DATA DEEP DIVE: How much better could Leclerc have fared in Canada if not for a brace of obstacles?

Charles Leclerc’s brilliant drive from the back row to P5 in Montreal earned him not only points of interest but also the Driver of the Day award. But could he have finished even higher? We look at the two crucial challenges that cost Leclerc in Canada and try to estimate how much better he would have done without them.

After the failure of Leclerc’s power unit in Azerbaijan, the championship participant received a large number of new power unit components, including control electronics, MGU-H and MGU-K, a turbocharger and an exhaust. He was essentially out of Q2 on Saturday, placing 19th on the grid alongside penalized AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda.

The Monegasque racer started on hard tires and rose to P13 on lap 10 thanks to passes from the likes of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll. Leclerc chose to forgo a stop during the Virtual Safety Car period from lap 9-10, reaching P6 before pitting on lap 41 – after stopping 20 laps behind Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.

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The mid-race scrap with Ocon

Alpine’s Ocon proved to be the first obstacle to Leclerc’s recovery run.

Leclerc came close to passing the Frenchman on lap 25, but despite the drag and DRS he just couldn’t pass Ocon.

Our race trace (below) explains why Leclerc couldn’t make what would have been a crucial pass; the Ferrari driver ended up losing nearly 10 seconds from the car ahead of Ocon – George Russell’s Mercedes – as he got stuck just behind the Alpine from lap 25.

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If we focus solely on the speed of both Leclerc (red line) and Ocon (blue line), it is clear that Leclerc lost pace through the corners. He suffered from understeer in the tops and then tried to compensate for that by accelerating earlier.

By accelerating earlier, Leclerc suffered oversteer exiting the corner, leaving him too far behind Ocon to exploit Ferrari’s top speed advantage on Canada’s relatively short straights.


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Lap 25: Leclerc suffered from understeer (1) and stepped on the throttle earlier to correct it (2) leading to oversteer at the exit

The pit stop on lap 41

Leclerc was over 15 laps behind Ocon and decided to pit at the end of his 41st, trading his hard connections for mediums. That pit stop turned out to be costly.

Leclerc entered the pitlane sixth and came out of the bus in 12th after standing still for 5.31 seconds and his car being dropped from the jack with the left rear tire yet to be fitted properly. The Ferrari driver then found himself behind a train of cars from P8 to P11: Lance Stroll, Zhou Guanyu, Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo.

Indeed, if Leclerc had had a faster stop, even the same stop of 3.17s that teammate Carlos Sainz had enjoyed 20 laps earlier, he would have come out ahead of the train of cars and had the pace to challenge Valtteri Bottas for P7 well over for the Safety Car on lap 49.

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Had Leclerc not been caught chasing that train of cars, not only would he have had the pace to pass Bottas, but he would have caught up with the Alpines of Ocon and Fernando Alonso ahead. Instead, the Alpines enjoyed a free stop under the Safety Car on lap 49, putting them both on newer tires and making them a much bigger challenge for Leclerc.

The Ferrari driver passed Alonso on lap 58 – four laps after the race resumed – and took P5 from Ocon on lap 60. But by then George Russell was nearly four seconds ahead and the Briton finished fourth by the checkered flag.

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It’s reasonable to assume Leclerc would have been able to challenge the Mercedes driver with a quicker stop on lap 41, but it could be challenging to challenge Lewis Hamilton’s podium finish.

However, if Leclerc hadn’t lost 10 seconds to Russell in his mid-race battle with Ocon, that podium finish would have been much easier – and P3 would have been a realistic target on Sunday.

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