Charles Leclerc believes Ferrari had the car to beat Red Bull in the Miami Grand Prix but the first stint highlighted a weakness it needs to address.
The championship leader started from pole and led away, with Max Verstappen moving into second place ahead of Carlos Sainz. On lap 9, Verstappen overtook Leclerc into Turn 1 and was able to keep the Ferrari at bay before pulling away, opening up a gap of over seven seconds before the pit stops. While Leclerc then pegged that gap in the second stint before a safety car bunched the pack, he says the medium tire issues cost him the race.
“It was quite good — on the hard we were strong,” Leclerc said. “On the medium we struggled a little bit after five or six laps with the front tires and then we struggled and basically lost the race on that stint, losing the lead and losing quite a bit of race time because of the front degradation. So we need to look at that and be on top of it for the next race.
“But apart from that, I think on the hard we were very competitive or at least as competitive as Max, and after the safety car I really thought that we will have a shot to actually take back the lead but it wasn’t enough. We will have to analyze the end of the run on medium, which is the weak point of this race.
“I think it is just the characteristics of both cars — Red Bull are quite quick on the straights, we are quite quick in the medium- and high-
speed but today I have to say I was quite surprised we are struggling more than them on slow-speed corners. That was also a weakness on the medium tires and we need to look at that.”
Leclerc believes the way Ferrari uses the softer tire compounds is proving beneficial over one lap and helping him secure three pole positions in the first five races, but is then costly over a race distance.
“In the race we need to, especially on the softer compounds. On medium/soft it seems that it has been already two races that in terms of race pace they seem to be a bit stronger and managing that better. In quali we seem to put those tires in the right window which helps us, but on the long runs we struggle a bit more than them.”