Charles Leclerc will be seeking answers from his Ferrari team after their ‘frustrating’ pit strategy prevented him from registering a hat-trick of wins but enabled the Italian outfit to secure a one-two finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.
Fresh off consecutive triumphs in Belgium and Italy, Leclerc qualified on pole for Singapore but was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel during a pit stop and had to settle for a second-place finish as his team mate recorded a first victory in 392 days.
“I was surprised because obviously I was not aware in the car, but I guess if this decision has been made it was for the good of the team and it had to be the only way for us to do a one-two,” Leclerc told reporters of Ferrari’s strategy to bring Vettel into the pits first and the 21-year-old Monegasque one lap later.
“So if it’s the case I completely understand it, but obviously from the car it’s very frustrating. So I’m not completely happy but yeah, anyway the overall result of the weekend is very positive,” added the Ferrari rookie, who has outshone Vettel in his first season at the team.
“We hoped for at least one car on the podium for this weekend and we go back home with a one-two, which we definitely did not expect on a track like this. So this is very positive.”
Venting his frustration on the team radio during three safety car periods late in the race, Leclerc said he would take time to absorb the decisions made on the pit wall but would probably feel better about the result in a few days’ time.
“Obviously I think during the safety car I was quite often on the radio, but then as soon as (it) went away I focused on the job and tried to do the best of my race,” he added.
“In the car it’s frustrating and then as soon as I thought a little bit more about the situation after it, then you see the things maybe a bit differently. Even though I still need some explanations just to understand fully why this decision was taken. But yeah, of course it’s always frustrating in the car because you only see your situation and you don’t see everything else.”
The second-place finish moved Leclerc up to third in the standings on 200 points with six races remaining, 96 behind Mercedes’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton and six ahead of Vettel before next weekend’s race in Russia.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had gone 392 days without a win until he stormed to victory at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday and the Ferrari driver admitted he drew inspiration from messages of support and knew his wait for a triumph would soon end.
The German’s last victory came in Belgium in August of 2018. He had claimed six podium finishes this season before ending a long wait to take the chequered flag in Singapore.
“I got a lot of little notes and handwritten messages, so it’s always nice if people make an effort to do that so we took our time to go through them. It was really encouraging,” Vettel told reporters after registering a record fifth victory in Singapore and third in a row for a revitalised Ferrari.
“When you start out, it’s difficult to imagine that people follow you like this but in recent years, especially in Asia, I have a lot of fans that come over and over again,” he added.
“I seemed to get a lot of energy from these messages over the last few weeks. From people in the racing world, from people I know, especially fans. People sharing their own stories of when things are up or down. When you read through these notes, some of them very intimate and private, it gets to you.”
Vettel added after team-mate Charles Leclerc, who finished second in Singapore, won the last two races in Belgium and Italy, he knew the team was in a good position to challenge for more race wins.
“The messages just give you confidence to keep trying,” he said. “In the last couple of weeks I knew we were close to a breakthrough and I knew sooner or later things would fall into place.”
Vettel started Sunday’s race third on the grid but said getting ahead of team-mate Leclerc and championship leader Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes at the pit stop was imperative if he wanted to win.
“I know the races here start slow and Charles would take it easy to control things, which he did, so I just tried to stay within a certain distance of the car in front,” Vettel said.
“Then as soon as I got the call to box (pit), that was the time for me to make something of the race. I pushed as hard as I could on the out-lap and was surprised Lewis didn’t react the lap after but I was also surprised Mercedes had such strong pace on those laps.”
The victory lifted Vettel up to 194 points in the standings with six races remaining, 102 behind Hamilton and six behind third-placed team-mate Leclerc ahead of next week’s Russian Grand Prix.