Charles Leclerc insists that Ferrari discovering “zero wear” on the plank of its cars on Friday is “no excuse” for his disqualification from the United States Grand Prix.
Both Leclerc and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton were disqualified post-race after it was found that their respective cars did not comply with the regulations governing plank wear.
Mercedes admitted it was caught out by the Sprint format only granting the teams one practice hour before the cars are locked into their set-ups under parc ferme conditions.
Leclerc reveals that the announcement also came as a “complete surprise” to Ferrari, having not suspected that the team’s SF-23 was going to be marginal on plank wear.
“Honestly, it was a complete surprise because on Friday, when we could still change the car, there was zero wear, so it’s not like we were touching anywhere,” he issued.
“Then you get to the race and, of course, things have changed, because we were illegal. Rules are rules, so they need to be respected wherever, so it’s not an excuse to say that Friday we were fine. We need to look into it to find out how to better anticipate what the wear is going to be.”
Leclerc contends that even as late as Saturday night Ferrari had been confident that it would not encounter trouble from its car running too close to the ground.
He added: “Also on Saturday night we could see more or less where we were touching, we thought there was still plenty of margin, then we finished Sunday and it was a big surprise.
“We are still on the analyzing part of where we did wear the plank more than we expected, because we didn’t expect that. I was still at the track, but it’s the kind of thing you need to accept, there’s nothing to fight for with those things.”
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari. 26.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Preparation Day.
The magnitude of the bumps present at the Circuit of the Americas this year prompted Max Verstappen to dispute that the venue’s track surface was not up to “F1 level”.
But Leclerc has denied that the bumps were the primary contributor to Ferrari falling foul of the rulebook, citing that there would have been many reasons for the excessive wear.
“There are so many more things, there’s also kerb riding, there are different things,” he disputed. “But kerb riding is also a thing, but at the end, we should have anticipated better, and we’ll look into it for the future.”
Prior to being disqualified, Leclerc had rued being the only driver on a wretched one-stop strategy that dropped him from pole position down to sixth place by the chequered flag.
After Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur acknowledged the side made an incorrect call, Leclerc underlined that the Maranello camp has learnt from the mistake.
“We looked into it. We understood that, obviously, it was the wrong choice,” he said.
“We checked back the numbers and we adjusted that, so at the end it’s all about learning and trying to go forward. Of course, this time it was a bit more different than others because we were basically the only car doing something so different. But we understood what went wrong.”
Last year’s Mexico City Grand Prix saw Ferrari slump to one of its least competitive showings of the entire campaign, comfortably ending up third-best.
Despite a challenging season, Leclerc is optimistic that the Italian marque will overcome the engine cooling troubles that stymied its competitiveness 12 months ago.
“Last year it was a very, very difficult race for us here, we had quite a lot of problems with our package here, especially with the Power Unit, but we don’t to have the same issues this year, so I hope it’s going to be a step forward,” the Monegasque said.
“We have a very different package this year, so it should be better than last year.”