Charles Leclerc agrees that F1 Dutch GP weekend was the most difficult in terms of balance, as Frederic Vasseur adds on downforce choice.
The retirement only came in the grand prix but on the whole it wasn’t the smoothest of F1 Dutch GP weekend for Ferrari. They didn’t look extremely quick all-through and the qualifying crash of Leclerc only made things difficult for them.
Carlos Sainz still managed a respectable position but there wasn’t a recovery eventually. While the Spaniard still had a solid outing in fifth, Leclerc suffered a Lap 1 contact with Oscar Piastri which ended his chances of any points results due to the struggles.
In fact, team boss Vasseur revealed that the right hand endplate broke off in the contact and that piece got under his floor which damaged the bottom of the floor. And Leclerc further added that his car lost 60 points of downforce which makes it a different category.
For Leclerc, it was just a racing incident as they were on slicks in wet conditions. He eventually pitted straight up but the team weren’t ready which cost him time. “We were in wet conditions with slicks, it was such a slight touch but for some reason, it had huge consequences on my car, so a shame,” said Leclerc to media about Piastri contact.
“The pit call after that, I did call for it in the last corner, so very late. But obviously looking at the situation in the last corner, I was sure that even if we had lost five or six seconds at the pit stop, we will recover them during one lap easily. So I expected to lose some time. I think we could have optimised it as a team just for the guys to be ready a little bit earlier in those type of situations. But apart from that it was, I think, the right choice.”
Leclerc noted that the team initially thought of less downforce loss but they eventually ascertained that it was indeed 60 points and there was no way they could have done much. The idea of waiting for long was for some rain to arrive to at least try and score handful of points if possible, as they did all the right things in terms of strategy.
“Already at the first lap when we had the damage I could feel much more than the guys were telling me on the radio,” said Leclerc. “Initially it was five to 10 points of downforce was what I’ve been told, but obviously then we realised it was more than 60, and more than 60 is a different category. After that, after the first lap, it was all uphill.
“It was very tricky because you’re always changing from wet to dry, dry to wet. So it makes things very difficult. But on the other hand, it was the same for everybody. I think we actually managed quite well the stops and the different strategies, but with 60 points less, there’s not much we could have done better.
“In the end, we were just waiting for some rain, to be honest. Obviously, it’s very tricky to drive a car with 60 points less in the rain, but it also adds a lot of chaos, and you can do something different than others and maybe score one or two points. Every point counts, so we didn’t want to give up too early.
“Then we understood that the rain wouldn’t come, even though now it came, but it would have been too late anyway,” summed up Leclerc, who eventually agreed that overall the weekend was his most difficult of F1 2023 due to the balance and driveability issues he faced all-through the weekend.
“In terms of results, obviously with a DNF like this, it’s not good,” said Leclerc. “It’s been extremely difficult. In terms of balance, it is probably the most difficult weekend of the season, and driveability of the car. So we need to look into it because the last two or three races were getting better on that side of things and for some reason it worsened quite a lot this weekend.”
On the side of Sainz, he felt Ferrari were sixth best considering how Alpine did in the race. But he felt good fighting against them and finish a good fifth while praising the right calls that the team made. “I would say after looking at the Alpine, we were more like the sixth-fastest car this weekend.
“I know at some point it looked that we even could fight for a podium but the reality is that when the race was settled when you look at our pace we were just nowhere. But we managed to execute a really good race, we were fighting the whole race with people that were not in our pace, not in our race, fighting a lot quicker cars than us.
“So, we have to be happy and proud of well executed P5. Obviously not happy with the feeling of the car and how much I struggled out there. It has to be one of my best drives of the season, for sure,” summed up Sainz, as team boss Vasseur revealed the low downforce set-up that they opted for which didn’t suit the conditions.
“For sure we were on the low side of the downforce and the conditions didn’t help us,” he said. It’s clear that our package would have been better in standard conditions and more consistent conditions, but it’s not an excuse at all. We were probably a bit too much up and down. If you have a look at what Charles did in qualifying, I think the pace was very good at this stage before the crash. But it’s not the result that we are expecting overall that you have to judge us on the results.”
Here’s how F1 Dutch GP panned out