Charles Leclerc says Ferrari was left “out in the blue” with its strategy during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix amid fears of high degradation on the Soft compound tyre.

Leclerc rose from eighth on the grid to lead the race after 13 laps after starting on the Medium tyre, allowing him to jump ahead of the drivers who had to pit early on Softs.

Despite a quick pace initial on the Mediums, Ferrari’s decision to keep Leclerc out for a 31-lap stint allowed Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to pass him on-track, with teammate Sebastian Vettel also getting ahead shortly before he came in.

The strategy left Leclerc fifth at the chequered flag, but he explained after the race that Ferrari did not pit him sooner for fears of the Soft tyre not lasting until the end.

“I think on the Hard tyre, we never tried them, but we were expecting to struggle with temperatures, so we didn’t really want to go with them,” Leclerc said.

“Then on the Softs, we were scared about the degradation. So we were left a little bit out in the blue.

“Obviously as a driver, I felt like I lost quite a lot of time when Valtteri, Lewis and Seb passed me, but I need to look at the data. There was definitely a reason for me to stay out at that time.”

Leclerc was left disappointed with fifth place following his crash in qualifying on Saturday, having been in contention for pole position after leading all three practice sessions. 

Asked about his overriding feelings from the weekend in Baku, Leclerc said: “There are two.

“One is a very good one which is the performance I think was there to do pole position yesterday in qualifying. And the second one is unfortunately my mistake.

“I just need to work on these things. I’m also only in my second season in F1. It’s not to find any excuses, I shouldn’t do these type of mistakes, but I also take it as part of my path.

“I’ll learn from this.”

Leclerc did manage to grab the bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race after a late second pit stop, but said it did not make up for a frustrating day.

“I spent most of the race alone,” he said.

“It was not the funnest day in the office.”

Additional reporting by Julianne Cerasoli.

 

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