Mixed feelings for Leclerc as wet set-up almost yielded Imola podium
Fourth may have tied Charles Leclerc’s best result in his last 15 Grands Prix, but while he was happy with another strong finish, part of him was disappointed he didn’t make the podium at one of Ferrari’s home races.
Ferrari opted to tweak their set-up for qualifying, so it favoured potentially wet conditions predicted for the race, and it proved an inspired move when the heavens opened ahead of the start – and continued for the opening few laps.
Leclerc had impressive pace and rose up to second, with a healthy lead over Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, but saw that wiped out when the race was neutralised by a red flag following Valtteri Bottas and George Russell’s crash.
With the track drying and field closed up, Ferrari’s wet set-up left Leclerc and team mate Carlos Sainz exposed on the straights, and he was unable to hold off the faster Norris and recovering Lewis Hamilton, before finishing fourth, one place ahead of his new team mate Carlos Sainz.
“I’m happy with the race, but at the same time a little bit frustrated,” said Leclerc. “The first part of the race, we were very competitive and everything looked good. Then with the red flag, all the cars were reshuffled and it repacked everyone. And then we started to be a bit vulnerable in the straights.
“We took a bit of a gamble yesterday with the downforce, to be a bit better if it was raining and it was the case but unfortunately with the red flag we struggled to defend from the cars behind.”
With Ferrari getting two cars inside the top five, they kept up the pressure on McLaren in the fight for P3 in the constructors’ championship, just seven points adrift.
Leclerc is excited about their prospects, the team having finished a distant sixth in the constructors’ championship, this year.
“I’m very happy and I think we should all be happy as a team,” said Leclerc of their relative performance. “We are coming from a long way back and we are step after step doing the right step in the right direction and it’s looking good for the future. So for that, I’m very happy. There is still a lot of work to do but that’s what we’re doing.”