Leclerc’s Crashes Reflect Mindset Against Faster Rivals
In the adrenaline-fueled world of Formula 1, Ferrari’s seasoned engineer Jock Clear has shed light on Charles Leclerc’s recent crash during the final run of Q3 at the Miami Grand Prix. Clear, who has been Leclerc’s driver coach since the young talent joined Ferrari, provides a unique perspective on Leclerc’s mental state when facing rivals in faster cars.
Jock Clear, who has been Leclerc’s driver coach at Ferrari since the latter joined the team before the 2019 season, has a deep understanding of the 25-year-old’s driving style and approach.
Following a minor incident during sprint qualifying and a collision with Lance Stroll in Turn 3 during the Australian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc experienced another crash during the final run of Q3 at the Miami Grand Prix.
Leclerc has an impressive track record in Formula 1 qualifying, securing 19 pole positions. This includes his outstanding performance in Azerbaijan, where he claimed pole position for both the grand prix and the sprint race, although the latter is not officially counted in his statistics.
Jock Clear acknowledged that occasionally, the pursuit of exceptional performances comes with the risk of mistakes. He emphasized that Ferrari is not attempting to compel Leclerc to adopt a more composed approach.
When asked about Leclerc’s need to push the limits, Clear commented, “I think so. And in some ways, this may reflect his mindset when he finds himself up against a significantly faster car, such as Red Bull. It’s a matter of ‘I have to make the difference myself,’ but ultimately, the laws of physics catch up with you.”
Clear also stated that the team will not advise Leclerc to calm down, as his outstanding qualifying performances throughout the year place him in a strong position for many races, as evidenced in Baku. He acknowledged that the car performed well in Miami and suggested that Leclerc might have become overly eager in his pursuit of a pole position.
Leclerc has developed a reputation for occasional mistakes, although such incidents during qualifying are infrequent. One memorable incident occurred in Baku in 2019 when he crashed during Q2 despite being the favorite for pole position. This prompted his self-critical refrain over the radio: “I am stupid, I am stupid, I am stupid.” Another notable crash took place at the exit of the Swimming Pool section in Monaco during his final Q3 run in 2021, resulting in him securing pole position but being unable to start the race due to undetected damage caused by the crash.
Although Leclerc has also made mistakes during races, his overall performance level remains consistently outstanding. This explains why Jock Clear, at least publicly, has no interest in calming Leclerc down, even though there may be a need for the Monegasque driver to fine-tune his risk/reward calculations.
In the Miami Grand Prix, Leclerc’s crash occurred as a result of taking too much curb at the Turn 6 left-hander after the Esses, preceding the Turn 7 left-hander where he went off. He had already been pushing the limits by utilizing more curb than most drivers, but on that particular lap, he was wider after making a small error at Turn 1. The car bottomed out, causing a spin that led to contact with the barrier.
While both Leclerc and his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz have criticized the car’s peakiness, Jock Clear argues that this characteristic did not contribute to the crash. Clear asserts that the peakiness on kerbs is a shared characteristic among all the cars on the grid.
During Max Verstappen’s first run in Q3, he also encountered a similar issue, although not as severe. He decided to abandon his lap due to a wobble caused by hitting the same kerb.
When a ground-effect car like the Ferrari hits a kerb, it experiences a sudden loss of a significant portion of its downforce. In Charles Leclerc’s case, he bottomed out on the kerb in Turn 6, resulting in a very challenging situation for the car to handle.
Ironically, Jock Clear believes that the incident in qualifying is actually a testament to the improvements made to the car’s performance in high-speed situations. He suggests that Charles Leclerc’s decision to go all out on his final lap was influenced by the confidence he had in the car’s enhanced capabilities in those conditions. However, in his eagerness, Leclerc pushed beyond the limit, resulting in the crash.
While it is expected for Jock Clear to publicly support and defend Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, as a team, will generally encourage Leclerc to continue pushing the limits, especially during qualifying. Ferrari recognizes the value of Leclerc’s ability to walk the fine line between control and risk in order to achieve exceptional qualifying performances. The team understands that Leclerc’s ability to extract the maximum performance from the car in qualifying greatly benefits their overall competitiveness.
Behind closed doors, Ferrari may indeed encourage Charles Leclerc to refine his approach and strike a better balance in situations where he is already pushing the limits of what is physically possible. They might emphasize the importance of avoiding the temptation to reach for more when he is already at the edge. By making this minor adjustment, considering that Leclerc’s mistakes are often infrequent and spaced apart, he has the potential to become an even more formidable Formula 1 driver than he already is. Fine-tuning his decision-making in those critical moments could further enhance his overall performance and minimize costly errors.
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