Charles Leclerc might not be whining, but surely, he isn’t smiling as well!
At the completion of the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, while there were the usual smiles in the Red Bull camp with Max Verstappen having trumped Carlos Sainz by nearly half a second, there was more misery in the Ferrari camp. That’s, let it be known again, despite local-hero Carlos Sainz having secured a very respectable P2 in the end of a tricky Saturday battle, which marked his first front row start to any race this year.
What hurt and perhaps long after the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying was done was the fact that Charles Leclerc, the leading Ferrari driver had been knocked off in the very first round of qualifying itself.
Heartbreak for Charles Leclerc even as all’s not over at Spain
When was the last time, you wondered from wherever it is that you were watching, had such a thing ever happened? And probably it took some effort to actually recollect the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying of 2019, where owing to a bid to save the tyres on Leclerc’s car, Ferrari didn’t send Charles to battle again. This led to a qualifying position of P16, which meant that the Monegasque had been eliminated in Q1 itself.
However, it’s a different day and a different venue and Charles Leclerc, who was a pole sitter here in Spain the last year, is experiencing a complete change of fortunes.
While it wasn’t some team gamble or strategic plan during Saturday that led to the shock Leclerc elimination in Q1, having experienced absolute difficulty in the left hand corners perhaps owing to some tyre trouble or other mechanical issue, Charles Leclerc was seriously plagued by pace issues in his Ferrari.
So much so that he found himself eliminated in Q1 itself, the biggest surprise if also a disappointing outcome of qualifying a few hours back.
Though, resulting from the problems that Leclerc complained of, the Ferrari crew are expected to have opened the car and worked out some woes under Parc Ferme, which means that for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix at Catalonia, Charles Leclerc will be beginning his race from the pit lane.
In a season, where the Leclerc and Sainz pairing hasn’t really delivered some box office gold for Ferrari, so to speak, this is another massive blow to the chances of the team wanting both its drivers with a competitive and effective race result.
After the completion of his qualifying on Saturday, when Leclerc was asked about what might have been the issue back at his end, he’d come up with the following, “I don’t have the answers. We’ll have to check the data. But, most of all, check the car. Because there was definitely something strange. I nearly lost it during the red flag when I was at 70kph, and there was just no warning!”
Having said all of that, all that Ferrari can hope for now given Sainz, not Leclerc, is poised to start the 66-lap contest from second on the grid is a podium finish and that would really provide some sort of solace to a team that has only scored a solitary podium so far.
But the key question is, can Sainz, who has the confidence given it’s his home race, do it for his wailing team?