how no one from the strategy team got anything wrong. Ferrari are so lost right now. They need a leadership position change before next year. Maybe they can fail Binnoto upward to the car division and get someone that can show real leadership.

    1. He actually surprised me in today’s interview when asked again about the tyre mistake in quali as he admitted mistakes were made and they’d have to review etc., was expecting him to deny it again.

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