Ferrari ace Charles Leclerc baffled by inexplicable F1 error: 'Don't know why'

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Ferrari's Charles Leclerc looks on prior to the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was left to rue an F1 strategy error which saw him plummet out of contention in the Hungarian GP. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was left furious after yet another Ferrari strategy bungle left Red Bull rival Max Verstappen with a stranglehold on the F1 drivers championship.

Leclerc finished an underwhelming sixth after qualifying third for the Hungarian GP on Sunday, with a decision to move the Monegasque onto the slower hard tyres late in the race backfiring badly.

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Though Ferrari have boasted what many have considered to be the fastest overall package in 2022, several missteps in recent rounds have allowed Verstappen and Red Bull to build a sizeable lead over Leclerc.

Meanwhile, the rapidly improving Mercedes are closing in on Ferrari in the constructors championship, putting massive pressure on the Italian manufacturer to turn things around following the mid-season break.

F1 will return to Spa Franchorchamps for the Belgian GP on August 28, giving Ferrari a few weeks to resolve the strategy issues which have cost them dearly so far this season.

Ferrari put Leclerc onto the hard tyres at his second pitstop in Hungary, fearing eventual race winner Verstappen would come out ahead in the pit stop shuffle.

This was a big mistake though, given many other runners on the hards were struggling to get temperature into them at the time.

Leclerc was no exception, with Verstappen able to breeze past the Ferrari on his way to his eighth Grand Prix victory of the season.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Leclerc pulled no punches as to his frustration with the team's pit calls.

“I felt very strong on the medium. Everything was under control,” Leclerc said.

“I don’t know why we needed to go on the hard.

“I said on the radio I was very comfortable on the medium and I wanted to go as long as possible on those tyres because the feeling was good. I don’t know why we took a different decision.”

Ferrari back F1 strategy calls as Leclerc falls further behind Verstappen

It's not the first time this season Ferrari's strategy has burned Leclerc, with the 24-year-old missing out on a podium at his home race in Monaco due to a tactical error.

Despite an alarming trend of strategy errors that has dogged the team for several seasons now, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said the pit calls were not the reason behind Leclerc's underwhelming result.

The team principal said the team had struggled on all three tyre compounds when the temperatures dipped following high temperatures during Friday's practice sessions.

“Certainly we didn’t have the performance we were expecting,” Binotto told Sky Sports.

“Whatever the tyres, somehow the performance of our cars was not as expected.

“Today the car was not behaving well, I think that’s the point.”

Verstappen crossed the line 7.8 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton on Sunday, following a late surge from the seven-time world champion, with George Russell third.

Leclerc finished sixth and now trails Verstappen by 80 points heading into the sport's summer break.

Max Verstappen stands atop the Hungarian GP podium flanked by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Max Verstappen won the Hungarian GP from 10th on the grid, ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Verstappen's victory was the 28th of the Dutchman's career.

"Who would have thought when we woke up today we'd get this result? Amazing," Verstappen told his team, letting out a laugh.

"I was battling a lot of guys and it was a lot of fun out there. That was a crazy race but (we) stayed calm and we won."

After overcoming 30 laps of pole man Russell's resistance to take the lead with a brilliant move around the outside of the Mercedes at Turn 1, Leclerc looked on course to take the chequered flag.

But the Monegasque's afternoon was wrecked - and his championship hopes dealt an almost irreversible blow - when Ferrari elected to put their star driver on the hardest rubber.

From being the fastest man on track, Leclerc suddenly had no speed, and he was gobbled up by Verstappen, who started 10th, at the start of lap 40.

Verstappen spun at the penultimate corner on the same lap to allow Leclerc back into the lead.

But such was his lack of pace on a strategy dismissed by tyre supplier Pirelli, Verstappen was back past the Ferrari, racing past his beleaguered rival at the second corner five laps later.

From there, Verstappen's eighth win of his championship defence never appeared in danger with a second title in as many years looking increasingly likely.

With AAP

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