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Leclerc: We are on the back foot

Leclerc: We are on the back foot

Leclerc: We are on the back foot
Charles Leclerc admitted Ferrari are now on the back foot in their fight with McLaren and Mercedes, after finishing seventh at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Leclerc’s second place in Austria now seems like a distant memory, as Ferrari’s return to form lasted just one race as he finished ninth at Silverstone before racing to seventh at the Hungaroring last Sunday.

The Scuderia did not have the firepower to fight McLaren and Mercedes who are now fighting for second-best status behind Red Bull, the Woking squad having the clear advantage right now.

And to make matters worse, Ferrari, once again, were up to their usual race antics with a slow pitstop ruining Leclerc’s race, not to mention his own error as well, speeding in the pitlane and slapped with a five-second penalty costing him sixth place.

Speaking to the media after the race, Leclerc said: “The pitstop was quite slow. And we had a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Again a weekend that is difficult. Honestly, it’s frustrating overall, because I felt that with the pace we had today

“Even as a driver, when you are feeling like you’re doing a good job with a car you have, nobody really notices it. And whenever you are doing a bad job, everybody notices it.

“In the end, it’s part of the game,” he admitted, “and it’s just up to us now to do a step forward as McLaren did. Now, we are in the backfoot. And it’s been confirmed since the last three weekends. There’s a lot of work to do again.

“Honestly, today [Sunday], I feel like the result is much worse than what it felt like. The first stint felt pretty good, then with the slow stop, it really put us on the backfoot being behind Lance Stroll. I had to push a lot. Then we were with Carlos, and we lost a bit of time there. Then in the third stint, I pushed again and there again, the car felt quite okay. So, I feel like the result looks worse than what it actually is. But it’s clear that compared to Lando especially we are still behind,” the Monegasque explained.

Tyre degradation wasn’t so bad

However, when asked about Ferrari’s chronic tyre degradation issues, Leclerc insisted the situation was not that bad in Hungary.

“Considering how much we were pushing, I don’t think it was that bad,” he claimed, “but I don’t want to comment too much on that. Because to be honest, in the car, you’ve only got your own picture. I could see that with Lewis in front in the first stint.

“I felt like we were doing a really good job on tyre management. Third stint with Oscar, it felt like I was doing a good job with tyre management. But I don’t know what the other three guys in the front were doing. So I’ll have to check that before,” he added.

As is the case most of the time, Ferrari and their drivers always give us some dramatic exchange over the radio, and Hungary was no exception as a snippet of heated exchange between the #16 Red Car and the pit wall was broadcasted.

Commenting on that Leclerc said: “The problem is that we have also lots of problems with the radio, and one out of four words is not understood by my engineer, because there’s just problems with our radios in three, four races.

“So we need to fix that,” he added. “And obviously my tone of voice is quite high because I need to make myself heard. But I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t understand me wrong, and that I want you to go aggressive early, and not aggressive late. So it was just about clarifying because of our radio issues.”

After another underwhelming race for Ferrari, Leclerc is now seventh in the 2023 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship with 80 points. Teammate Sainz has seven more points to his name and is sixth.

(Additional reporting by Agnes Carlier)