Leclerc started on medium compound tires at the Hungaroring and took the first stint in third position, to skip his teammate carlos sainz for second place by getting the overtake in the first lap of the pit stops.
With a tire delta of five laps, Leclerc managed to catch the race leader george russell and overtook him for P1 before opening a three-second gap at the front of the peloton.
But when Ferrari brought Leclerc into the pits at the end of lap 39, the team decided to fit hard tires which struggled to warm up in cold weather.
This led to Leclerc being quickly passed twice by his title rival Max Verstappen, started 10th, before losing more and more time over the stints. He was finally brought in just 15 laps later for a third pit stop before eventually finishing sixth.
Ferrari F1 boss Mattia Binotto revealed that the team’s simulations indicated that although the hard ones would be difficult to warm up to early, they were supposed to be the best tire for the final stint.
“When we set up the hard, our simulation was that it could have been a few tough warm-up laps,” Binotto explained. “It would have been slower in the middle for 10-11 laps and then it would have come back and been faster than at the end of the stint, and it was a 30 lap stint.
“We were trying to protect the position on Max. It would have been too long for the softs for sure. Yes, it would have been difficult at the start of the stint, but it would have come back at the end.”
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport pictures
Leclerc said after the race that he wanted to keep the medium tires as long as possible, to be called up for the hard ones. He was moved on softs at his third stop, but couldn’t catch up to the cars in front of him.
Sixth place means Leclerc is now 80 points behind Verstappen at the top of the Drivers’ Championship heading into the summer break.
A number of riders struggled with the hard tires due to the unusually cool conditions during the race, including Alpine Fernando Alonso and Stephen Oconwho both lost time early in their terms.
Asked if Ferrari saw what Alpine’s hard tires had to do and considered not pitting to cover Verstappen, Binotto replied: “Yes, we discussed it, so it’s not that. [the strategy] is all written in stone.
“During the race and watching what is happening, we also watched what was happening with the other hard tyres.
“We took all the considerations, we discussed what would have been best and that’s the choice we made. It was definitely not the right one today.”
But Binotto stressed the biggest problem for Ferrari on Sunday was the car’s lack of pace compared to what it saw on Friday, when Leclerc set the fastest time and impressed on the long stints.
“It’s important to say that we believe the car didn’t perform as expected,” Binotto said. “We didn’t have the speed we were hoping for looking back on Friday, and the pace we had in race conditions on Friday. So today the conditions were definitely different, much cooler.
“But overall the speed today wasn’t good enough, and whatever tires we were using, I don’t think we were as good as we were looking for.”
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