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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc bemoans 'strange outlier' Chinese GP after failing to fight McLaren

Charles Leclerc has been left with more questions than answers over his "slow" stint on hard tyres at the Chinese Grand Prix prevented him from fighting with the McLaren of Lando Norris.

Leclerc China race
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Charles Leclerc says Ferrari's lack of race pace during the Chinese Grand Prix was an "outlier" after a "very strange" stint on hard tyres meant he could not fight for a podium finish against Lando Norris.

Heading into the race, the 26-year-old had predicted a strong performance at the Shanghai International Circuit, but despite finishing in fourth - having qualified sixth - he was left puzzled how the grand prix unfolded.

Having been on the tail of Norris' McLaren in the early stages, the safety car periods "reset" strategy, leaving the Monegasque to struggle on the hard compound of Pirelli tyres.

“I don’t know,” Leclerc replied to media including RacingNews365 when asked where his expected strong race pace had gone.

“But I didn’t find it – I don’t think we found it as a team. Especially on hard tyres, which is a bit strange, because the strength of this car since the beginning of the year is that it’s very solid in all conditions with all tyres.

“Today is a bit of an outlier, because as soon as we put on the hards, we were half a second off – so that is very strange. But we’ll look into it and try to understand what went wrong on that front.”

'I really thought we were going to fight with him'

Leclerc was unable to put his finger on the root cause of the issue, but having made setup compromises to better his Ferrari's race trim, he had anticipated being able to dispatch of both McLarens, having been out-qualified by the pair.

"It’s very strange – especially compared to the McLaren, because with Lando [Norris], at first, I really thought we were going to fight with him," he reflected.

"I was doing good tyre management until the safety car, but [that] reset a little bit all strategies, which is a bit of a shame, because I think we were doing a good job, but then on the hards we were just slow."

The five-time race winner explained the expectation heading into the weekend was that the performance of the Ferrari would be on par with where it has been in the previous four rounds of the season, having taken a step forward in race pace since the end of last year - but that was not the case.

"I think we were expecting this weekend to be very similar, or in line with, whatever we had seen since the beginning of the season, but we were struggling quite a bit more.”

However, the Ferrari driver felt it was too early to suggest McLaren had closed the gap to them, despite unexpectedly being out-raced by Norris, choosing instead to focus on the Chinese Grand Prix in isolation.

They [McLaren] were they were particularly strong this weekend, and we did not expect them to be as strong," he responded when asked if he was getting the sense the Woking-based team was getting stronger.

"So, on this race, yes, but it's maybe a bit too early to draw conclusions. But this weekend they were stronger than what we thought [they would be]."

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