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Why Ferrari told Leclerc ‘the hard is worse than expected’ but still used it · RaceFans

Ferrari’s decision to put Charles Leclerc on the hard tyre for his third stint during the Hungarian Grand Prix was seen by many as a tactical error which cost him victory in the race.

After fitting the hards Leclerc immediately struggled for grip, was passed by championship rival Max Verstappen twice and had to make a third pit stop which left the former race leader sixth at the finish.

However the poor performance of the hard tyre did not take Ferrari completely by surprise. As the transcripts of their radio messages from the race shows, Ferrari advised Leclerc to look after his medium compound tyres during the second stint, potentially hoping to extend it, and warned him it would take longer to warm the hard tyre up then they originally expected.

Ferrari were also preoccupied with the progress being made by Verstappen, who despite starting 10th on the grid was able to stay within a few seconds of Leclerc. Despite their growing concerns over the performance of the hard tyre, having observed the difficulties Haas and Alpena experienced with it, Ferrari decided it was a risk worth taking.

Race start, Hungaroring, 2022
Leclerc went from third to first… to sixth

They were led to take this decision partly by calls they had made earlier in the race. During Leclerc’s first stint Ferrari asked him how long he could keep up his current pace on the medium tyres. Although he told them he could go for seven or eight more laps, and his lap times did not significantly drop off after that, Ferrari nonetheless pitted him after just two more laps. That kept him ahead of Verstappen but lengthened his later stints, making the soft tyre a less attractive option.

Had Ferrari not shortened Leclerc’s two earlier stints, he might have made his second pit stop late enough to use the soft tyres instead of the hard. That was, of course, the strategy Ferrari put his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr on, once Leclerc’s bitter experienced showed them the performance of the hard tyres was even worse than they feared.

Charles Leclerc’s radio messages during the French Grand Prix

Leclerc kept his position behind leader George Russell and Carlos Sainz Jnr at the start. Russell started the race on soft tyres and by lap 10 the medium-shod Ferraris were closing in on him.

Lap: 1 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’30.984
Marcos Padros Debris turn two. Virtual Safety Car deployed. Watch for debris turn two. It’s on the racing line.
Lap: 2 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’54.855
Marcos Padros Watch for debris turn two, racing line.
Marcos Padros Virtual Safety Car ending. Reset brake balance, K2 on. Will be at turn three.
Lap: 3 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’28.826
Marcos Padros And DRS enabled.
Lap: 4 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’23.573
Lap: 5 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.315
Marcos Padros And easy into turn four and 11. S2 for turn six, suggestion.
Lap: 6 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.187
Marcos Padros And easy entry turn 11.
Lap: 7 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.103
Marcos Padros And tyres are ready. Easy with the tyres at turn 11 Sainz lap time 24.0.
Lap: 8 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.141
Marcos Padros And easy turning into 11.
Lap: 9 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’23.818
Lap: 10 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.124
Marcos Padros And be careful brake release into turn six.
Marcos Padros Good job at turn six.
Lap: 11 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.148
Marcos Padros Tyre phase update when you can.
Leclerc I cannot get much closer than that. Tyres are okay.
Marcos Padros Copy.
Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2022
Leclerc asked Ferrari to hurry up his team mate

Leclerc closed on Sainz more quickly than his team mate gained on Russell, a point the chasing Ferrari driver made sure his team picked up on. Behind them Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, recovering from poor grid positions, passed Norris to enter the top five.

When Russell pitted to discard his soft tyres Sainz and Verstappen immediately reacted. Sainz later suggested his slow pit stop cost him the change to pass Russell, but in fact there was almost nothing to choose between the total time both spent in the pits.

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Lap: 12 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.077
Marcos Padros Now next car behind is Hamilton. He just passed Norris.
Marcos Padros So next car behind information we have Hamilton together with Verstappen.
Lap: 13 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.105
Leclerc Can Carlos go any quicker?
Marcos Padros We are asking for it.
Lap: 14 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.326
Marcos Padros And flap update when you can.
Leclerc Okay.
Marcos Padros Okay copy that. Russell 25.0.
Lap: 15 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.407
Marcos Padros And switch position yellow.
Leclerc Yeah we can also anticipate them.
Lap: 16 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’25.005
Leclerc [unclear].
Marcos Padros Hamilton, 25.1. So Russell just pitted.
Lap: 17 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’24.385
Leclerc Yeah.
Marcos Padros And Verstappen just pitted now.
Marcos Padros Sainz is boxing now.
Marcos Padros And switch position grey.

As Sainz had pitted first of the two Ferraris, the logical option for Leclerc was to pursue an alternative strategy as far as possible and run longer. Asked how much further he could take his original set of tyres at his current pace, Leclerc said they were good for at least seven more laps.

However just two laps later, with Leclerc lapping only a few tenths of a second slower, Ferrari brought him in. That ensured Leclerc emerged in front of championship leader Verstappen and also jumped in front of his team mate, thanks in part to his visit to the pits taking a second less than Sainz’s had.

Lap: 18 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.792
Marcos Padros And we need status five. And SOC four when you can.
Lap: 19 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.911
Marcos Padros Verstappen lap time 23.0, new medium.
Marcos Padros How many more laps at this pace you can do, question.
Leclerc For now the tyres are holding up. Difficult question, though. I think around seven, eight.
Lap: 20 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’24.262
Marcos Padros Understood and Hamilton just pitted.
Marcos Padros And SOC six when you can.
Marcos Padros Information gap to Russell behind 18.2 Gap to Sainz 21.5.
Lap: 21 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’26.481
Marcos Padros And box now, box, pit confirm.
Leclerc Charles pit lane.
Marcos Padros Copy.
Marcos Padros You can keep K2 on until turn two.

Leclerc, running on another set of medium compound tyres, was now second behind Russell, who he quickly caught.

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Lap: 22 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’41.737
Marcos Padros Tight with Sainz in pit exit.
Marcos Padros And reminder, slow introduction with these tyres.
Marcos Padros And pace delta to Russell from tyres four to five tenths. And easy entry turns four and 11.
Lap: 23 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’22.995
Lap: 24 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’23.596
Marcos Padros And right toggle for turn 14, suggestion.
Lap: 25 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’23.447
Lap: 26 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’23.278
Lap: 27 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’23.602
(L to R): Charles Leclerc, Ferrari; George Russell, Mercedes; Hungaroring, 2022
Leclerc patiently worked his way past Russell

It took Leclerc several laps to pass the Mercedes, however, during which time he lost crucial time to Verstappen. By the time Leclerc was leading, Verstappen was only five seconds behind.

Lap: 28 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’24.560
Lap: 29 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’24.278
Marcos Padros And tyres are ready.
Lap: 30 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’24.056
Lap: 31 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.003
Marcos Padros Good job.
Marcos Padros Look a bit after these tyres.
Marcos Padros Avoid saturation turn one. Next in front will be Albon. Gap to him, 3.9.
Lap: 32 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’24.278
Leclerc It’s raining a bit.
Marcos Padros Copy. Should be just drops. Nothing more than this. And flashing blues for Albon in front. Russell behind 24.6.
Lap: 33 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.365
Lap: 34 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.388
Marcos Padros And switch position white.

With clear air, Leclerc gained another two seconds on Verstappen by lap 37. Meanwhile Ferrari had kept an eye on the likes of Haas and Alpine who had already run the hard tyre and realised the compound Leclerc was due to use for his third and final stint wasn’t performing as well as they hoped it would. They let him know.

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Lap: 35 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.498
Marcos Padros Flashing blues for Magnussen in front.
Marcos Padros And information, warm-up with the hard is worse than expected.
Marcos Padros And solid blues for Magnussen in front. And Safety Car window open.
Lap: 36 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.144
Lap: 37 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.453
Leclerc [unclear] rear tyre, let’s stay on it after Safety Car.
Marcos Padros Flashing blues for Latifi in front. And we will need status four.

Within a few laps Verstappen made his second pit stop. Ferrari had two clear choices.

One was to leave Leclerc out until he could fit softs and run to the end, which risked dropping him behind Verstappen and might already have been compromised by his shortened first stint. The alternative was to bring Leclerc in immediately, ensure they stayed ahead of Verstappen, and risk running the hards. They chose the latter.

Lap: 38 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’23.805
Marcos Padros Solid blues for Latifi in front.
Marcos Padros And tyre phase update when you can. And brake balance plus one suggestion.
Marcos Padros And Verstappen just pitted now. So Verstappen pitted for medium.
Lap: 39 Position: 1 Lap time: 1’26.324
Marcos Padros And box this lap, box. Pit confirm. Solid blues for Schumacher in front.
Leclerc Charles, pit lane.
Marcos Padros Tight with Perez at pit exit. And you can keep K2 on until turn five.
(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2022
Verstappen passed Leclerc, then passed him again after spinning the first time

Leclerc immediately struggled to get the hard tyres up to operating temperature. Verstappen breezed past him. Ferrari, whose data told them the performance of the hard tyre would improve later in the stint, reassured him.

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Lap: 40 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’45.325
Marcos Padros So behind we have Perez and Verstappen, Verstappen with new medium.
Marcos Padros Verstappen behind with DRS.
Leclerc Fuck, the tyres are shit.
Lap: 41 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’25.755
Marcos Padros Still a long race to go.

Shortly after Verstappen passed Leclerc the team was handed a gift. Verstappen made a rare error, spinning at turn 13.

With that, Leclerc was back ahead. But, it turned out, not for long. He left his team in no doubt he was unimpressed with the hard tyre’s performance. He pressed on, trying to coax them into life, but once Verstappen got past Leclerc’s lap times never recovered and soon Russell began to close on him again.

Marcos Padros So gap to Verstappen behind 1.2.
Lap: 42 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’23.462
Marcos Padros Gap to Verstappen 1.3. And 28 laps to go.
Lap: 43 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’22.456
Marcos Padros Gap to Verstappen 0.8.
Marcos Padros Gap to Verstappen 1.0.
Marcos Padros Verstappen behind with DRS.
Lap: 44 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’22.839
Marcos Padros Gap to Verstappen 0.7.
Marcos Padros Verstappen with DRS.
Lap: 45 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’24.300
Leclerc These tyres are shit.
Leclerc And 25 laps to go. Still a long way.
Lap: 46 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’23.335
Lap: 47 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’23.158
Marcos Padros Single yellow turn two, now it’s clear.
Lap: 48 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’23.163
Marcos Padros And flashing blues for Gasly in front of Verstappen.
Lap: 49 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’23.509
Marcos Padros And you will hit traffic for three cars next lap or so. Flashing blues for Gasly in front.
Lap: 50 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.334
Marcos Padros Flashing blues for Gasly in front.
Marcos Padros And solid blues for Gasly in front.
Marcos Padros And Russell behind with DRS.
Marcos Padros And solid blues for Zhou in front.

The Mercedes driver pressured and eventually passed Leclerc. With that, his patience snapped, and he told his team to consider a change of strategy: A third pit stop, for soft tyres.

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Lap: 51 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’24.152
Marcos Padros Gap to Russell behind 0.4.
Marcos Padros Russell behind with DRS.
Lap: 52 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’23.544
Marcos Padros And SOC seven when you can.
Marcos Padros Got to Russell behind 0.5, flashing blues for Ricciardo in front.
Marcos Padros Russell with DRS.
Lap: 53 Position: 2 Lap time: 1’24.154
Marcos Padros Gap to Russell 0.6.
Marcos Padros Russell behind, DRS.
Leclerc Consider plan D. Consider plan D. These tyres are a disaster.
Marcos Padros Copy.
Lap: 54 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’27.578
Marcos Padros And box this lap. Let me know flap update when you can.
Leclerc [Unclear]
Marcos Padros And box now, box.
Marcos Padros And SOC six, K2 on until turn one.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2022
Leclerc had to resort to a third pit stop

Neither his team mate nor either of the Red Bull or Mercedes drivers touched the hard tyre or resorted to a third pit stop. Leclerc fell to sixth, his race seemingly ruined, though fifth-placed Sergio Perez gave him something to aim for.

Lap: 55 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’43.455
Marcos Padros That’s Latifi, solid blues for Latifi. And slow introduction. FS1 when you can. And SOC six when you can. And expecting some drops for the next two or three minutes.
Marcos Padros Try to follow the lights. So next car in front for position is Perez, gap to Perez 7.2. And 15 laps to go, 15.
Lap: 56 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.687
Lap: 57 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.622
Lap: 58 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.988
Lap: 59 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.762
Lap: 60 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.890
Marcos Padros And try to follow the lights.
Lap: 61 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.090
Marcos Padros Tyres are okay to push. We just need to follow the lights.
Lap: 62 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.897
Lap: 63 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.392
Marcos Padros Solid blues for Ricciardo in front and follow the lights.
Marcos Padros And rain expected for the last two laps. Gap to Perez in front, 3.8.
Lap: 64 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’21.981
Marcos Padros Switch position yellow. And six laps to go. Rain expected in one or two laps.
Lap: 65 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.325
Lap: 66 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.230
Marcos Padros And back to mode race. Perez lap time 22.0.
Marcos Padros Flashing blues for Tsunoda in front. Four laps to go and press oil but when you can.

Leclerc’s gains on Perez were gradual. However a Virtual Safety Car period late in the race due to Valtteri Bottas’s retirement brought him onto the tail of the Red Bull.

The Ferrari never got close enough to strike, however, and a dejected Leclerc ended the race less than half a second behind Perez.

Lap: 67 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’22.836
Marcos Padros And light rain expected from now on. Bottas stopped at turn 11. And flap update when you can.
Lap: 68 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’45.489
Leclerc Okay.
Marcos Padros So Virtual Safety Car. Stay out, stay out. And charge button on.
Leclerc Is the car all okay?
Marcos Padros Stand by. And switch position yellow. Switch position yellow.
Leclerc Copy.
Marcos Padros From data, everything looks fine.
Leclerc How many laps left?
Marcos Padros Stay out, stay out, and two laps left.
Lap: 69 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’34.315
Marcos Padros Virtual Safety Car ending. Virtual Safety Car ending. It will be at turn four. K2 on.
Marcos Padros And SOC two when you can.
Marcos Padros Slippery track turn 14. And DRS disable.
Leclerc Last lap?
Marcos Padros Last lap confirmed. Rain reported at turn five, six and seven. Solid blues for Stroll.
Lap: 70 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’24.304
Marcos Padros [Unclear]
Finishing position: 6
Leclerc Oh my god, the hards were so bad. That’s why I said I wanted to stay on the mediums for as long as possible.
Leclerc The hards were really bad. Was it the same for everyone or was this only to us?
Marcos Padros It was the same for everyone with the hard.
Leclerc Why did we go on it? I mean, what was the reason there?
Marcos Padros We’ll t…[unclear]
Leclerc Okay.
Leclerc Are we the only one who stopped?
Marcos Padros At the front runners, yes. At the back some people with pit stops.
Leclerc Copy.

NB. Some routine or repetitive messages e.g. rival drivers’ lap times and gaps to other cars omitted

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