Ferrari off the podium at Suzuka
Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc finished the 2023 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix in fourth place, starting from the same position. In Suzuka, his chance to attack the McLaren of Oscar Piastri likely faded during the Australian’s first pit stop. Oscar Piastri took advantage of an unexpected Virtual Safety Car to gain a few seconds on his opponents (the neutralization was necessary to remove debris at the hairpin after the contact between Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez).
The Monegasque driver finished seven seconds behind Oscar Piastri and provided the pass of the Grand Prix when he used all of the curbs on the exit of Turn 2 to overtake George Russell. The British driver attempted an alternative one-stop strategy but was eventually overtaken by his rivals in the latter stages of the Grand Prix. The twelve points earned by Charles Leclerc, compared to Carlos Sainz‘s eight, bring Charles to a 15-point lead over his teammate in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix
McLaren as the second force?
For now, Charles Leclerc isn’t concerned about McLaren’s double podium. However, he indicates that if their strong performance is confirmed in Qatar, it would raise concerns about McLaren overtaking Ferrari’s overall performance with the MCL60 compared to the Ferrari SF-23.
“It was important to make the pass on Russell at that moment in the race,” Charles Leclerc explained to Sky Sport at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix. “Lewis was fast and pushing hard. I knew they would play as a team, and I couldn’t afford to waste time. I had to take a risk, and it was a good pass. McLaren’s progress is a bit worrying; they went well at Silverstone on a similar track. We know that they are strong on these types of circuits. Let’s see in Qatar if they confirm it, and in that case, it would become worrying for us, but for now, I’m not worried.” – Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc concluded following the Suzuka event.