With his rival Valtteri Bottas suffering an unfortunate puncture in the closing laps of the 2020 British Grand Prix, it seems as if the racing Gods were smiling down on Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, as the Monégasque driver stormed through to collect his second podium of what has been a disappointing 2020 Formula 1 season for the Maranello outfit.
Leclerc understood luck was on his side at Silverstone, saying “As soon as I heard that Valtteri had a tyre problem then I slowed down quite a lot but then I think Carlos had it a lap later and the Lewis a lap later. So on that, we have been lucky but apart from that looking at us I think we have done the best we could have done today. I’m very happy the way I managed the tyres from the beginning to the end, very happy with the balance of the car. Yes, the performance of the car is not where we want it to be, but today we took every opportunity and I’m very happy with today.”
When pressed on any causes or concerns about the Pirelli tyre, he added “I don’t know what are the causes, whether there was debris on the track or whatsoever, but I think Lewis cut the corner at another place on the track than Valtteri, so yeah it’s probably to review. But I can’t say. The Pirelli guys will investigate that.”
Leclerc finished third at the 2019 British Grand Prix, however, with the 2020 Ferrari being down on power and performance to the previous year, Leclerc found the 2020 edition to be a more satisfying result.
“It’s definitely a lot more unexpected result this year. That’s for sure. We know we’ve been lucky to get on the podium but apart from that, I’m pretty satisfied with the way we’ve been working throughout the weekend. For sure we don’t want to be fighting for fourth place for so long but at the moment that’s what the car is capable of. I think we extracted absolutely everything out of the strategy and the car. Very happy and a very unexpected podium but probably more satisfied than last year for the third place.”
Given the punctures suffered by Mercedes duo Bottas and Hamilton, as well as McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Leclerc was pleased with his performance and the way he was able to manage the tyres to the end.
“I’m very happy with my performance, especially with the tyre management. We had a very aggressive downforce level coming here, so we had quite a lot of speed in the straights but very difficult around the corners. We were quite worried about the race pace, especially for the tyre degradation – but we managed to do quite a good job on that.”
Ferrari leaned-off the downforce a little for the Silverstone weekend to get more straight-line speed for qualifying. Making this change gave a better performance in qualifying but made the car more difficult to drive when the tyres were cold after the two Safety Car periods.
“For qualifying, I don’t think we were too worried about performance. I think we were pretty confident that was the right choice but we were pretty worried for the race. It wasn’t easy today, especially during the Safety Car and for the restart after the Safety Car I was struggling massively. I couldn’t put any temperatures in the tyres for many laps, and the guys behind were actually pretty close. Romain was on a used Medium and was putting me under a lot of pressure. So that was the tricky part of the race – but once the tyres were up to temperature it wasn’t actually that tricky. I expected worse.
“I think we were pretty lucky having the Haas in between the McLaren and myself. Whether I would have been able to keep them behind or not, I don’t know but it would have definitely been quite a lot more difficult.
“We’ve done quite a good job, I think, with the set-up of the car and with the balance of the car. That was very nice to drive today.”
While the 2020 Formula 1 season is only four races in, Leclerc believes that nobody can stop Mercedes this year, and that only Bottas stands between Hamilton and a record-equalling seventh Driver’s Championship.
“The question is ‘can anybody stop Lewis?’ No. I think the guy that has some chances is Valtteri – but that’s it,” concluded Leclerc.