Charles Leclerc says Red Bull was “on another planet completely” in the Belgian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen won from 14th on the grid and Ferrari failed to maximize its chances.
A tire error in qualifying saw Leclerc with just one new set for the race. Having climbed to fifth, Ferrari then called him in for an extra pit stop to try and set the fastest lap, but he dropped behind Fernando Alonso and failed to do so. While he still overtook the Spaniard on the final lap, Leclerc was then demoted to sixth by a pit lane speeding penalty, but he says Red Bull’s performance is the more concerning factor.
“I’m not feeling good obviously,” Leclerc said. “Other than all of this, there’s also the pace. The thing that is strange is the feeling is quite OK inside the car, but then you look at the pace compared to Red Bull and they are on another planet completely, so we need to understand. Hopefully by Zandvoort we understand and we come back to as close to Red Bull as we were in the first part of the season.”
Leclerc says he doesn’t feel like Ferrari underperformed at Spa-Francorchamps, but still saw Red Bull pull away.
“Very, very surprised, especially in qualifying — qualifying and race. If you look at how close we were to the midfield, I think we were more or less like we were in the first part of the season, but they just were much quicker than us, so it’s very strange.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto agreed with Leclerc that it appeared Red Bull had a genuine performance advantage that was highlighted on the longest circuit of the season.
“I think there has been a true difference between us and the Red Bulls this weekend,” Binotto said. “If you look back, I think they have been slightly faster in Hungary on a tighter track with high downforce.
“So overall, I think that…today the Red Bull is a faster car compared to what we’ve got in terms of efficiency, because at Spa you need efficiency from the aerodynamics and the power unit, but also we had tyre degradation that we need to look into because they were stronger in terms of tire degradation. So I don’t think it has been an outlier — they are faster than us.
“What I am hoping is that…the gap we have seen today we will not see at the next races, because Spa has always [amplified] the gaps because it is a long track and, whenever you have an advantage in terms of efficiency, it is amplified and very obvious in such a circuit.
“So, yes, we hope to be back [closer] in the next races…while we still believe they have a slightly faster car. But tire degradation has been the [biggest] element affecting the performance today, which we need to understand and address because it is very important for the next races.”