Leclerc won’t take ‘crazy risks’ to fight back against F1 US GP grid penalty

Leclerc finished second in qualifying in Austin behind teammate Carlos Sainzbut will be drop of 10 places in the order and lines up 12th thanks to the installation by his team of a sixth internal combustion engine component and a sixth turbocharger from 2022 on board his car before FP3.

This will leave Sainz in first place alongside Red Bull Max Verstappenwho should also miss his teammate Sergio Perez as the Mexican driver also has a grid drop – five places for racing a fifth ICE of the year in his RB18, which means he will start ninth.

“I will do my best as always,” Leclerc said of his racing ambitions in Austin after climbing from his Ferrari in a qualifying parc fermé.

“Once again, we start I think 12th or 11th with the engine penalty that we have. I’ll do my best. No crazy risks but if there is an opportunity, I will be there to seize it.

A few minutes later at a post-qualifying press conference, Leclerc declared that he did not “know [what result will be possible from 12th]but I will try to gain places as quickly as possible in the first laps”.

He added: “[That’s] so that I can be in the fight and join these two guys at the front as quickly as possible.

After missing FP1 due to Robert Shwartzman driving his F1-75 as part of Ferrari’s 2022 rookie race requirement, Leclerc was the only driver capable of leading a race data collection run at high fuel content in the session that teams usually devote to such exercises.

Indeed, most of his colleagues were dedicated solely to the Pirelli 2023 tire test which dominated FP2 in Austin, where Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricardo executed a counter-race plan in their 35-minute 2022 tire race which Leclerc also had to level for missing FP1.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, after qualifying

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport pictures

To williams and Haas, FP1 spectators Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen received race plans that avoided this and focused only on 2023 tires.

Despite Leclerc’s unique long-term work on Austin FP2, Ferrari actually doesn’t have the total data pool he planned to create because he wasn’t able to do a high-fuel run. on softs in FP3 (he used mids at the start of FP2) due to an issue that confined him to the garage between qualifying sim efforts.

When asked about the issue by Autosport, Leclerc revealed that it was a “small cut on the tyre” from the set of soft tires he had been about to use for a long time.

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In that FP3 session, where the teams had to make up for lost time in FP2, Red Bull only gave Verstappen the task of running full throttle with the softs as Perez focused on qualifying races, while Sainz was supplying Ferrari further. long-term data on the media.

That means both teams head into Sunday’s race with incomplete data sets on the two softer compounds ahead of what is expected to be a two-stage event.

But Leclerc doesn’t think that’s a particular concern for Ferrari, which has struggled for long-term pace against Red Bull since returning to Austria just before the summer break.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We also have this FP2 race that nobody [else] could do just because I haven’t raced in FP1. I was able to use the mids, which gave us a bit of data.

“A little less data this morning in FP3, but overall I don’t think that will be a factor that has compromised us for tomorrow’s race.”

Regarding the decision not to complete the long term FP3 softs due to the cut tyre, Leclerc said Ferrari “didn’t want to take any chances” of crashing because of this issue, but concluded that it was ” nothing too big really”.